Making Sense of Speechmaking – How You Look

Making Sense of Speechmaking – How You Look

It’s a big week for speechmaking.  The week began with MLK Day.  Then the inauguration of our new President.  (He did a great job, too, once he got past the flubbery oath of office!)  But the speechmaking is just getting started, folks.  With a major sea change in policy, there will be pronouncements galore, congressional grandstanding, and the punditocracy will pontificate it’s own perspective.  

SpeakerTo help you make sense of it all, and help you make more persuasive presentations,  I’m going to drill down a bit into how to make speeches that make the most sense to your group or audience!

There are two sides to the delivery stage of speechmaking, the inside of it and the outside of it. First I’m going to talk about how you come across, the way you appear to others, and then I’ll tell you exactly how to get yourself in the right state of mind and frame of reference to come across persuasively.  And while the politicians and pundits may or may not have a clue, you certainly will. 

There are three things that matter about your behavior when talking to a group.  Well, maybe there are 2 dozen, but these three constitute an excellent organizing framework for addressing the subject at hand.  

It matters how you look.

It matters how you sound.

And it matters how you talk.  

Since persuasive messages must address both the logical or factual side of information and the feeling or emotional aspect of people’s interests, an effective speaker makes certain that what is said has this emotional undercurrent.  You may have heard (or read, in one of my books) of Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s fascinating study of how people make sense of messages that carry feeling or emotion.  

Dr. Mehrabian determined that a person speaking such messages is understood first from what he or she appears to be saying (55%) then from what he or she sounds like she is saying (38%) and finally through the words the speaker chooses to say whatever it is he or she is saying, (7%).  This is a useful model or frame of reference for organizing the best way to speak to others.  

I’m a big fan of comedy.  In part, that’s because comedy tends to tell profound truths that are otherwise hard to recognize.  I remember, and perhaps you remember, Billy Crystal’s wonderful sendup, on Saturday Night Live (and later, in his standup appearances and specials) of Fernando Lamas saying, “It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look.  And, darlink, you look marvelous!”  

HOW YOU LOOK – It’s a funny phrase in that it says two things at once!  How you look at your audience matters, and how you look to your audience matters.  You can control some of this with the way you use your eyes, your face, your posture, your gestures and, yes, your clothing!

I’ll continue along these lines over the next several posts.  Until then, and after then, your comments are always welcome and appreciated.   I’d love to hear about your response to the appearance of presenters and speakers.  Ever seen one you could relate to?  One you couldn’t?  Ever thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me?” 

Be well,