What is the key to being a better public speaker? In order to answer this question, we should consider some of the greatest speeches of all time: Martin Luther’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech, and Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential inauguration speech.
These three speeches are some of the most powerful public proclamations ever made and offer profound lessons for the student of public speaking. There’s no doubt that each speech is unique, but they share commonalities in the way they are delivered.
Here are some of the lessons we can learn from these incredible testaments to the power of the spoken word:
The Power of the Pause
If you’ve ever heard a nervous person deliver a speech you’ll know the frustration of listening to words without pause. Run-on sentences, words blurring into one another, and a frantic race to the finish are all symptoms of poor speech skills.
Nelson Mandela’s speeches are perhaps the greatest examples of powerful pausing in history. This great president of South Africa spoke as if every word mattered, and gave his audiences the opportunity to grasp exactly what he was saying.
Speaking in a monotone voice is the quickest way to lose an audience’s attention. Think of the human ear as a toddler that needs to be constantly entertained. If you don’t keep giving it interesting things to play with it’s going to wander off and find something else to do.
Martin Luther King’s speeches are a perfect example of how to keep an audience engaged. By using a mixture of high and lower frequencies and by shifting the pace of his words he drew audiences to his message.
Varying the pitch and pace of your speech forces the audience to pay attention.
No Substitute For Passion
If you don’t believe in what you’re saying then your audience won’t either. The problem with this is that not every speech you give is going to be about your life’s passion. So how do you inject passion into work presentations?
The secret is to speak with clarity and confidence. Passionate people don’t use qualifying words like ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’. They don’t use their speech to bully or persuade or cajole. They speak as if the truth of their words is self-evident.
Barack Obama’s speeches are a perfect example of clarity and confidence. By projecting certainty and confidence he won over crowds.
The first step to speaking like a pro is to incorporate these fundamental building blocks of good speech into your speaking. With the building blocks clear and a little practice and coaching, you could sound like a pro in no time.