Presentation Skills – Use Ancient Wisdom to Boost Your Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

woman in front of group demonstrating presentation skills

Public speaking and presentation skills have been taught for centuries.

Over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle described the three modes of persuasion in his book Rhetoric. In Greek, these are called ethos, pathos and logos.

The definitions of these three rhetorical appeals are:

  • Ethos – character
  • Pathos – emotion
  • Logos – logic.

According to Aristotle, any attempt to persuade your audience should include a combination of the three. Understanding these and applying them effectively will help you persuade your listeners when speaking about your company, products, services or ideas.

Let’s look at a few examples of how you can use ethos, pathos and logos to develop your public speaking and presentation skills.

Ethos – character

Presentation skills tip: Start building your character before applying your public speaking and presentation skills

Ethos can be established in several ways that go beyond the speech or presentation you are giving. Being seen as a trusted and reputable speaker before you reach the podium helps to build your ethos.

If you’re viewed as being trustworthy and consistent in general, it will enhance your character in the eyes of your audience even before you apply your public speaking and presentation skills. We’ve all read about major scandals surrounding politicians and other high-profile figures that have destroyed their image. That’s why it’s important to protect your reputation in all parts of your life and be consistent with your message before you get on stage.

Your expertise is another important part of your ethos. Having many years of experience in your field or position in your industry can help you establish yourself as a credible expert. If you are a consultant, writing a book, or books, about the topics you speak about will go a long way to boost your image in the eyes of your listeners. Your educational background can also play a big part in building your credibility.

If your speech or presentation will be publicised beforehand, you can establish your ethos in announcements and advertisements for the event.

Presentation skills tip: Get to know your audience to build your ethos before you use your public speaking and presentation skills

Getting to know your audience at the event is another way to build your ethos. For example, arriving at the event early and meeting audience members during breaks will help you connect and get a feeling of the mood, challenges and outlook of the people you will be addressing. If appropriate and relevant, you might include some of these insights in your presentation. You could mention a conversation you had with an audience member and weave this into your speech (but make sure that this person is comfortable with you sharing this information). This shows that you have a genuine concern for your audience and will boost your public speaking and presentation skills.

Similar to your promotional material and speaking announcements, your background and expertise should be included in the introduction before you speak. The best way to ensure this is to write your own introduction, or at least list the main points that you want mentioned. Again these can include your career milestones and accomplishments, educational achievements, books or papers you have written, previous roles, current responsibilities, and recognitions or awards.

The formality of your introduction will depend on the type of event. If it’s a formal business event, it might cover the main facts about the speaker. If it’s less formal, it can be more humorous and conversational. Either way, a strong introduction will enhance the public speaking and presentation skills you apply during your speech.

If you are giving a motivational or educational presentation, your introduction should be used to build your credibility but it should also tell the listeners how you are going to help them. One technique is having questions at the beginning of your introduction.

If you were giving a presentation on sales skills the introduction could include questions such as:

Have you ever wanted to close more sales in less time?

Do you want to gain the skills that will help you overcome objections?

Would you like to increase your income by making more sales?

In today’s presentation, our speaker will provide the keys to achieving these aims for a more productive and rewarding career in sales.

Presentation skills tip: Boost your public speaking and presentation skills by quoting recognised authorities on your topic

Besides enhancing your own character, you can boost the credibility of your ideas by including quotations. When well chosen and placed, quotations can add variety and credibility to your speeches and presentations. While facts and statistics support the logical element of an argument, and stories bring in an emotional element, quotations add credibility. When you quote an authority — not connected to you or your business — you add that person’s credibility and standing to your premise. This is one simple way to enhance your public speaking and presentation skills.

For example, in the workshops and presentations on writing, I use quotations from great writers and writing experts to support the case for simple and uncluttered writing and public speaking. Some of these include:

Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind.

‒ Cicero

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific term or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

‒ George Orwell,
Politics and the English Language

Executives and managers at every level are prisoners of the notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind. Actually a simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking; a muddled style reflects a muddled thinker or a person too dumb or too lazy to organize his thoughts.

William Zinsser,
On Writing Well

By using these quotations in my presentations, I bring outside confirmation to the idea that clear and simple writing is important.

Some public speaking trainers believe that using quotations shows a lack of originality and should not be included as public speaking and presentation skills. But the right quotation from the right authority and in the right place will increase your credibility and the impact of your speech or presentation.

