I speak because I like the sound of my own voice,” is a phrase that
you don’t ever hear. However, a different take on this, “He must love
the sound of his own voice,” is quite common. Why? Those with poor
communication skills, who nonetheless speak to audiences (big and small)
might as well be reading the phone book. Their message, if they have
one (and most people do) is lost in their lack of clarity, and their
voices drone on without a receptive ear.
I can’t count the number of times that I have endured a talk, a
lecture or a presentation that was nothing more than an “expert” in a
given field reading a paper that could have easily been posted to the
internet and downloaded for reading at a more convenient time. I have on
numerous occasions witnessed a VIP speaking to a room full of other
VIPs who have (by no fault of their own) been lulled to sleep by the
droning voice of an invited guest.
We spend our valuable time listening to experts and speakers with the
hope that we might receive something deeper than the written word can
offer. The speaker has the grave responsibility of assuring that the
audience receives just that.
Written words can certainly be inspiring, but a passionate message
communicated with clarity by a knowledgeable speaker can rouse a
sleeping audience to action – and action, not intention or inspiration,
it what can change the world for the better.
We speak when there is a message that needs to be heard, and if an
audience is willing to give us their time and their ears for five
minutes or an hour, we have a responsibility to assure that our message
is communicated clearly in a manner that calls the audience (whether
that is 3 people or 3000 people) to action.
There is a formula for delivering the perfect speech, talk or presentation every single time. It is this.
Because X, we can Y by Z.
Martin Luther King Jr. used this formula
Because X [all men have been given a blank check and the
promise of freedom, but, for the black man, this check has been returned
for insufficient funds], we can Y [make justice a reality for all of God’s children now] by Z [peacefully demanding change and justice immediately from those who oppress the black people].
This was Kings message, nothing more. And what was the result? Those
who heard it took action, and action that made a tremendous impact in
The message in a 12 step group is always some version of, “Because [we know that addiction leads to pain and suffering, but we are not alone in our addiction], we can [heal from that pain and mend the wounds that addiction has caused] by [following a proven path toward recovery].
With this message, lives are changed world-wide, one person at a time
and week after week, because the message (when conveyed with clarity)
leads to change.
So, what is the trick? The formula alone isn’t magic. There are a few
elements that are necessary if you want to affect change (and you
should only be speaking if you want to affect change!).
The Three Magic Elements
- Passion: If we don’t believe what we are sharing
with our audience, then we can’t effectively convince others to believe
what we are sharing. Perhaps there is a good actor out there who could
“pretend” his way through the passion, but this isn’t common. The
reality is that I can’t convince someone to give to a cause if I don’t
give to the cause. I can’t teach other people to become compassionate if
I am not compassionate. People will not follow me toward a goal if I am
not on my way toward that same goal! Passion will only be transmitted
to your audience if you figure out how to effectively convey your own
- Clarity: Passion by itself isn’t doesn’t matter at
all if people can’t make sense of what you are saying. You can work
people into an emotional frenzy, but if you haven’t refined your message
to the point where your audience can repeat your message back to you,
then you have wasted your time and your audience’s as well. There are a
multitude of tools out there to assure that you clarify your message
(the repetition of refrains, telling memorable stories, asking for
audience feedback), but whatever technique you employ, you have to
assure that your message is clear, and that people can tell you what it
is. Don’t be afraid to gauge your clarity by asking a few people to
share what they learned after your talk.
- Emotion: All of the passion and clarity in the
world can lead to intellectual agreement with what you have to say, but
it isn’t until the speaker makes an emotional connection that the
audience is spurred to action. If the cause you are promoting brings you
joy, then your audience needs to be able to see that. If the product
you are pitching has relieved your anxieties, then show that. If you are
truly grieved by the problem that you are describing, be sure that this
is communicated. People respond to the messages that other people
share, and if you can’t let “who you are” shine through, your chances of
connecting are slim.
Dr. King’s “I have a Dream,” speech was certainly fueled by passion,
clarity and emotion, and without these, our world might look very
A successful talk will certainly follow our formula, “Because X, we can Y by Z,” every time. Test me. But without passion, clarity and emotion, your message won’t have an impact, and in the end, that’s what matters, right?