Going Meta Makes This Speech Good

Nathanael Yellis By Nathanael Yellis • Last Updated May 18, 2021

Meta-analysis is the kind of studies people make by studying existing studies. They answer questions authoritatively by explaining how all the previous answers fit together. Instead of the normal assumption your study is THE ANSWER, meta-analysis is authoritative because it offers a holistic view of all the relevant research. Interestingly, most meta-analyses are far more readable than normal research.

When someone talks about the speech they are currently making, I call it going meta--analyzing the arguments already made. Don't miss the powerful tool of meta.

William Deresiewicz spoke to the plebe class at West Point in October of 2009. His full speech is printed at The American Scholar: Solitude and Leadership.

I thought the speech was amazing. I noticed how he talks about what is happening to his audience as the speech progresses. This makes it amazing.

Opening lines:

My title must seem like a contradiction. What can solitude have to do with leadership?

In the middle:

Now some people would say, great. Tell this to the kids at Yale, but why bother telling it to the ones at West Point?

He drops out of the moment and into meta. He talks to the audience about what they are experiencing.

Instead of pretending that everyone is just listening to your presentation, meta is when you discuss the presentation itself with your audience. You're offering your analysis of why they should care. Getting out of the argument and talking about it makes you more convincing.

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