Good speech delivery is not so much about the content of what you say. How often have you watched a televised debate between two people – one offering solid facts and figures but no empathy, the other oozing bonhomie backed up by nothing more than some vague platitudes – and found yourself involuntarily favouring the latter? One of the key speech delivery tips has to be to practise getting the right tone.
Good speech delivery: logic and reason are not enough
Facts are the first building-block of a good Key Message. We train clients to choose them carefully, and edit them down to punchy, easily-understood figures which provide a logical, rational basis for the argument you wish to make. Sadly, logic and reason are sometimes simply not enough.
As every advertiser will tell you, you have to strike the right note.
Good speech delivery: Donald Trump confounds critics, Boris Johnson charms
How else to explain the success of Donald Trump in the Republican primaries! His cavalier approach to the facts has by turns outraged and irritated the political class across the United States. But his tone has resonated with a sizeable chunk of the American public.
Or take London Mayor Boris Johnson, a far more grounded politician than Donald Trump, but one who uses his personality as much as any logical argument to make his case. In their different ways, Johnson and Trump are both using the image of rebel, rather than any reasoned argument, to win over a public fed up with the political “Establishment”.
In both these cases, the facts matter little. It is the impression the speakers create that makes them effective communicators. They are in effect selling themselves, rather than a message. It works because people like them, or at least like the idea that they represent.
Personal charm is not something that can be completely manufactured; some people possess it naturally, others do not. But there are some things you can do to make yourself more engaging on screen or loudspeaker; they will not turn a frog into a prince, but they will help you create a bond with your audience, make them feel that they can relate to you.
Good speech delivery: tips to turn on the charm
Whatever the subject, making yourself likeable is a key part of good interview technique. And that usually means accentuating your human side.
Express condolences and/or sympathy, however little the matter has to do with you. This has the effect of “humanising” you and is usually best done at the beginning. For example: “Let me start by acknowledging how hard it must be for people caught up in this dreadful situation…”
- The Half-Smile
This usually works better than a frown or artificial expression of sadness, even with the most serious of topics. It is not about making light of the subject, especially where suffering or loss are concerned; it is about making yourself convincing and accessible. Don’t overdo it, especially if public anger is involved.
This is a bit of a trick: find common ground. “Ms Smith is absolutely right to say that this situation cannot go on and I agree that the government needs to move quickly. But…” and then disagree as much as you like. It has the effect of making you sound reasonable and almost coopts the other speaker onto your side.
If you are being interviewed don’t argue with the journalist. Remember, he or she is not the audience, but a means to reach the general public. However rude or annoying the interviewers may be, however much they interrupt or distort, stay calm and excruciatingly polite. Losing your temper makes you sound weak and petulant and damages your credibility.
Always finish a speech with a smile and a “Thank You”. The last impression the viewer or listener will take away is of someone who is happy with the way it went and succeeded in making his or her case.
The human example, the anecdote, can be the most effective part of your argument; the facts and soundbites will be forgotten, but the story you told about John and Mary will be remembered. It makes you sound understanding and caring, relating to real people, not just balance-sheets and policies. We always stress the importance of this in our training and it does a lot to “humanise” you.
Some of us are blessed with naturally appealing and friendly voices; others sound like an automated message at a call-centre. With a bit of effort you can “warm” up your voice, perhaps by making it a bit deeper, or more resonant, soften the tone. Margaret Thatcher is a famous case of a successful politician who did this.
All great speech makers learn to pause for dramatic effect. We have a whole article on this coming next week but it is an important element in winning with your audience as the example videos below will demonstrate.
Don’t abandon facts, they are vital part of your armoury as there will be plenty of your audience who need them to be convinced. But always remember that in public speaking of any sort you are selling yourself and the audience has to be made to feel, consciously or sub-consciously that this is a person they want to listen to.
Good speech delivery: three videos worth studying
An example of Donald Trump’s speaking style
Here is a interesting dissection of one of Obama’s most famous speeches.
A man who coaches politicians
Picture credit: CC by Heisenbergmedia