Marilyn Vos Savant is very, very smart

Marilyn Vos Savant is very, very smart
Image Credit: Parade magazine

Awhile back, writer Dave Zielinski got together with Marilyn Vos Savant and had a chat with her about the importance of public speaking and how we can all be more effective at delivering the benefits of public speaking. If you don’t know who Marilyn is, she’s been identified as one of the smartest people in the world. Clearly, whatever she has to say about speaking should be of at least some interest to those of us who never ranked that highly on the IQ test…

Who Is Marilyn Vos Savant

Before we spend any time listening to what Marilyn Vos Savant says, perhaps it would be worth our time to make sure that we know just exactly who she is. She has done a lot with her life, but what really got her on the map was when she took an IQ test and scored 186 on it. Note that an average IQ is 100 and 186 is almost 6 standard deviations away from this – she’s a lot smarter than the rest of us!

Marilyn is married to a smart guy also. She is married to Robert Jarvik who is one of the developers of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart. Since then she has been made Chief Financial Officer of Jarvik Heart, Inc. Probably what matters more to us is that Toastmasters International named her one of “Five Outstanding Speakers of 1999.

Just to round things out, Marilyn writes a weekly column in the Sunday Parade magazine that is included in a large number of local newspapers. She’s been writing this column since 1986 (that’s for over 30 years!). Needless to say, she’s very well known and she is often asked to come and give speeches. This means that she must know what she’s talking about when she tells us how to do a better job of giving speeches!

Marilyn’s Suggestions For Giving Better Speeches

When Marilyn gives a speech, more often than not she is trying to convince her audience about something. This, of course, naturally leads to the question of just exactly how she thinks that we should go about trying to do this in a speech. One of her suggestions is for us to take a careful look at the analogies that we plan on using. Marilyn reports that a lot of the speeches that she has to sit though use inappropriate analogies. Additionally, she points out that if what we are trying to get people to do will take a long time, we should stay away from trying to appeal to their emotions. The reason for this is because emotions are short lived and won’t last long enough to complete the task.

You would think that when you are dealing with someone who is as smart as Marilyn is, when she is giving a speech in which she wants to convince the audience about something, she would load it up with facts and stats. However, interestingly enough, this is not the approach she takes. Marilyn points out that she knows that factual material can be selective (we just present the parts that support our view) and she knows that relational material can be superficial. Instead, she tries to use examples from different situations. This provides the greatest level of proof.

Finally, when we are trying to convince an audience to see the world the way that we do, it can often be helpful to present material that we’ve taken the time to research. This brings up the question of just exactly where we should go about getting this material. Marilyn suggests that we stick to unassailable sources such as NASA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What she has found is the most other sources are all too often filled with both errors and bias.

What All Of This Means For You

I’d like to think of myself as being a smart guy, but come on, I’m no genus. Marilyn is clearly a very, very smart lady. Since everyone recognizes that she is really smart, they often ask her to come and give a talk to them. Because of this she has developed some very good speaking skills that she is willing to share with us.

More often than not, when Marilyn gives a speech she is trying to convince her audience about something. She thinks that when we are trying to convince an audience about something, we need to be careful to only use good analogies and we also have to stay away from trying to use emotions to get commitment to long-term projects. Marilyn does not believe in loading a speech up with a lot of facts – she prefers to use a variety of examples. Finally, she believes in getting her information from solid sources that provide good data – not a random website.

No, we all may never be as smart as Marilyn is. However, we can tap into the speaking skills that she has developed and use her suggestions in our next speech. We may not be as smart as she is, but we sure can do as good of a job of speaking as she does!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that using emotional material is a better way to persuade your audiences?

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P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Communicator Newsletter are now available. Subscribe now: Click Here!
 
Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In order to give a great speech, everything has to come together for us. We tend to spend a lot of time worrying about many of the easy-to-see details that contribute to the importance of public speaking such as lighting, microphones, etc. However, it turns out that the most important things that relate to giving a great speech are really inside of us: our voice, body, and mind.

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Invite culture to be a part of your next speech

Invite culture to be a part of your next speech
Image Credit: Peter Kurdulija

Every time that we give a speech, we want our audience to enter the speech and to share it with us. We’ll try a lot of different techniques to show the importance of public speaking and to make this happen such as using humor, powerful quotes, and trying very hard to make our speech relevant. However, we don’t always succeed. What are we missing here? It turns out that one of the most powerful ways to connect with your next audience is to include cultural references in your speech.

What Is A Cultural Reference?

I guess one of the most important questions that we should start our discussion with is understanding just exactly why a speaker may not connect with his or her audience. There the speaker is, up on a stage, and down in the audience they hear the words that are being spoken. However, the words are not registering – it just sounds like the speaker is droning on and on. What’s missing in this scenario is that the speaker has been unable to tap into something that the listener cares about. Sure the speaker cares about what they are talking about; however, the audience does not.

The purpose of adding cultural references to your next speech is to find that “hook” or that thing that will cause your audience to sit up and take notice of what you are saying. You want them to connect with what you say when you make the reference and then start to pay attention to everything else that comes out of your mouth. The whole purpose of adding cultural references to a speech is to draw your audience into your speech.

The way that you go about doing this is to start by understanding your audience. What is their age? Where do they come from? In order to make references that they’ll understand, you need to know these things. Once you’ve got this under control, you can start to do your homework to find the fairy tales, classical poetry or literature, or even popular music, television shows, or movies that your audience will know about. These will provide you with the sources of cultural references that you’ll need for your speech.

How Can You Include Cultural References In Your Next Speech?

Knowing that you want to add cultural references to your next speech and then actually doing it are two separate things. Your goal has to be to connect with your audience on multiple levels: personal, emotional, and culturally significant. The best part about this approach is that it can be accomplished by using very few words. Sometimes only one sentence is required.

Adding a reference to something that both you and your audience know about such as fairy tales, classical poetry or literature, or even popular music, television shows, or movies is your way of telling them “We share something in common. Accept me because I am like you.

When you are selecting the cultural references that you’ll use in your speech, make sure that you pick carefully. What you are going to want to do is to select references that are going to allow you to connect with the broadest audience with the least amount of explanation being required. You need to realize that the older material such as fairy tales and classic stories are learned by everyone, pop music and current movies have a much shorter shelf life!

What All Of This Means For You

The dream for every speaker is to be able to connect with your audience. What seems like it should be so very easy to do turns out to be quite difficult to do. We generally try a number of different ways to accomplish this, but often with mixed results that can end up diluting the benefits of public speaking.

A clever way to make this elusive connection is to work some cultural references into your next speech. These references can take many different forms: fairy tales, classic poetry and literature, or even popular music or television shows. By including these references that your audience will recognize into your speech you’ll be able to draw them into your speech.

It’s not easy to add cultural references into a speech that won’t disrupt the flow of your speech or confuse your audience. To add the right references, you are going to have to take the time to do some real homework. However, in the end, the result will be a speech that your audience will never forget.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it might be possible to add too many cultural references to a single speech?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Communicator Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Communicator Newsletter are now available. Subscribe now: Click Here!
 
Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Awhile back, writer Dave Zielinski got together with Marilyn Vos Savant and had a chat with her about the importance of public speaking and how we can all be more effective at delivering the benefits of public speaking. If you don’t know who Marilyn is, she’s been identified as one of the smartest people in the world. Clearly, whatever she has to say about speaking should be of at least some interest to those of us who never ranked that highly on the IQ test…

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