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The trick? Writing a speech that sticks.
For those figuring out how to ensure employees’ safety, speech structuring is everything. Here are a few essential tips to write a memorable safety speech.
A great safety speech is more than just telling employees how to improve. It’s about motivating them with a unique opportunity to come together for the common good. Or at least, that’s how it worked for Paul O’Neill’s inaugural speech as CEO of Alcoa in October 1987, now regarded as one of the greatest safety speeches of the 20th century.
O’Neill began with a simple sentence, “I want to talk to you about worker safety.” In an instant, he had the entire room’s attention. Then, he began to lay out his message, “Every year, numerous Alcoa workers are injured so badly that they miss a day of work. Our safety record is better than the general workforce, especially considering that our employees work with metals that are 1500 degrees and we have machines that can rip a man’s arm off. But it’s not good enough. I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America. I intend to go for zero injuries.”
In this speech, O’Neill did more than just cite safety numbers or point to an opportunity for improvement. He created a sense of urgency and made safety his central goal.
Most importantly, he explained why safety mattered. It was not enough that Alcoa had a decent safety record for its industry. O’Neill made it Alcoa’s responsibility to be the safest company in America. And while your speech doesn’t need to be the clarion call to launch an era, it should achieve a similar aim: motivating employees to see why safety matters.
A good way to do this is by telling a story.
Remember, people relate to each other through stories. It’s how we connect as a species. So if you trot out safety statistics and regulations, your employees just won’t care. They can’t relate to laws or numbers.
However, they can relate to a story about a colleague following safe work procedures to make sure they go home to their kids safely every single day. Take the time to find these stories and share them (with the permission of your employees, of course!)
When the time comes to inspire people to action, a speech is a great way to kick things off. But if you’re figuring out how to ensure employees’ safety, speech won’t cut it for the long-term. You need the tools for employees to act on the message.
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