After you’ve given a few speeches, it’s entirely possible that you’ll find yourself falling into a rut. You know the routine: write a speech, give a speech, write a speech, give a speech. Sure you are speaking, but are you really connecting with your audience? You can tinker with incorporating different presentation tips, but that’s not going to make a big impact. Looks like what you need is some “special sauce” – how about some poetry?
What Makes Poetry So Special?
It’s pretty bold for me to call poetry the “special sauce” of public speaking. Maybe I’m going to have to back that statement up. Perhaps we should start with a definition of just exactly what poetry is:
Poetry (from the Greek ‘poiesis’/ποίησις [poieo/ποιέω], a making: a forming, creating, or the art of poetry, or a poem) is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning.
</>Ah ha – now we’re getting somewhere. Clearly poetry is more than just words. It’s carefully selected words that have been put together in a particular way in order to generate a response in people who hear it.
I like to think of poetry as being a very concentrated form of communication. If it was a beverage, then I’d think of it as being similar to Turkish coffee – very strong and best enjoyed in small doses. It’s these very qualities that make adding some poetry to your next speech a great way to capture your audience’s attention.
How Do You Use Poetry In A Speech?
Poetry is powerful stuff. Just like high explosives, you are going to want to be careful in how you handle this stuff lest it get out of control and damage your speech. Dian Duchin Reed is a poet who has studied how poetry can be delivered to an audience. She’s come up with a number of suggestions:
- Poetry Needs An Introduction: most of us don’t encounter poetry during our daily lives. This means that if you are going to use some poetry in your next speech, you’ll need to take the time to prepare us for it. Provide some background on why you chose this poem to include and let us know what you’d like us to get out of hearing the poem. Doing this helps your audience to do what you want them to do.
- Take Your Time: did I mention that poetry is powerful stuff? What this means is that every word in a poem is there for a reason – all of the extra words have been cut out. You are going to want your audience to both hear and understand every word that tumbles out of your mouth. Help your audience improve their listening skills by taking the time to speak slowly while reading the poem. Make sure that you also speak very clearly.
- Speak In Tongues: well, ok, maybe not tongues but at least use some vocal variety when you are delivering a poem. If for no other reason than to set the poem off from the rest of your speech, you need to vary the sound of your voice while reading the poem. If there are multiple people being discussed in your poem, then try to give each of them their own voice.
What Does All Of This Mean For You
It’s all too easy to get up in front of an audience and then sit back down after you’ve given your speech having made no impact on them. If you find yourself falling into a speaking rut, then it’s time to change things up a bit – add some poetry to your next speech.
Keep in mind that poetry is powerful stuff. It’s words that have been refined to such a point that just a little bit can have a powerful effect on your audience. This means that you need to be careful in how you use it. Make sure that you introduce your poetry before you deliver it so your audience knows what’s coming. Deliver it slowly and very clearly – with poetry every word counts. Finally, use all of the power of your voice and include vocal variety where appropriate in order to maximize the power of your words.
In our everyday lives, there is precious little poetry on a daily basis. If you take the time to do some research you can find poetry that can be incorporated into your next speech in order to truly connect with your audience. Choose the right poem, deliver it well, and you will have found the right way to share the benefits of public speaking with your audience.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™
Question For You: How long of a poem do you think would be appropriate to include in a 30 minute speech?
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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 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
A quick question for you: are you afraid to fail? Would you be willing to get up and give a speech if you knew that it was going to turn out badly? Even though we all know the importance of public speaking, I’m willing to bet that a lot of us would say “no” – speakers who do a good job get asked to speak again, those who don’t are never asked back. However, I’m going to tell you that you’re wrong – get ready to fail if you want to succeed.