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

The Power of the Words You Choose when You Speak

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s image for The Power of the Words You Choose When You Speak.

You possess a secret hidden power for public speaking. Want to know what it is? It's the power of the words you choose when you speak.

If you want to become a more memorable speaker, don’t remain chained to the same old topics you always talk about in your practice sessions. Trying practicing with “heightened” material such as poetry, Shakespeare, or great historical speeches. You’ll gain an appreciation for the meaning and power of words, along with the rhythms of rich and evocative language.

For one thing, you’ll discover that part of the power of language is in the sounds of the words themselves. (Working with anything from Shakespeare will really make you aware of this effect.) Just as music reaches us in ways that are deeper than our conscious thoughts, so does effective language.

You're never as exciting as when you're simply speaking as yourself! Learn the art of influencing stakeholders with my book, Speak for Leadership. Get it here on Amazon!

Dr. Gary Genard's book on speaking as a leader, Speak for Leadership.

For instance, consider how interesting it might be for an audience if you ditched clichéd business phrases (“bottom line,” “buckets,” and “leaving money on the table” come effortlessly to mind). What if you used descriptive words that are more successful at conveying the exact meaning of your thoughts?

Let’s take those three phrases I used above as examples. “The bottom line is . . .” can become a rhetorical question (a great device for breaking up a one-way talk and refreshing listeners’ interest), such as “So where does that leave us in terms of our choices at this point?” “Buckets” can easily become groups (or groupings) or “actions based on priority.” And if you’ve left money on the table, then you’ve obviously failed to follow-up, close, take advantage of an opening, act decisively, seize the moment, etc.

Here's more on language that can get in your way: my Free cheat sheet, "25 Words or Phrases to Avoid in Speeches and Presentations." Download it now to speak smartly!

The Importance of Voice. Also vital for memorable performances is the skill with which you use your voice, i.e., how you deliver the phrases. If you sense in your practice sessions, for instance, that it’s all becoming stale and won’t work in front of an audience, remember this: Your voice will never be as good in practice as when you’ve completed and forgotten the exercises. (Thanks to theater voice coach Cicely Berry for that thought.) At the moment of performance, you will use your voice in a way to get through to the actual listeners! 

For instance, it’s not unusual for one of my clients to say in a training session: “If I’m struggling like this now, how am I going to do well in front of an audience?” I usually reply: “Oh, you’re going to be much better in performance! It will be the real situation, in front of the actual audience. You’ll bring your best game. What we’re doing here is just a poor simulation.”

This applies to speaking virtually as well. Your online meeting is still your moment of performance! Discover my book, Speaking Virtually to be at your best here as well.

Dr. Gary Genard's book on how to speak in virtual meetings, Speaking Virtually.

A Word About What to Do Just Before You Go On

This is an important moment that many speakers make more difficult for themselves. That's because they get into the wrong mindset. How about you? Do you spend valuable about-to-go-on time concerning yourself with getting the information across just so?

It is much more productive to use this time to remind yourself of who you are speaking to and what you want to achieve with them. To explain further, I’ll use a theatrical metaphor.

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Imagine it’s opening night of a play and you're standing in the wings listening for your cue. Are you rehearsing your lines one last time? You’d better not be!


Do that and you just might freeze in front of hundreds of people, allowing the result you were trying to prevent to occur. As every actor understands, if you don't know your lines by now, you won't help yourself by frantically trying to recall them just before the curtain goes up. What you should be thinking about is what your character was doing a moment ago and where he or she is coming from, so you’re a real person walking onto the set, with a whole life behind the lines you’re about to say.


Want to elevate your performance? Download my Free resource, "Great Speaking? It's About Performance Over Content."  Know how to establish rapport with any audience!

The public speaking situation is no different, because you either know your content by now or you don't. You should be asking yourself questions about the audience. Who are they, what are their needs concerning this presentation, and most important, how will you connect with them?


You won't lose one bit of the material at your command. Equally important, you'll be someone who is present for the audience. Isn't that more memorable than a speaker who appears to be anxious about delivering the content perfectly? 


This article is excerpted from my book, Speak for Leadership. Find it here on Amazon!

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Cropped headshot for Speak for Leadership back cover -- 8.30.21

Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking and overcoming speaking fear. His company, The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching  and corporate group training worldwide. In 2022 for the ninth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speakingwas named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. His latest book is Speak for Leadership: An Executive Speech Coach's Secrets for Developing Leadership PresenceContact Gary here. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. image: GDJ on pixabay. 




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