Aragorn is cool. At the age of 88 he’s a top swordsman, on a good path to become the king of Gondor and has an Elvish girlfriend whom he charmed so much that she’s willing to give up her immortality for him.
Besides – Aragorn is also a brilliant public speaker. And he damn well knows how to think about his audience.
He uses Nancy Duarte’s Audience Needs Map (asking 7 key questions about the audience).
Let’s have a look at how he prepared for his famous Speech at the Black Gate.
When the Black Gate opened, Aragorn knew he had to cheer his men up. While preparing his speech, he asked himself (and answered) the following questions:
1. What are they like?
Ordinary guys in mail with swords, who were forced to go to the battle because Sauron wants to get that Ring of Power and bind the world into darkness. They’re definitely not as sophisticated as the Elves with whom Aragorn spent most of his life. Therefore, Aragorn knows he should really keep the speech simple. No polish, no Elvish jargon, no riddles. Straight to the point. “This day we fight!”
2. Why are they here?
Because Aragorn, Gandalf & the team led them here. They’re here rather as a matter of circumstances than by their own free decision, so speaking to them will be a bit more challenging than for example to the crowd Bilbo had at his birthday party. Aragorn will need to start on high energy and keep that level for the whole speech.
3. What keeps them up at night?
In general, his men are somehow nervous about the whole business about Sauron taking over the Middle Earth. But at the moment, they’re particularly stressed about the army of orcs pouring from the Black Gate, which seems to count significantly more heads than their own.
4. How can you solve their problem?
The victory seems far. But maybe, if Aragorn leads to a fierce attack, they’ll actually have better survival chances than if they go for a messy retreat.
More importantly though – if their attack is strong and keeps Sauron’s attention for long enough, perhaps Frodo will have enough time to throw the Ring of Power into the fires of Mount Doom and make an end to Sauron. Now that would really solve the problem!
5. What do you want them to do?
Stop shaking. Change facial expression from petrified to determined. Run towards the ugly orcs and cut them into pieces. Now.
6. How can you best reach them?
Say that it’s okay to be afraid. “I see in your eyes… (pause) the same fear that would take the heart of me.” This will make the soldiers think “Wait a minute, this guy lead us all the way here and now he’s telling us he’s afraid?” You bet that after that they will be more receptive to what else he has to say.
7. How they might resist?
They just may not hear the call to action after all and they might keep standing scared where they are. However, a seasoned speaker of Aragorn’s calibre does not leave anything to chance. Therefore, when preparing for his speech, he has 1) planned to lead the charge himself and 2) placed his most loyal friends in the front line. Once a few of them start running towards Sauron’s army, the rest of the men of Gondor and Rohan will join for sure.
Once Aragorn thought this through, putting the battle speech together was a piece of cake.
The rest… is history of Middle Earth.
The next time YOU plan to make history with your presentation – remember Aragorn. This guy knows his stuff.
* At 0:53 you can clearly see that Pipin and Merry are overtaken by everyone else, which makes even more clear that their purpose in the front was to play the role of the “first followers”. Clever trick, Aragorn!