THE POWER OF VOICE (TM)
Using Voice to Share a Memorable Message
By Norma Thompson Hollis
Over the past decade of operating SPEAKERS ETCETERA, I have met and listened to hundreds of speakers. Some have deeply impressed me while others could not stop speaking fast enough. As I continued to work with speakers and assist them to develop their skills, certain traits began to stand out which were the mark of the most professional and effective speakers.
Speaking is an exchange of energy between the speaker and the audience. The best speakers recognize this exchange and massage it to the benefit of the audience. Good speaking energy is the appropriate combination of content and platform skills. A quality speech contains strong content that is delivered using platform skills that appeal to the audience. In this column, I will address elements of good content. Look for elements of effective platform skills in the next issue.
The elements of good content are effective whether giving a 30-second commercial, 30-minute speech or a one-hour seminar. Whenever a speaker’s mouth opens, the objective is to be heard and remembered. Here are some ways that speakers make their words memorable.
Telling a Story. People love stories, and good speakers tell stories that come right from the heart. Look for speakers who tell their story using the emotion of the experience. The story should relate to the topic at hand and enhance the message. It should not be too wordy or too sketchy. The best stories paint a picture, allow the audience to feel they are right there with the speaker and prompt audiences to both laugh and cry. Great 30-second commercials contain one well-told story. Great speeches contain an appropriate number of speeches shared in ways that touch audiences.
Adding Humor. People like to laugh. Good speakers know how to enhance their message by directing audiences to laughter points. The objective is not just to tell a joke to get a laugh; the humor must be related to the topic. If a speaker tells a story or shares a message that brings the energy of the room down, then laughter usually follows to balance the energy. Often audiences put a speaker on a pedestal. A good speaker lets the audience know that they, too, are vulnerable; and this is frequently done through humor.
Speaking in Flow. Successful speakers have spent hours preparing for their speech, however you do not know it because they do not use notes and appear to be speaking spontaneously. These speakers have prepared their presentation in such a way that it is orderly, authentic, informative and entertaining. You are able to see, and oftentimes feel, the speaker’s personality. They are speaking in flow. Memorable speeches generally flow. Just like professional athletes appear to be gliding as they move, professional speakers glide with words. You cannot fake speaking from the heart when you are speaking in flow.
Being Meaningful. The speaker’s content should be topical, accurate and relevant. We have all heard speakers who give lots of energy and hype, yet when the speech is over, we haven’t a clue about what to do next and don’t remember the message an hour later. It is important that the speaker’s message be meaningful and contains information that will make a positive difference in the life of the listener. The information shared should be accurate, relevant to the topic; and it is also advisable that the information be related to current events. The more topical the message, the more meaningful and, therefore, memorable it will be.
Powerful voices contain all of these elements and more. They are not boring, address the topic at hand, provide accurate information and also include tips for moving forward – overcoming obstacles, enhancing opportunities and generally directing the listener to a higher quality of life. Powerful voices combine stories, humor, meaningful messages spoken in flow to create positive change in life. How are you using your voice?
Norma Thompson Hollis is the Founder and President of SPEAKERS ETCETERA and its division Black Speakers Online. SPEAKERS ETCETERA is the training arm that helps people improve public speaking skills. Black Speakers Online is an online directory of professional black speakers. Learn more at www.speakersetc.com or www.blackspeakersonline.com; email Norma at [email protected] or call 310/671-7136.