When Detroit or Tokyo tries to sell me a car, do they present column after column of engineering and performance statistics in their expensive TV ads? No. They use luscious, vivid, sensual images of beautiful people doing beautiful things in beautiful places. They suggest mystery, style, aspiration to make me want that car, desire that car, covet that car — for reasons other than logic.
When politicians stump for my vote, do they recite economic formula and municipal performance data? Not if they want to survive the primaries. Instead, they talk about jobs and roads and taxes and the education of our kids and the future. About security and freedom. About the sins of the other guy. My rational brain isn’t their target. They’re aiming for my heart, my anger, my passion, my dreams, my fears.
Do not dismiss this process as merely manipulation. Think of it instead as an information imperative.
These people know they have to reach me, whether to sell cars to keep an economy healthy, or to get my vote to keep a political ideology alive. They’re trying to get me to listen, to hear them amidst all the noise of everyday life.
They speak to me in ways that make me want to listen, in terms that matter to me.
Now, there are ethical issues in play here, of course. But that’s the topic of another discussion in another forum. What we’re about right now is understanding the forces at work in a good presentation or speech. Understanding the tools used by the great public speakers to capture and hold and audience’s attention, and to persuade that audience to action.
Here’s what those great speakers know:
Public speaking is about how you use words — and a speaking style — to frame your message in terms an audience understands, feels and responds to. It's about knowing your objective while always working to satisfy the audience's needs. It's about making the information you share vital to someone else.
Public speaking is about being heard.