For example, if you were speaking about the importance of developing sound leadership in your organisation, you could use quotations such as:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

‒ John Quincy Adams

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

‒ John C. Maxwell

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

‒ Peter Drucker

The appropriate quotation, or quotations, for your speech or presentation would depend on the specific message you want to convey about leadership. You can search for quotations by subject, keyword or author. Finding the appropriate quotation can take some time, but it can be well worth the effort.

As with business speeches, quotations can add depth and credibility to motivational presentations. Earl Nightingale was a master at using quotations in his motivational audio programs. He would often present several quotations on a single subject to enhance his message and make it more convincing.

The following is an extract from The Strangest Secret, one of his best-selling audio programs.

This is The Strangest Secret! Now, why do I say it’s strange, and why do I call it a secret? Actually, it isn’t a secret at all. It was first promulgated by some of the earliest wise men, and it appears again and again throughout the Bible. But very few people have learned it or understand it. That’s why it’s strange, and why for some equally strange reason it virtually remains a secret.

Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor, said: ‘A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.’ Disraeli said this: ‘Everything comes if a man will only wait … a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and nothing can resist a will that will stake even existence for its fulfilment.’

William James said: ‘We need only in cold blood act as if the thing in question were real, and it will become infallibly real by growing into such a connection with our life that it will become real. It will become so knit with habit and emotion that our interests in it will be those which characterize belief.’ He continues, ‘…only you must, then, really wish these things, and wish them exclusively, and not wish at the same time a hundred other incompatible things just as strongly.’

My old friend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale put it this way: ‘If you think in negative terms, you will get negative results. If you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results.’

George Bernard Shaw said: ‘People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.’

Well, it’s pretty apparent, isn’t it? We become what we think about.[1]

The number of quotations used in the example might seem excessive when you read it. But when you listen to the recording of this motivational talk, it seems quite natural. By quoting so many notable figures dating back to ancient times, Earl Nightingale adds credibility to his premise that we become what we think about.

Be careful when sourcing your quotations from the internet, as emphasised by the following ‘quote’:

The problem with quotes on the internet, is that it’s hard to verify their authenticity.

Abraham Lincoln

In order to avoid using inaccurate and wrongly attributed quotations, use a trusted source. For example, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, which are now available on an easily searchable app, and Bartleby.com.

Presentation skills tip: Check your facts to avoid diminishing your authority

 

One quick way to harm your character, lower your credibility and negate your public speaking and presentation skills is to present false or inaccurate information. If you do, your credibility will fall in the eyes of your listeners, even if your mistakes are unintentional.

For example, when you hear something in your area of expertise, and you recognise that the information you are hearing is inaccurate, it’s likely that the speaker’s credibility will be diminished in your mind. So always check your facts before you speak to avoid diminishing your credibility because being inaccurate will diminish your public speaking and presentation skills.

Presentation skills tip: Avoid unnecessary controversy to prevent losing authority

When speaking about your subject matter, not everyone will agree with you. That’s understandable. But you can avoid losing credibility by not introducing unnecessary controversy. For example, speaking about your favourite politician, political party or political policy, when it’s not relevant to your topic or your group, will only alienate the listeners who do not like that politician, party or policy. In a random audience, you can expect that 30 to 50 percent of the people won’t agree with your political views so don’t waste your public speaking and presentation skills by introducing aspects that could lead to disagreement with audience members.

Pathos – applying emotion to enhance public speaking and presentation skills

Many experts believe that pathos is the most important of the three rhetorical appeals. In Advanced Selling Strategies, Brian Tracy writes that ‘All buying decisions are emotional because people are completely emotional in everything they say and do. They buy emotionally and justify logically.’[2]

The importance of emotions in decision making is backed up by the scientific research. In Descartes’ Error Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Antonio Dimasio shows that people who have had injuries to the part of the brain that regulates emotions — the prefrontal cortex — cannot make decisions because they lack the necessary emotional machinery. Although much about the precise workings of emotions are still unknown to science, the conclusion of the research is that the brain often ‘decides’ among alternatives by ‘marking’ one alternative as more emotionally significant than another.[3]

Given that emotions do play an important part in our decision-making process, we need to include a strong emotional element in our presentations to win people over to our point of view.

Emotion can be introduced in many direct and subtle ways to enhance our public speaking and presentation skills.

Presentation skills tip: Use the power of words to get your audience emotionally involved and support your public speaking and presentation skills.

You might have seen the popular YouTube video called The Power of Words. In it a blind man is sitting on the footpath begging for money. His sign reads, ‘I’m Blind, Please Help’. He’s getting some money from passers-by, but not much. A woman approaches him, picks up his cardboard sign and writes ‘It’s A Beautiful Day and I Can’t See It’ on the blank side and places the sign so passers-by see the new text. He then starts to receive many more contributions.

