Charismatic speakers – why do we listen to them?

Did you know that Cicero, one of the greatest orators in history, also had stage fright? “Just as I generally perceive in yourselves, so I very often find in my own experience, that I turn pale at the outset of a speech, and quake…” ” De Oratore. Cicero.

TEXT ANA GUTIÉRREZ | ILLUSTRATIONS THINKSTOCK

Comforting, right? Even the famous Cicero was scared. This feeling is much more common than we might think. It occurs because our body is exposed to a non-habitual situation whose consequences we do not know.

“Great indeed is the task of speaking when all are silent, as they will turn a keener eye upon defects than upon his good points.” De Oratore. Cicero

It is clear that speaking in public is not an easy task. Therefore, without wishing to appear pedantic, we are going to take a closer look at this question, based on Cicero’s concept of oratory. “The art of oratory falls into five divisions. First, hit upon what has to be said. Second, marshal the discoveries, weigh them up and order the argument. Third, array them in the adornments of style. Fourth, guard them in the memory and, finally, deliver them with effect and charm.” De Oratore. Cicero

Undoubtedly still useful, pertinent concepts in the 21st century. Now, have you ever wondered why we should have to learn to speak in public in this Internet age? Here are several reasons:

Because we are addressing people. Human beings with feelings, problems and emotions. Therefore, we must tell stories that prove interesting, and also know how to listen.

Because 93 percent of communication depends not so much on what is said, but how you say it.

Because your image will be enhanced and the people who hear you will trust you more. In this way, you will convey your ability to your audience.

Because no matter what era we are in, communication is important regardless of the channel. The connected world opens the doors to knowledge, emotions and, above all, amplifies our message to a much wider audience.

SPEAKING IN PUBLIC IS NOT AS HARD AS WE THINK

In fact, speaking in public is not as hard as we think. It is a question of conversing, something we do continuously. Converse in order to put across our knowledge, opinions or thoughts to an audience, regardless of the number involved.

Here we discuss some keys to making the anxiety of speaking in public more bearable.

Prepare what you are going to say: no matter how much of an expert you think you are in a field, you should not be over-confident. Set the goals you wish to achieve with your presentation, compile information and select the main points at the core of your speech.

Be organized: Regardless of the time available to you, it is important to order what you want to say. You must therefore clearly envisage the introduction, the main points and the conclusions.

Get off to a good start: it is most important to prepare the start of your intervention; you will grab the attention of the public and it will help you make a good impression. Sometimes, a good way to start may be the final sentence. If you know where you are heading, you can choose the starting point. An emphatic, forceful ending is essential. In most cases, this is what sticks in people’s minds from a speech.

Simplicity is the spice of life: define clearly what you want to convey and tell it in a straightforward manner. Steer clear of elaborate, archaic language filled with formal or technical terms, and rhetorical confusion. Using pretentious words in an attempt to convince the audience of one’s ability and knowledge does not make for a better communicator.

Be natural: if you strive to be different from who you are, you probably won’t convince anyone. If you don’t believe what you are saying, it will be hard to convince anyone else. If you use anecdotes, choose ones that make you laugh; it is thus possible that the audience will laugh too.

Take control of the situation: many experts say that the connection with the audience is made in the first few seconds of a speech. Therefore, smile, say thanks for the presentation and wait a moment. Do not start talking until you have caught the attention of the whole room. In this way, each one of those people will feel that the speaker is talking to them and their brain will get ready to pay attention. When they are attentive, establish visual contact. Choose three people in the room, left, right and center; they will serve as reference points and enable your gaze to span the whole auditorium.

Don’t read, speak from the heart: you might think that spontaneous expression is not as polished, but it will give you the best results with an audience. It is a good idea to shun written speeches and just prepare notes with the key points you wish to put across. Of course, if you are capable of memorizing the whole speech without reading it, do not rule this out.

Relax and enjoy yourself: when we are under stress, we often forget how to breathe properly and, for speaking in public, this is extremely important. Do not breathe faster than normal; take long, deep breaths so that your diaphragm moves smoothly and rhythmically.

Prepare for going blank: one of the most common fears is your mind going blank in front of an audience. To deal with this, some experts recommend using mnemonic rules and short, easy-to-remember sentences that help us, in a contrived fashion, to relate certain words with the concept we wish to memorize. To do this, get to know your brain, make your own rules and, if you prefer, draw on creativity, simplicity and, no less important, a sense of humor. Be careful with pet phrases – they are very handy, but can give the impression of insecurity and inconsistency in your message.

Watch your body language: 55 percent of the messages we send out stem from our body language: head, face, arms and hands are fundamental when addressing an audience. Keep your back straight and chin slightly elevated; be careful with this as, otherwise, it could be interpreted as superiority; and smile, remember to replace a frown with your best smile. Remember that when you speak in public, you are telling stories.

Follow these recommendations and prepare your interventions with passion. In this way, you will be ever closer to the speaker you choose as your model. We all have one.

 

 FAMOUS PHRASES

 

“In the exordium (opening) one must evoke the goodwill of the listeners, lay out the exposition, establish the controversy, confirm our view, refute the contrary view and, in the epilogue, reinforce what favors our argument and undermine what favors our adversaries”

“The speech has to shine for the choice and construction of the words, the orator must be aware of the human passions, given that the strength and worth of oratory consists in exciting or calming the mood of the audience”

De Oratore. Cicero

“Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something.”

Plato

“Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

Laurence Peter

 

 

RECOMMENDED READING 

De Oratore. Cicero

Stage Fright. Anna Cester

Hablar para convencer. Javier Reyero

Saber decir. Teresa Baró

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