Problems With Modern Speeches

Perhaps we've become too good at this speaking thing
Perhaps we’ve become too good at this speaking thing
Image Credit: mike krzeszak

When we talk about giving speeches, we spend a lot of our time talking about how we can become better because we understand the importance of public speaking. We look at things like body language, what words we use, and how we go about building the speeches that we give. However, one thing that we never take the time to talk about is what happens if we become too good at giving speeches. In fact, is that even possible? Can we become so good at public speaking that all of a sudden our audiences no longer pay attention to us? If so, then what can we do to prevent this from happening?

That Darn Twitter Thing

When we give a speech, we want to make an impression on our audience. We want them to listen to what we say, be influenced by it, and then take action based on our words. However, it has always been quite difficult for a speaker to evaluate just how much of an impact their speech has had on their audience. However, now that we are all living in the internet age, this has become much easier. The arrival of Twitter and its ability to group together related “tweets” that all use the same hashtag (“#freedoughnutfriday”) has changed everything.

Now our audience has the chance to comment on our speech using Twitter. In fact, they can comment on it even as we are delivering the speech. Their comments have to be brief – 140 characters or less, but they can be current and topical. As more and more speakers have become aware of the power that Twitter has to spread our message, some of us have started to change how we create a speech. Some speakers are now making sure that their speeches contain content that is tweetable – has been designed to be sent out by audience members via the Twitter app.

Many people don’t think highly of this kind of speech construction. They think that speeches should be created for the audience, not for the world of Twitter. However, the critics may be over reacting. Lately a number of speeches have been analyzed for their tweetability. It turns out that speeches that were given by U.S. President Barack Obama, Malcom X, and Dr. Martin Luther King were all shown to be highly tweetable. This means that that a very good speech can also be a tweetable speech.

The Problem With Too Much Polish

When you are asked to give a speech, what do you do? If you are like most of us, you’ll sit down and take the time to create a speech. You’ll identify the points that you want to make, determine what facts you’ll want to use to back up your positions, and then you’ll decide how you want to wrap things up. Once you’ve done all of this, it will be time for you to practice your speech. You’ll practice it over and over again until you feel that you’ve gotten it down and that you’ll do a good job of delivering it. Once you reach this point, it’s time for you to go off and give your speech.

This is when you can start to run into problems. All of that practice that you put into creating your speech may have made you too good. What has happened is that you have smoothed out all of your rough edges. What is now going to happen is that you are not going to be able to make a real connection with your audience. When talking about difficult topics, your audience may decide that you don’t sound sufficiently sad, outraged, or even shocked. This can cause your audience to become skeptical about what you are saying.

I ran into this problem recently. After I had finished giving a speech a friend of mine was providing me with feedback on how I had done. He told me that mechanically I had been perfect: good eye contact, good hand gestures, and a loud clear voice. However, he said that I had not connected with my audience. The reason for this was because I had sounded “too good”. I had not had to search for any of my words, I had not stumbled, I had not used the wrong word in any part of the speech. In short, I had been like a perfect robot. This meant that nobody could connect with me and my message was not well received.

What All Of This Means For You

We live in a wonderful age in which public speakers have become much better than they ever were before. We have the opportunity to create, practice and deliver speeches that show off the benefits of public speaking and which are well polished machines. However, what we are discovering is that we may have become too good at what we do and by doing this, we may be losing our audience.

The ability to influence an audience and to get them to take action based on what we’ve told them has been the goal of public speakers for a long time. However, we’ve never really been able to tell if our words have had an impact on our audience. The arrival of the popular Twitter application has now provided our audiences with the ability to comment on our speeches and spread our message in real time. In order to help our audience do this, some speakers are creating speeches that are designed to contain messages that can be tweeted. However, studies have shown that very good speeches in the past were just naturally tweetable and didn’t have to be designed this way. Another problem that speakers are running into is that they have become too good. By smoothing out all of the rough spots in their speech they have created a masterpiece that will no longer allow them to connect with their audiences.

As speakers we are obligated to take advantage of all of the advances that become available to us. The arrival of Twitter and our ability to do a better job of practicing speeches that we’ll be giving are examples of this. The good news is that we don’t have to structure our speeches to fit Twitter’s 140 character limitations and we can still get a good response from our audience. We just need to make sure that we don’t over practice our speeches and drive all of the humanity out of them. We can give excellent speeches, we just need to make sure that we are meeting the needs of our audience.

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

Question For You: If you don’t want to over practice your speech, then how many times should you practice it?

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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

How did your last speech go? Did your audience hang on your every word? Did they seem eager to hear what you were going to tell them next? Did they seem to be a bit disappointed when your speech was over – they really wanted you to keep on talking? If you are like most of us, the answer to most of these questions, despite the importance of public speaking, is “no”. What this means is that as public speakers we are dropping the ball. We really need to find a way to add some more zip to our next speech. Perhaps this is where poetry can step in and lend us a helping hand.