Persuasive speaking that engages your audience
Every day we spend a good fortune of our time trying to make an impression of some sort on others through our behavior, speech and overall demeanor. We want to influence others into liking us, our ideas, and our agenda. This process takes the form of persuasion - or influencing others into certain actions or behaviors. We mostly achieve that through speaking or conversation.
“I always try to put my ideas across but every time I do so no one seems to pay attention, or worse off they are, often times, shot down before they are even analysed.” Does this sound familiar? Yes it can be frustrating when we can’t successfully cut our ideas across to others.
Persuasive speaking is an art that has been around since human existence. It has been sharpened over the many years, and is still very necessary for closing business deals, winning votes, and in marketing of ideas, and brands, among others. Systematic persuasion appeals to logic and reason, delivered with attractive language choices, thought-through ideas, emotional variation and great packaging (speech). Understanding this explains why persuasive speaking begins with understanding your audiences, their thought grounding and the topic.
For example, let us assume the ‘complainant’ above is talking about board room office meetings. Indeed it can be difficult to break into a discussion if you are not prepared with your thought. That is why it is very important to prepare for those moments: know the agenda, think through the topic, and visualise scenarios. Your contribution in the meeting can remain relevant if it is relevant to the discussion; it is a new idea to the discussion; a rare thought, or a new perspective, among others. If you think through these before contributing, you beam with confidence and will always win your audience. People will always look forward to your contribution every time that opportunity opens up for you. In this instance, you can gain ‘thought leadership,’ driving opinion and agenda on the discussions.
The art of persuasive speaking is believed to have been perfected by the Greeks, who emphasized rhetoric and articulation as the highest standard for a successful politician. The frequent philosophical arguments in the assembly and the market places (agora) proved as catalyst for sharpening the art of persuasion to influence adoption of an idea or an argument.
Let us consider this aspect of speaking in the sense of delivering a public speech – being making a presentation, preaching or holding particular rally. In all these, and many more, the purpose is to persuade the audience into buying our thoughts, facts and ideas. Public speaking is an art and like any other piece of art, perfection is achieved through practice. Stumbling or struggling with public speaking should not define people with a passion to learn public speaking as failures. Many people will mention of struggling with making presentations, whilst the audience will tell them that they made a beautiful presentation. Often, it is that aspect of their mirroring someone in their speech delivery that weighs on their set expectations against their performance; such that they often believe they were not up to scratch. It is important to be oneself in one’s presentation.
A few other techniques can also be learned in speech delivery. Posture, eye contact, and voice level among others, are some important aspects one has to take into consideration when making a presentation. Posture can have a positive or negative energy to speech delivery. The way that you move your body and limbs will have a major influence on how your audience perceives you and your delivery. When presenting, and in a standing position, an ideal stance is with your feet close together and your weight evenly distributed between them. It is important not to grow roots - don't stand in one position, but try to inject movement as you speak. It is also important to remember to make eye contact with the audience before your presentation or delivery begins. Take the whole audience in with one glance. When presenting, eye contact with the audience will enable you to read the audience and be able to adjust your presentation accordingly.
A successful presentation can also suggest the presenter was audible enough to be heard by his audience. Effective presentation also enhanced with a well-controlled voice, with variations. Variations in the tone of the voice suggest the importance of points in the presentation, and the emotions attached to them. This has an effect to keep the audience alert throughout the presentation.
Last but not least, it is important to appreciate that that any public speech delivery is a mammoth task in itself. The challenge is that, within fractions of a second during the delivery, you have to organise your thoughts, choose which words to use, how to weave them into sentences, and above all dealing with the butterflies flapping in your tummy. Further, you have to gauge your audience from time to time to determine if your speech is drawing the intended reaction, or if it is resonating with them, and if is still capturing their attention. Tell a story with your presentation – build it up in a way that it captures their attention - every one may not remember a good presentation, but everyone remembers a great story.
When the adrenaline goes up before a speech, it has the potential to dampen ones preparation. The more constructive action to derive from that situation is to turn those nerves as your turn-on switch. Ride on the wave, and look at them as a sign that you understand the enormity of the task before you and use them as a guide to guard your delivery.
Remember, for any successful artistic delivery, practice is important.