The Power of Your Speech
“If all my talents and powers were to be taken from me by some inscrutable Providence, and I had my choice of keeping but one, I would unhesitatingly ask to be allowed to keep the power of speaking, for through it I would quickly recover all the rest.” Daniel Webster
Think for a moment of Oprah, Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, Will Rogers, Martin Luther King, Daniel Webster, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, why do we know these diverse individuals from different times and places? Because each one made history with their words—their spoken words. They moved others in their time, and they still move us now..
Some years ago, editor Wilfred Funk studied thousands of highly successful men and women to determine what they had in common—he found it. He discovered the one thing they all had was the ability to communicate clearly. Since then each study has shown the same thing: the number one criterion for success in business is the ability to communicate ideas effectively.
Word Power Equals Earning Power
In fact, among those most highly paid are members of the “speaking” occupations: lawyers, politicians, professional speakers, salespeople, and entertainers. Whatever the occupation, studies show a high correlation between word power and earning power. The ability to speak confidently, to persuade and to keep an audience’s attention is well rewarded.
What about you? Have you held yourself back because you did not feel you could speak up. If you feel that speaking in front of a group is something you would rather die than do, it is time to do yourself a favor–learn the skills that can change your life–for the better.
Speaking well is considered the number one reason for career advancement; it is essential for attaining personal and professional power. As business guru, Peter Drucker has said, “As soon as you move one step up from the bottom your effectiveness depends on your ability to reach others through the spoken…word.”
Why It's Especially Important to Speak Well Now
No doubt about it—speaking well is an essential business skill–especially today. With video conferences, teleconferences, and a multitude of meetings, anyone in the business arena will sooner or later be drafted to speak to a group. And how effective that presentation is will go a long way to marking the individual for bigger things or not.
Every time you or your employee meet with a client, or make a speech your company image is affected– for better or worse. From the standpoint of public relations, your business can have no better vehicle than a well-spoken representative. Moreover, it is an essential component of leadership.
We admire individuals who can “say a few words.” To speak convincingly is to be able to ask and receive a pay raise, make winning proposals, promote your business with speeches, and be an advocate for a cause you feel passionate about. Speaking up on important issues is what safeguards freedom, and our form of government depends on the ability of individuals to speak up for what they believe.
Important Business Transactions
If you think about it, you’ll see that your most important business transactions involve face-to-face communications. Am I talking about being glib and smooth? No, though that tends to be what people regard as good communications. No, what I am talking about is making points clearly in a way that reaches those you are talking to.
I once consulted with a small engineering firm who was on the short list for a contract to design a project for the City of Grants Pass. Five engineering firms were making proposals, among them two extremely large and successful companies. Now I know about as much about engineering as I do about nuclear physics—very little. Nonetheless, I had them restructure their presentation, improve their visuals and practice. They were awarded the contract. What made the difference? The packaging and delivery of their presentation.
Speaking Well Has many Facets
Human communication is a complex subject. We communicate more than simply by the words we use. We communicate as much by how we say something as by what we say. We communicate through voice inflection, tone, facial expressions, body stance and even the way we breathe! But perhaps the most important aspect of our communication is our belief in ourselves, our self-confidence.
Woodrow Wilson, for instance, was originally a political science professor with a reserved manner and a stilted style. He called himself, “extremely reserved” which is not usually a characteristic that makes friends and influences people. Nonetheless, he set a goal to overcome his inclination to appear aloof. First he started the debate society at Princeton, then coached the debaters. He deliberately and systematically set out to become a skillful orator. And it worked. He became the 28th President of the United States. His success was so evident that by the time of his first inaugural address, it was said “…not since Lincoln has there been a president so wonderfully gifted in the art of expression.”
Biographer Joseph Tumulty wrote that by the end of his life, “The President was like a great organist playing upon the heart emotions of thousands of people who were held spell-bound by what he said.”
The ability to speak is one of your greatest gifts. Doing it well can transform your life. You can be uncertain of the value of your ideas and knowledge, and thus present yourself hesitantly, or you can be purposeful, direct and confident. Who decides? You do.
Some Suggestions for Improving Your Communications
- Become aware—record yourself, then listen as if you were listening to a stranger.
- Start a file or notebook of quotations and short stories you find appealing.
- Give your speeches or tell stories in the shower.
- Next tell the stories to a few people, then a few more and then to larger groups.
- Go to lectures and seminars to hear other speakers. What worked, what didn’t.
- Beg, borrow or buy tapes of speakers such as Earl Nightingale, Zig Zigler, and Brian Tracy.
- Is there a cause or a subject you are passionate about? Start collecting material on the subject then volunteer to speak to small groups.
- Speak at every opportunity.
- If you want to make the most progress, and make it fast, get professional advice and coaching.
When we communicate, it is not simply the words we say, it is all the other means of communication we use: our voice, how we look, our eye contact, how fast we speak, and a dozen other factors. But the main one, the essential one, is how comfortable we are with ourselves. We need to have a realistic sense of who we are and what we stand for.
How to Communicate that Self-confidence that Persuades
- Have a definite purpose– whenever you attend a meeting, a give a speech or talk with a client.
- Speak clearly—you will sound more convincing.
- Look successful by dressing appropriately. Like it or not, our appearance is the first thing someone notices about us, after determining whether we are male for female.
- Be enthusiastic when you speak. Enthusiasm is contagious.
- Most important—believe in yourself. Start by making a list of your strengths and accomplishments (no matter how small they seem to you). Once you have done that, ask your best friend, and the people who know you well the one thing they most admire about you. You may be surprised, and I will bet pleased, at their response.
A deep sense of satisfaction, an exhilaration comes from knowing you have expressed yourself and done it well. Anyone, yes, even you, can deliver a presentation that will captivate an audience. But it does takes preparation, planning and practice.
We all know about the benefits of planning our goals and objectives for business, but given the importance of communicating well, how few of us develop goals and objectives for bettering our speaking. Yet improving your communication can make one of the biggest differences in not only the bottom line of your business, but in the quality of your life.
The Many Pay-offs for Speaking Well
* Get quick action on your proposals,
* Build job enthusiasm among your employees
* Develop an image of competence
* Find more business through winning presentations
* Gain respect
* You are listened to listen with greater attention
* You gain better understanding and cooperation
We use and need speech to persuade, to compel, to inform to mark a great event and occasion. but most of all, we need to speak well because the way we speak influences our lives more than most appreciate. it reflects who we are, our perspective, our thoughts. As my favorite philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, you cannot hide yourself, what you are speaks more loudly than your words.
None of us is born with the skills we need, we have to learn them. None of us is born with the confidence we need to pursue our dreams and make a difference. The good news is that these are skills, and skills can be learned.
Learning to speak with confidence–in any situation–can be one of the most exciting and rewarding activities you have ever done for yourself. Life rewards action.
It is what each of us needs to do to be a self-actualized and contributing human being. It is one of the most important skills for living a fulfilled life. When we understand--and use--good communicating skills, we lead happier, more stress-free lives.
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