The Thing About Words
As speakers we have a tendency to focus on the things that scare us the most – forgetting our words, nervous body tics, etc. and we can often overlook the things that really count: making an impression on our audience. We see these images of sharply dressed orators presenting fantastic multimedia presentations and we sigh to ourselves and say “I could never do that”. Well it turns out that you don’t have to. You can be a powerfully effective speaker who is sought after by many just by taking the time to carefully pick the words that you use.
Why Do Words Have So Much Power
I don’t know about you, but when I know that I have a speech to give, I hurry to get the speech written so that I can start to practice it. Hopefully I’ve got a reasonably clear idea in my head of what I want to say and I rush to get it down on paper (ok, so I type it into a computer) before I forget what point I want to make. If I’m nervous about the audience that I’ll be addressing, then I’ll take some time and worry about the “flow” of the speech, but in all honesty that’s pretty much it.
Clearly I’m skipping the most important point: it’s all about the words that we use. Sure, the structure of the speech is important also just like the design of a house is important; however, it’s what you build the house out of that is just as (if not more) critical. Words have power.
Just think about the most powerful speeches that we’ve all heard: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” and “I have a dream…”. I don’t think that these words were in the first draft of either of these speeches, rather the authors went back and spent the time to get their words right. The fact that all of these years later we can still recall them shows that they were successful.
Words Are Like The Paints You Use To Make A Picture
When we give a speech, the big question is what are we really trying to do? We want to have our audience share an experience with us. We want them to feel and see what we feel and see. They don’t have to agree with us, but we want them to understand how we see a given situation. If we’re sad, we want them to experience sadness. If we’re happy, then we want to feel our happiness.
As a speaker, at the end of the day all that we have to work with to accomplish this goal of connecting with our audiences are words. What words allow us to do is to paint a picture in the minds of our audience. I like to think of choosing the right words as being the same thing as an artist choosing the right colors with which to create a painting.
If I gave you just a three colors, red, green, and blue, could you create a painting? Yes, in fact you could combine these three colors to make many more colors and if you had some artistic ability you could probably create a very nice painting. However, something would be missing. If we stepped back once you were done and looked at your creation I think that we’d both agree that you’d captured the essence of whatever you were painting; however, something would be missing – depth.
If instead of restricting you to just using three colors I let you use every color in the world, just imagine what you could create now! The final product would be much richer – you would have been able to capture both depth and subtlety that was not possible when you had just three colors to work with.
All of the same things can be said about using words in a speech. If you keep it simple and only use plain, everyday words then your speech will be flat and lack depth. Sure you can do it this way, but who’s going to want to listen to that?
If instead you take the time to carefully pick and hone your words so that you use just the right word in just the right spot, then you will have made a speech that allows you to connect with your audience. When you are done, your audience will have a mental image that they can take home and treasure forever.
What All Of This Means For You
The most powerful tool that a speaker has are the words that make up the speech that he / she is giving. Just racing to throw a speech together and not spending any time to craft the words that you will use means that you are missing out on one of your most powerful speaking tools.
Words are how we connect with our audience. In order to make a lasting impression on an audience we need to use the right words that will allow us to create a vivid mental image in every member of our audience’s head.
It doesn’t take that much of an extra effort to make our words work for us. Reviewing your next speech and asking yourself if the words that you are using will allow you to connect with your audience will tell you where you stand. If your words aren’t painting a powerful image for you, then get some more colors to paint with!
Question For You: In the speeches that you’ve heard, who do you think has done the best job of making their words work for them?
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Let’s face it – anyone can give a speech. However, not anyone can give a good speech. That means that you’re going to have to find a way to really connect with your audience. Guess what – it turns out that this is actually pretty easy to do. The trick is that you have to start to use more “people words” when you speak…