Gary Genard's

Speak for Success!

"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

Four Simple Language Tools for More Powerful Presentations

Speech—the way homo sapiens understands the term—is the uniquely human communication tool. As far as we know, no other species possesses an instrument of expression that comes close for flexibility, subtly, and levels of complexity. (To become an unforgettable communicator, download my free cheat sheet, "4 Characteristics of an Influential Speaker.")

Animals communicate well enough in the sense of conveying chunks of raw information. An elaborately dancing bee directs other bees to a nectar-laden field of flowers. Whale-calls travel across many miles of ocean in eerie and beautiful soundings. Bird songs differ not only by species, but by “neighborhood,” according to the precise geographic location of an individual.

But these forms of communication pale next to the human vocalizations of speeches, talks, and presentations. We public speakers communicate in much more powerful and subtle ways. We do so not only to classify, differentiate, and warn, as animals do, but to persuade and influence listeners about highly specific issues. Do you know why your voice alone makes such a difference when you present? Read this article to find out why!

Your Speech Is More than Your Content

We sometimes make a common and significant error in our calculations, however: we tend to think almost exclusively in terms of content: “What is the information I want to get across to my audience?” we constantly ask. In a sense, content is merely raw information of the type that animals use. We need to go further, by effectively using logic and language (i.e., linguistics), two of the tools we alone possess as persuaders.

Our opinion has little worth unless we back it up with evidence. Similarly, an audience has a hard time being persuaded if it can’t follow the logic of the argument offered. As a presenter, you must avoid attempts at persuasion that rest upon fallacies or errors in logic. And since many listeners won’t share your commitment to your topic, your argument likewise can’t rest upon a leap of faith.

A premise that leads irrefutably to a conclusion, on the other hand, is a strong validation of the idea you’re presenting. Like a lawyer in court, you must construct an airtight case leading to your ultimate goal of persuasion.

Rocks Beats Scissors, and Anglo-Saxon Bests Latin

Along with logic, the linguistic side of your speech must be up to par if you're going to create persuasive presentations. One way to get it there is to understand that spoken language is fundamentally different from the written word. To be effective, your presentation must live and breathe comfortably within its domain. 

Spoken sentences should be shorter and simpler than written ones. Words should be concrete rather than abstract. Most often, you’ll be better served by sturdy Anglo-Saxon words over their Latinate cousins (“chew” instead of “masticate,” “think” rather than “cogitate”). 

Four Types of Powerful Language

Consider in general whether your language sounds muscular or flabby. Do you use vivid, action-oriented words? Have you built in examples and comparisons to make your points easier to grasp? Do you tell stories to allow your ideas to come alive? Finally, do you include emotional language that resonates on the right side of the brain, where both emotion and decision-making reside?

For great content spoken well, listen here to one of the greatest speeches in our language.

Deliver a logical argument using powerful language, and your persuasiveness will soar. Keep in mind the mantra that the late Sonny Bono asked himself before a speech: “Is it stupid enough?” He wasn’t commenting on the ignorance of his listeners. He was reminding himself to simplify his approach to be as persuasive and influential as possible.

Key takeaways from this blog:

  • Speech is a subtle and flexible tool ideal for persuading others.
  • Your speech must go beyond content to use logic and language.
  • Construct an airtight case and you'll reach your ultimate goal to persuade.
  • Short impactful Anglo-Saxon words work better than Latin words in speech.
  • Use action words, comparisons, stories, and emotional language.
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Tags: presentation skills,persuasion,powerful presentations

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