Tips On How To Become A Better Speaker From Marilyn Vos Savant

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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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 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.