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Public Speaking Know How
Public Speaking Know How
Steven Tyler of Aerosmith...'You're only as good as your last note."
When a speaker is speaking to inform, the objective is to disseminate information. When a speaker is speaking to persuade, the plan is to go beyond just giving information to espousing a cause.
The goal of the persuasive speech is to convince the audience to accept the speaker's point of view. The persuasive speech is arranged in such a way to convince the audience to accept parts, if not all, of a speaker's ideas. If accepted, the speaker may ask for a simple nod of agreement or they may want the audience to physically take action.
For someone that works in sales, persuasive speaking is a ‘must have’ in order to do the job. If the salesperson has researched the product, explained the features and benefits, and provided potential disclaimers; all that’s left is to close the deal. I share with my students that if the introduction is weak and the body of the speech has a few holes, make sure you nail the conclusion. Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith and former judge on American Idol said, “You’re only as good as your last note.”
There are four methods used in persuasive speaking: credibility, evidence, reasoning, and emotional appeal. For a speech to have the requirements needed to persuade, these four methods should be included in the speech writing process.
The first of the four methods is credibility. Credibility is the audience’ perception on the believability of the speaker. The two major factors that determine a speaker’s credibility are competence and character. Competence is the audience’ perception of the intelligence, expertise, and knowledge of the speaker. Character is the audience’ perception on the speaker’s sincerity, trustworthiness, and concern for the well-being of the audience.
Speakers that hold higher education degrees, certifications, or have initials like MD or PhD at the end of their name automatically are considered credible when speaking on topics that are in their wheelhouse. Their CV (Curriculum Vitae) proceeds them.
For example, if you’re wanting more information regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19 on lung health, attending a virtual talk with a pulmonologist or infectious disease expert is ideal. As a person seeking medical knowledge, your confidence in the speaker is rest assured.
The character of the speaker is more subjective. A speaker that's sincere and shows concern for the audience is more likely to be considered trustworthy and in turn, credible. Speakers of good character are typically genuine in scope and have no expectations of reward. It's a slippery slope but if your hearts in the right place, the audience will give you the benefit of the doubt.
There are three types of credibility; initial, derived, and terminal. Initial credibility is the audience’ perception of the speaker before they begin to speak. Typically, this is based on a speaker’s experience, education, proven track record, or reputation. Students will earn initial credibility after they’ve performed several speeches in front of the classroom.
Derived credibility is earned while speakers are in the process of delivering the speech. Once the topic is introduced, the speaker needs to provide credible content in the body of the speech and deliver the speech fluently with few errors.
Terminal credibility is earned after the speech has concluded. If a speech doesn't go as planned but the speaker 'rocked' the conclusion, earning the audience' credibility is still a possibility. As Steven Tyler said, “ You’re only as good as your last note.”
The second method needed for persuasive speaking is evidence. Evidence is the available body of facts indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. Most student speeches use three types of evidence-based materials; statistics, testimonials, and examples.
Without evidence, it’s difficult to be a persuasive speaker and even then, it’s not guaranteed. It’s important to use credible evidence. When researching facts online, use websites registered by (.gov, .org, .edu). You’ll want to find articles that have been written by respected, well-known authors. Current materials are deemed more credible, at least within the last 10 years.
Good, credible evidence will go a long way in the eyes of your audience. As a student speaker, credible evidence is one of your best persuasive tool. The evidence collected from credible sources and presented as facts is the second method used in becoming an effective persuasive speaker.
The third method of persuasive speaking is deductive reasoning. At this point, a speaker begins to use their critical thinking skills. They draw conclusions based on the evidence collected and presented. If your evidence is solid, this step isn’t difficult. If you can put two-and-two together, you can provide the audience with reasonable assumptions based on the evidence. The trick is to be reasonable and keep it real.
There are a few guidelines to follow when drawing conclusions based on evidence. First, don’t make hasty generalizations. As it stands, pharmaceutical companies are in a race to develop a vaccine that will effectively fight the coronavirus. For instance, it's a hasty generalization to say because two or three patients improved after taking hydroxychloroquine that all patients infected with CoV-2 should take it. As more practitioners started prescribing the drug, more patients started developing worsening heart problems.
A second guideline for drawing conclusions based on evidence is embellishing the facts. It’s the big ol’ fish story. Events begins by catching a ½ lbs. crappie and by the end of the story you have a 10 lbs. Largemouth bass. It’s the boy who cried wolf.
And, as always, make sure your evidence is accurate. If statistics aren’t derived from sources that are fair and balanced, conclusions drawn based on the evidence won’t be persuasive and the speaker will lose their credibility.
The fourth method of persuasive speaking is emotional appeal. Emotions that tug at the heartstrings will cause an affected person to write a big check to your charity. The television commercials with the dogs and cats in the animal shelters afraid, cold, and alone, will prompt many to donate, volunteer, or start a ‘go fund me’ account.
Emotions may be generated by using emotional language, painting a vivid image, or speaking with sincerity and conviction. Emotive language is the deliberate choice of words to elicit emotion. Using specific words and phrases is more than just providing facts, it’s getting the audience to adopt the author’s opinions and attitudes toward a particular subject. Words are powerful and the better you are at using them, the more influential you’ll become.
Speakers may paint vivid images of a particular situation. It’s taking a storyboard and putting it into words. Instead of talking about the cluttered room, a more vivid description is the room had books on the floor stacked to the ceiling, piles of dirty laundry in three corners of the room, and paper wrappers scattered throughout from last night’s candy raid.
If you believe it, the audience will too. A dynamic speaker with the ability to speak with sincerity and conviction will have the audience eating out of the palm of their hand. Everything changes when you speak from the heart with passion and intensity. The audience will get as caught up in the presentation as the speaker.
As a persuasive speaker, it’s your duty to present all information accurately and with the best intentions of the audience in mind. If you’re speaking on a subject that’s controversial, try to establish common ground. The audience wants to be seen. Not everyone in your audience will agree with you so it’s up to the speaker to diffuse the animosity or mistrust. You may even want to present the opposing party's good side.
A persuasive speaker asks for the audience to do something. Whether it’s listening to ideas or physically taking action, it’s up to the speaker to lead the audience down the preferred path.