Great speaking is never about just educating an audience—it's about creating an experience. Here's how to genuinely move listeners to share your passion.
pas•sion n. 1. A powerful emotion or appetite. (The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition). Any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate. (dictionary.com)
You don’t get far into any definition of passion without meeting that word “emotion.” Call it the currency of passion—the means by which the strength of your feeling is exchanged with others.
Can you imagine attempting to motivate or inspire an audience without demonstrated emotion as part of your public speaking toolkit?
To achieve that kind of persuasion with audiences, you need maximum presence every time you speak. The techniques of the theater are custom-made to give you that level of authority and influence. Learn my key tools of speaking for leadership from my essential cheat sheet, "10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused when Speaking."
Let’s look at three ways your use of emotion is a core component of your ability to persuade and motivate audiences.
In the Emotional Equation, Put Your Audience First
If you want to be a speaker who excites and activates audiences, start by turning a common equation on its head. "What do I have a passion to speak about?" is the variable that predisposes you to speak in your area of expertise. After that, it's time to align your deeply felt needs with those of your audience.
It's all part of the dynamic where one speaker meets the needs of many listeners. Think of it as public speaking's form of e pluribus unum, in this case, "from one to many." Another metaphor: in the solar system of speaking, the audience, not you, is the sun. You're a planet revolving around that center. Ultimately, you reflect the light listeners are giving you by tapping into the source of their passion. Here are 10 powerful techniques for moving audiences.
Your ideas are your passion. But here's the performance trick at the heart of public speaking: By learning as closely as you can what resonates with your listeners—by knowing where they live in terms of their needs and desires—you can put together the speech they are waiting to hear. How that will motivate and inspire your audience!
Simple Words Are the Soul of Speaking Emotionally
No skill in exciting and motivating your audience, except perhaps the one that follows, is more important than using simple unadorned language. Speakers anxious to be praised use sophisticated words they think will impress. But great speakers use common words, whose currency isn't flourish but impact. Learn to trust such words, and consider these 25 words or phrases to avoid in speeches and presentations.
Listen below to a terrific example of emotional speaking. Here, Rocky Balboa, in the 2006 movie of that name, desperately tries to redeem his son from the self-pity the boy is wallowing in. But his father's lesson is told simply, and in terms of a story. Since time immemorial, these have been the twin poles of eliciting a powerful emotional responses in audiences:
Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve as a Speaker
When you speak like this, you share yourself in all of your vulnerability. It is, as Shakespeare had it, "wearing your heart on your sleeve." Iago in Othello characterized that as a weakness. But you must recognize it as a strength in speaking that excites and motivates.
If you've reached the point where you have something to say to audiences, you probably understand the essential limitation concerning the content of your talks. "Essential" because without your ideas you'd have no speech. Limited because it's your performance that transforms your material into the speaker-audience transaction that is the essence of speaking in public.
Your skills, certainly, but also your personality, your sheer joy at presenting, and the emotions you share, are the currency of a truly motivational speech. Business speakers generally tend to be too careful and timid—afraid to speak with full emotional commitment because they don't want to look and feel foolish.
But the tinder in audience members is awaiting your spark. So let listeners recognize the passion in your words; see the emotion in your face and body language; hear the heart that informs the voice. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Take the foolish risk and motivate your audience to trust their own desires, and act on them.
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