Foundational Phrase

Yes, We Can Poster with Obama

What is a foundation phrase? If you’re an Australian, and you hear, Small Music Note“Puts a rose in every cheek!”, you probably, immediately remember the advertising jingle that promoted Vegemite. Mind you, I hate the stuff. But that’s beside the point. I also suspect that in every English speaking country, they’ll know what the brand slogan, “Just do it!” is associated with. What makes these Nike Tick Iconslogans memorable is that they are short, often have rhyme and rhythm. This makes them memorable. Part of the reason they are also memorable is that the slogan are repeated ad infinitum.

Creating a Foundational Phase

If you can find, or better still, create a phrase with as many of the qualities  of the jingles referred to above, you have your foundational phrase. That is, make your foundational phrase short, that is, 10 words or less. This is because short encourages clarity. Have it rhyme and have some rhythm to it. And make sure it summarise your point or message. You may come up with a great foundational phrase, but ask yourself, is it spot on. That is, does it promote your point or message clearly. I always say, if it doesn’t add, it detracts. And the last one, will it be memorable.

Using a Foundational Phrase

The qualities above help people remember your phrase and point. This is especially so if you can repeat the phrase several times throughout your speech. Ending your speech with a foundational phrase is very powerful too. Especially if it sums up your message.

Have Them Say It

Some speakers encourage their audience to complete the phrase after they have said it a couple of times. And if you can get them to say the complete phrase at the end, that’s magic, because then they own it. That way they will definitely remember and possibly act on your message.

Full Circle

Sometimes your speech title can be used as your foundational phrase. You can finish of with that phrase or title. This will give your speech a powerful sense of completion. It Takes Time Talent to Shine in Coloured Artistic TextIt gives it a sense of coming full circle. Just take care that your title does not give away your message at the start, otherwise it’s all over rover right there. I have a speech that encourages people to take a leap of faith when faced with a challenge. A challenge that can’t be resolved by taking baby steps. If I titled this speech, “Just Do It”, this meant every body would know what the speech was going to be about and I would loose their attention.


See if you can spot my foundational phrase in in my speech, “The Wall”, that I use in my Story Structure post. One of the best foundational phrases I have heard is by Craig Valentine, who teaches the use of foundational phrases. One of his foundational phrases that he used brilliantly was, “Your dream is not for sale”. What makes that phrase even more powerful is that he has his his wife say it. Check out the video here.

The Rap Up

Small Jar of VegemiteA foundational phrase is a phrase that consists of less than ten words, that summarises and anchors your point or message and has rhyme and rhythm. A foundational phrase is a powerful way to get your listeners to remember your point or message, and to connect with your audience.

Speak to Connect, to make that Difference.


Author: Henk van den Bergen

I have been speaking on Champagne for 20 years and decided to improve my speaking skills by joining Toastmasters International 13 year ago. I'm still a member today and I'm passionate about sharing what I’ve learned. I’m also proud to be the 1998 “Vin de Champagne Award” winner and being a three time Australian finalist in the International Speech contest.

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