Kennedy to Churchill, Castro to Cicero: The exceptional ability to command, persuade and inspire using the power of the spoken word is the common thread that unites these leaders.
Public speaking is still as relevant today, and using this specific kind of communication skill could be one of your keys to success in 2018. We speak of the “gift” of public speaking as a natural talent, but anyone who witnessed the transformation of Margaret Thatcher from “shrill housewife” to calm and authoritative Prime Minister via a National Theatre speech coach, will know that like any skill, it can be learnt.
Here are Aldrich’s top tips:
1) Believe it!
Out of context, even phrases from speeches that have altered the course of history can look absurd on paper. Oratory lifts ‘We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness…’ (John F. Kennedy 1960) from boggy metaphor to a resonant image of united hope. This kind of transcendence can only happen when a phase is a) spoken, b) imbued with absolute belief. Whoever you’re talking to, have confidence in the message.
2) “Walk with kings nor lose the common touch”
Who is the audience, what is the desired outcome and how will that best be achieved? Are you aiming to energise and focus your team, or perhaps you want to win X amount of new business from room full of investors? The rhetoric of the first – colloquial, familiar, humorous even, is far less appropriate in the second scenario. When you plan, it’s helpful to think in terms of actions – are you aiming to persuade/cajole/amuse/inform your audience? Alliterative lists trip smoothly off the tongue in sales presentations, and there are numerous ‘techniques’ (repetition, similes, and rhetorical questions) that can (theoretically) be employed, given an appropriate scenario. Forget the Thesaurus – not all words are interchangeable; on a similar note, C.S. Lewis said ‘Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.’ Hear, hear.
3) Confidence, conviction, composure
Glossophobia – fear of public speaking, affects (according to the data) 74% of people in the UK. Breathe into your diaphragm, warm up your facial muscles, focus on the key points you want to get across and remind yourself of your objective – and what a great opportunity this is to (present your company’s product/share your research/describe an opportunity). Annunciate and express yourself with sincerity.
In the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the renowned Roman statesman and orator ‘To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to always remain a child’. This is why we have compiled a list of books written by famous historical orators and writers.
- Against Catiline by Marcus Tullius Cicero
- The Gallic Wars by Gaius Julius Caesar
- Great speeches by Abraham Lincoln
- Strength to love by Martin Luther King
- Yo No Vengo a Decir Un Discurso, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Profiles in courage, John F. Kennedy
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