“Don’t tell me words don’t matter”
A quote from one of the greatest orators of recent history. There were many reasons Barack Obama became President of the United States not least of which was his ability to get the crowd on his side. He wants something from his audience. He wants to win them over. He wants their votes.
You may feel that this is a long way from what you do in your working life, but believe it or not there is a great deal the FM practitioner can learn for the politician. You too want something from your audience. It may be that you want to win some new work. It may be that you want a client to change their behaviors. It may be that you want to convince a meeting of your point of view. Whatever your aim, using a few of the techniques of great public speaking is guaranteed to help you achieve it.
These are my top three.
1. The rule of three:
Why do I have a top three? Because three is a number we all like. Four seems too many and two just not enough. We can all think of some great threes from politicians through the ages. From “I came, I saw, I conquered” to “Education, education, education” and within that lies another technique. Repetition. To really make someone remember something, say it several times. When David Cameron gave his leadership winning speech to the Conservative party conference, he spoke without notes. If you go back and watch that speech, as I have, you will be able to count for yourself the number of times he tells the audience he is speaking without notes. It became known as the speech he gave without notes. Genius.
2. Rhetorical questions:
So what does Winston Churchill have to do with FM you ask?
The truth is you didn’t ask and probably never considered the question but now you would quite like to know the answer. That’s the power of the rhetorical question. It does more than give a presentation structure it also plants in the mind of the audience a desire to hear your point. Those of you with a love of history or a long memory will remember the first speech he gave to the House of Commons after becoming the wartime Prime Minister. He wasn’t much likes at the time but he stood and began:
You ask, what is our aim?
(they hadn’t but now they were all ears)
You ask, what is our aim?
I can answer in one word.
It is victory.
Victory at all costs – victory in spite of all terrors – victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.
(And there’s the repetition again)
3. Using words to paint a picture:
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent…” (Winston Churchill – again)
“A wind of change blowing across Africa” (Harold Macmillan) or
“A great beacon light of hope shining across America” (Martin Luther King)
You might not need to describe world events but you can bring a building to life by describing it in action. “Imagine walking through the main door and seeing a gleaming corridor stretching before you” or “The building is so big it would take one security officer three days to walk all the corridors”
No one is expecting an FM provider to speak with the eloquence of these famous politicians but these are tricks that everyone can use. And when I get people to use them in pitch presentations they certainly see the effect. Next time you have to speak in public try them and your presentation skills will improve.
Words do matter