Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A great speech is like a Chicago hot dog

Most speeches are like a hot dog that could have come from any of a thousand food courts in as many malls. There is an opening and closing (two pieces of bun), and a body (the undistinguished meat in the middle). Perhaps there is a tiny bit added of color and flavor (the stripe of yellow mustard). Otherwise there is absolutely nothing to make it exceptional. You probably forgot about it just a few minutes afterwards.

A great speech has a lot more. The extra ingredients make it clear it could only come from one individual: YOU. A great speech is like a Chicago hot dog.

Unlike a plain hot dog, that sandwich has been “dragged through the garden.” It has a wonderful variety of tastes, textures, and colors. Typically the following ingredients are assembled:

Poppy-seed bun (steamed).

Kosher hot dog (typically Vienna beef brand, also steamed).

Stripe of yellow mustard.

Dollop of kryptonite green relish or piccalilli.

Spoonful of chopped onions (white, or maybe red).

Dill pickle wedge.

Pair of red, ripe tomato wedges.

Couple of sport peppers (I usually skip these).

Sprinkling of celery salt (the final magical touch).

Think about what you can add to make your speech individual and memorable.

Exactly what should be in a Chicago style dog has been discussed at some length: here, here, and even here on Wikipedia. (The image by John Fink of Oxford, Ohio shows a Chicago style hot dog meal as served at the Bunny Hutch in Lincolnwood, Illinois). The poppy seed bun is extra tasty, but you probably do need a toothpick afterwards to get those pesky little seeds from between your teeth. Ketchup is NOT ever put on a Chicago hot dog! It may be added to French fries by the customer.

I lived in Chicagoland once for a couple of years. Their hot dogs (particularly Superdawg) are a pleasant memory of the Windy City. By the way, they are not kidding about it being windy there, especially on the Lake Michigan shore.

Other cities have their own variations on hot dogs. If you’re reading this in Atlanta, then you might say a great speech is like a chili slaw dog from the Varsity. If you’re in Cincinnati, you might say a great speech is like a cheese Coney (also covered with onions and mustard, with the unique local chili - perhaps from Skyline or Gold Star).

This post was inspired by finding that my blog feed was on that for Talk of the Tower Chicago Toastmasters, and also linked from Willi Hsung’s Lessons Learned.


Will Hsiung, DTM said...

Richard, thanks for the reference to the Talk of the Tower blog as well as my own blog. Stop by a Toastmasters club here when you visit Chicago the next time, we have 4 districts that are within a driving distance (30, 54, 35 and 11).

Richard I. Garber said...


You are welcome. I was surprised to see my blog referenced. I haven't really been in Chicago for about 5 years, except for changing planes at O'Hare. The size of that airport is amazing. It seems like you taxi all the way to Wisconsin or even Iowa before you can take off.