In many jobs, it is necessary from time to time to talk in public, to give a speech. Some do this well – their talks are organized, persuasive, and interesting. Others are not so good at it – their speeches are rambling and dull. What is it that separates the two? It is using rhetoric effectively, the art and craft of persuasion.
A speech has two parts, form and content. Content is what you say, form is how you say it. Both are equally important. In fact, even if your content is rather humdrum, an effective delivery can go a long way toward improving things.
An effective delivery should take into account several different factors – confidence, cadence, conviction, and color.
You need to speak with confidence and conviction. That means talking enthusiastically, with feeling, not droning on in a monotone. Cadence is important as well. This is the rhythm of your speech, emphasizing certain words with your voice, and not others. It is using pacing effectively, talking more slowly for more serious, lofty pronouncements, and faster for more exciting content. Finally, color is all about personalizing things, using concrete examples in your speech.
Also, part of good pacing is the effective use of the pause. A pause before you make a statement creates a sense of anticipation, heightens the sense of importance, builds a little suspense.
To make your content effective, you need to know your audience, so that what you say is neither too simple nor too complex for them. Using contrast is an effective rhetorical device as well – comparing the oppressive past to the bright future, us versus them, the road to heaven and the road to hell.
Another way to incorporate an effective cadence is to list things in groups of three, which is more powerful that using other numbers. Freedom, justice and the American way, for example.
Stories are also effective rhetorical devices. People like to hear stories.
Body language is also important. For example, you never want to talk with your arms folded. It compresses your chest, making it harder to project your voice, and it presents an adversarial image. You want to keep your arms open. Using a gesture now and then can help to add emphasis, such as pointing, or waving. But don’t use them too often, or they will become distracting to the audience.
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