Speaking of Speaking

Most of the speeches, sermons, and other oral presentations we hear are boring.

Because they are so few and far between, effective, inspiring presentations and presenters stick out in our minds.

I just finished reading Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln. The author, James C. Humes, was a speechwriter for 5 American presidents.

The book provides some pretty solid tips on how to be a better public speaker.

The fact is, we could all use this sort of information because of the many interactions we have with others on a day to day basis. Buying a car, consulting with the dental assistant, conducting and interview–all of these things involve speaking to members of the public. These skills can prove valuable not only to those tapped to give keynote addresses.

I knew some of the tips that Humes outlined already. One thing I truly learned was the power of the pause. Just the right amount of silence allows the listeners to better absorb what’s being said.

When reading something to an audience, Humes suggests you never speak while looking down. You look down to see what you’re going to say next, look up and say it, then pause while reading the next line. It seems like a long time for the speaker to be quiet, but the listener gets more out of it.

The right pause between words in a sentence increase the importance of the words right after the pause. Take Franklin Roosevelt’s example as he led the U.S. in to World War II:

We must be [pause] the great arsenal of democracy.”

Without the pause, the term “great arsenal of democracy” doesn’t carry the same gravity. With it, we’re ready to send thousands to fight and die…..

I gotta get me some of that persuasion.


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