Is it my imagination, or are people called upon to do much more public speaking now as compared to 20 years ago? I had a 15+ year career in sales and that kept me talking all day. In addition to sales calls, there were company meetings and I was frequently called upon to give presentations and participate in the whole give and take. But there was no need to be “on” and repping a brand 24/7. In fact, human beings didn’t consider themselves a “brand”—we had reputations. We had off hours, during which time we could relax without feeling anxious about it. That was then.
Now I’ve got the Freelance consulting thing going on and demands to stand and deliver have about doubled. Networking plays a major role in business development for the self-employed and business owners. I do some teaching and occasionally speak to a local business group, to demonstrate my credibility and promote visibility.
These days, we’re all out there self-promoting and doing all that we can to attract new customers, retain current clients, obtain venture capital, get a job or a promotion, get our child into the “right” school and generally look like we are a valuable asset to those who are holding the goodies we desire. For obvious reasons, the ability to communicate well has never been more essential. We need to learn how to inject some charisma into our presentations.
Charisma means a special gift in Greek and charismatic speakers have the unique and valuable gift of connecting with their audience and persuading them to grant the speaker their trust and loyalty. Charismatic speakers are able to make their audience understand, buy in to, identify with, get excited about and remember the cause and message that they addresses. Charismatic speakers are adept at painting vivid word pictures by judiciously weaving stories and anecdotes, humor and metaphors into their presentation in a way that causes the audience to align with them and their goals and opinions.
We all come by at least some of this naturally. We all use metaphors, rhetorical questions and other turns of phrase on a regular basis. We can learn to become more conscious of our natural speaking style and ability by practicing speaking techniques when chatting with friends and family. In time, you’ll be able to comfortably inject some charisma when called upon to speak to a group.
Metaphors are an excellent way to explain and illustrate a message and can persuade a skeptical audience to understand and embrace a new concept. Martin Luther King, Jr. displayed his mastery of the use of metaphor in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, when he likened the US constitution to a “promissory note” that guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Contrasts often combine reason and passion. They clarify the speaker’s position on the subject by comparing it to its opposite. In his 1961 inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy spoke the immortal words, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Benjamin Franklin noted that “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” Similes also compare and contrast, as Muhammad Ali did when he famously announced that “I’ll be floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.”
Then there is the use of story telling. Stories can be where to use Analogy, which points to the similarities between two things and on which a comparison can be based. For example, if your purpose is to build confidence and loyalty in a group and rally the members to face a difficult challenge, the story you present may summarize when yourself or a group of people (e.g. Londoners during the bombing in World War II) pulled together, kept their spirits up and faced the challenge with courage and resolve, eventually prevailing.
Charismatic speakers are compelling and memorable. Their skill is formidable, but not entirely unattainable. With practice, we can learn to paint the picture for the audience, frame the message, influence priorities, win confidence and portray ourselves as a leader.
Thanks for reading,