What’s More Important: What You Say Or Who Is Saying It?

by drjim on January 26, 2010

The Right Speaker With The Right Words Can Win Wars

The Right Speaker With The Right Words Can Win Wars

So here’s a question for you to ponder: what is more important – the words that you say or how you say them? This is one of the classic questions that gets asked about public speaking. Could you pick up a fantastically written speech and deliver it in a way that would create the same (or better) reaction in the audience that the original presenter got?

It’s All About Teamwork

In the end, it turns out that this is really a trick question. The answer is that you can’t have one without the other. It’s the combination of both the material and the speaker who presents the material that causes the desired reaction in the audience.

One thing that too many speakers don’t take the time to realize is that each speech needs to be tailored to meet the unique needs of the speaker who is delivering it. You have your own unique style (you are loud, you are quiet, etc.) and nobody else presents a speech the same way that you do.

The one thing that we need to be careful to not do is to try to present someone else’s speech. Trying to deliver a speech that was created for someone else will be just like trying to wear clothes that were custom tailored for somebody else’s dimensions. It just won’t look good.

How To Match Your Next Speech To Your Speaking Style

If you can accept the idea that it takes both a good speaker and a good speech to deliver a winning presentation, then the next obvious question is how can you do this successfully?

Gene Perret spent his career writing television shows and comedy material. He knows a thing or two about tailoring the material to the presenter. He has three suggestions on what you need to do in order to ensure that your next speech connects with your audience in a powerful way:

  • Be True To Your Speech: A speaker who is talking about a subject that he/she either doesn’t believe in or doesn’t care about will never be able to connect with the audience. I don’t care how great of an actor you think that you are, if you don’t believe in what you are saying then it will eventually show through to your audience and they will dismiss your message. If you don’t believe me, then think back to some of those corporate speeches that we’ve all seen when executive management tries to convince the staff that everything is ok and that there’s nothing to worry about. That message never flies!
  • Match Your Words To Your Style: I have a friend who is a very flamboyant speaker – he’s all over the stage and his arms are always waving in the air. Once upon a time I happened to see him deliver a very somber speech about a sad set of circumstances that had caused a business to fail. The speech went over like a lead balloon. My friend’s normal speaking style had to be greatly restricted because of the speech’s subject matter and so the audience got conflicting messages – they saw a lot of bottled up energy, but were hearing and seeing a very low energy speech. Don’t make this mistake – when you give a speech, make sure that the material that you are presenting matches your style of speaking.
  • Stay Competent: we all have areas of knowledge that we are strong in. Either we’ve spent the time studying in order to understand this area or we’ve worked in a related field. That being said, there will be occasions that we’ll be asked to talk on a topic that we know nothing about. Don’t do it! We all do certain things well, and a bunch of other things not so well. If you end up talking about a topic that you don’t know well, then all of your weak points will show up during your speech and you won’t be able to connect with your audience.

What All Of This Means For You

A speaker by themselves or a speech by itself has very little value. It’s only when the two are brought together that the real magic of an effective presentation can happen. As speakers, we need to understand that we have our own unique style and we need to make sure that we never try to present a speech that has been created for someone else because it just won’t work.

In order to harness both the power of a speech and our personal style, we need to make sure that we believe in what we are saying, matching our speaking style, and only talk about topics that we know something about.

Combined with the right speech we can move audiences. Now all we need to do in order to make sure that our next speech is the perfect combination of words and style is to practice, practice, practice…!

Do you think that you can tell when a speaker is talking about something that they don’t really believe in?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just imagine your next presentation. Just a few minutes into your speech, you become aware of someone, gasp, talking. We’re not talking about quiet whispering here, we’re talking about someone in the audience standing up and shouting things at you. Congratulations, you’ve got a heckler

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas January 29, 2010 at 2:32 am

Great perspective. I like the way you summarize into “power”.

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K8 Peters February 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

It is absolutely true that you can tell when a speaker is talking about something they don’t really believe in. Your comments about aligning your style with your speech are spot on. However, I also believe it is true that your flamboyant speaker friend could learn to deliver a speech on a somber topic too. He isn’t limited to only giving flamboyant speeches but he has to become more aware of things like intention, and how his style is perceived by others so that he can sincerely adjust his style to the situation. Actors, may be type cast because they fit a particular type of role, but the great actors are so aware of how intention must align with the script and how that alignment affects delivery that they seem to become a different person in each new role.

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Jeannette Paladino February 10, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Excellent post. When doing presentation training I’ve always said that form follows content — or, more accurately, content drives form. If the speaker is truly speaking with passion about a subject s/he knows inside out and believes in, the tone and gestures will come naturally. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t practice your presentation: there are few born Churchills or Norman Vincent Peale’s. But I have seen some trainers focus almost entirely on delivery. It may be entertaining, but when the audience leaves, they will wonder what they learned that will benefit them.

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Dr. Jim Anderson February 14, 2010 at 12:35 am

Jeannette: bingo! You’ve hit the nail on the head. I can’t tell you how many speakers I’ve listened to and although I can remember enjoying hearing them speak, I’ll be darned if I can remember what they said shortly after their speech was over…!

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