The Power of Visual Language

Regularly I get asked the question: “What do you think is the greatest speech ever given?” My answer: “I have a dream” by Martin Luther King. Here’s why.

When speaking to an audience it is very important you speak to that part of the brain which creates pictures. Being able to visualise what a person says is a superior way of disseminating information. It makes things easier to understand and remember. Not only that, it requires less energy.

Author David Rock in his excellent book “How the brain works” explains this process as follows: “Picturing a concept activates the visual cortex in the occipital lobe, at the back of the brain. This region can be activated through actual pictures, or through metaphors, and storytelling, anything that creates an image in mind.”

When speaking, think of yourself as someone who gives paint to his listeners so they can create a picture of what you say. Martin Luther King was a master at this. When he said “I have a dream” he essentially asked his audience “Can you imagine this?” Once you can imagine what he says, there’s no way  you are going to forget it.

One of the most vivid images Martin Luther King created was when he referred to his home state Alabama and wished it to “be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.” The people who imagined that scene made sure it happened.

Dr. Martin Luther King used visual language in a beautiful and powerful way. “I have a dream” is therefore the best speech ever given.


About Case

Managing Director at Black Isle Group Asia, helping executives stand out when they speak.
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