What does it take to be able to be persuasive in public speaking. Do you need to be swallowed by a whale or struck by lightning to be interesting?
Perhaps only two people in the world —Jonah and James Bartly — should have chosen to talk about “Being swallowed by a whale,” because only they have had that experience. The story of Jonah is well-known. And authentic government records in great Britain reveal that James Bartly was swallowed by a whale after the big fish upset his boat, east of the Falkland Islands, in the South Atlantic, in February, 1891. After living in the whale’s stomach about fifteen hours he was rescued by fellow workers.
He lived for fifteen years to tell about the event.
Fortunately a person does not have to be struck by lightning or be swallowed by a whale in order to have a suitable theme for a speech. By taking inventory of his experiences almost any-one can find at least a few subjects upon which he has earned the right to speak. Hobbies, special interests, likes, dislikes, pet peeves, ambitions, fascinating places, or admirable people often suggest suitable topics.
Although a speaker need not know everything about his subject he should know as much as possible. At least he should know more than the average person in his audience will know about it. Knowing his subject well, let him then give his entire self to expressing it with conviction and feeling.
William Jennings Bryan frequently told his daughter to think what she was going to say, then to “say it with feeling!” Quintilian, a master teacher of speaking said, “It is the heart and energy of soul which makes speakers eloquent.” Effective speaking is not a namby-pamby, mumble-jumble, lukewarm affair. It is a sincere sharing of a portion of life with other thinking and feeling people.
To have this earnest attitude toward sharing ideas a speaker must truly feel that everything he says is really worth sharing. “Impress yourself with the truth and importance of what you expect to say,” said William Norwood Brigance, a modern authority on public speaking.
Realizing that when people listen to a speech they are contributing a portion of their lives should motivate a speaker to say something really worthwhile.
One student speaker said, “When I step onto a platform to make a speech I imagine I am a fighter in the ring and that I must make every second count.” Another serious student said, “I speak as though I had only one minute to live.”
When a speaker sincerely feels he has serious, but pleasant and congenial business with an audience, his manner commands respect and attention from that audience. As he continues eager-ly sharing his entire self, this respect and attention becomes deeper. Audiences are strongly inclined to think and feel with him. Persuasion is at work.
Would thinking about public speaking in this way help you to be more persuasive?