This short video highlights the importance of using words to get people emotionally involved. Although ‘I’m Blind, Please Help’ logically explains the man’s situation, ‘It’s a Beautiful Day and I Can’t See It’ raises the emotions of the situation by helping us see what the blind man is missing. This lesson can be transferred to the development of public speaking and presentation skills.

The language you use can also play an important part in bringing emotion to your speech or presentation. For example, if you are talking about the problem of addiction to the illicit drug ice, you could say ‘Ice is a very serious problem affecting everyone in our community.’ But you can add emotion by using a figure of speech. For example, ‘Ice is a cancer affecting everyone in our community’. This metaphor adds an emotional charge to your statement.

When Winston Churchill spoke about the ‘iron curtain’, meaning the closing of Eastern Europe and the beginning of the Cold War, he could have said something like ‘The border between east and west has been closed indefinitely’ but he understood the power of emotional language and said, ‘From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.’

So remember to use powerful words and symbolic language to develop your public speaking and presentation skills.

Presentation skills tip: Employ visuals to raise emotions when applying your public speaking and presentation skills

If using PowerPoint or a similar program, visuals can be a powerful way to heighten emotions. One of my clients was speaking at a conference and wanted to promote the benefits of home-based businesses as a way for women to balance careers and family life. In her presentation, we used images that highlighted the flexibility and freedom that a home-based business can provide. For this presentation, we found stock images that portrayed the lifestyle that could be attained in the business. These included families having fun together, couples dining, luxury cars and exotic travel destinations.

Finding and choosing the right images can take some time and effort. If you don’t have images related to your topic, you can find stock images online for free or a small fee.

Presentation skills tip: Use stories to evoke emotion

Telling stories is a powerful way to add an emotional element when applying your public speaking and presentation skills. For example, let’s say you are giving a presentation about the benefits of the small business accounting software you have developed. You can point out that a survey of customers revealed that the software is more efficient than their previous systems and reduces the time they need to spend on their accounting by 30%. This is looking at it from a logical perspective. But then you can bring in emotion by telling about the experience of a business owner who was spending time in the office after business hours and coming home very late many evenings because the old accounting system was not efficient. With the new system the business owner now gets home earlier and can spend time with her family.

For added impact, you could even quote what the customer said about the difference the software has made in her life:

Acme accounting software has made a tremendous difference in my small business and my life. Before we implemented it, I would spend many hours after work at the office getting caught up on my accounting. Now I get it done in less time, and have more time to spend with my family.

Using simple but true stories like this will boost your public speaking and presentation skills to make a bigger impact.

When a speaker wanted a story to emphasise the power of love to overcome challenges, I found the following story and adapted it for his speech:

Over 2,000 years ago, the Roman poet Virgil wrote that ‘love conquers all’. There are many stories that support this point and I’ll share one with you.

When 21-year-old art student Emilie set out on her bike one autumn morning in New York, she expected to arrive at her internship — not a hospital bed.

Emilie was struck by an 18-wheel semi truck and suffered brain damage, a stroke and fractures of her head, leg and pelvis. She was rushed to the hospital. Her heart stopped for a minute after she went into cardiac arrest. The doctors believed she wouldn’t make it and were asking her family about organ donation.

But for weeks, her devoted boyfriend Alan waited by Emilie’s bedside day and night. She was mostly unresponsive, but he refused to give up.

Once her condition was stabilised, doctors said she wasn’t eligible to be moved to a rehabilitation program because she couldn’t respond to commands. Her eyes wouldn’t follow visual stimuli and she’d been hearing impaired since childhood.

Without a chance at rehabilitation, Emilie would be left at a nursing home with little probability of recovery. But Alan didn’t give up. He believed the woman he loved would come back to him. He turned to the internet to read all he could find on Helen Keller.

Keller’s story inspired him. Late at night, waiting by her bedside, he decided to copy the method of communication Keller’s teacher used: spelling words on her palm. He wrote I LOVE U with his finger on her palm. Immediately, Emilie responded.

Excitedly, Alan documented her words, using his mobile phone to record their interactions as she answered question after question.

Finally, he had the proof he needed to show the doctors that Emilie could go to rehabilitation and had a chance at recovery.

Emilie is still recovering. She has lost her sight, but can still hear with the use of the hearing aids she has worn most of her life. Despite her blindness, she plans to continue to create art.

In this case, love did conquer all. It made it possible for a young woman to overcome great odds and continue living a fulfilling life.

You can use stories to evoke many types of emotions. Stories don’t have to be about monumental achievements or personal disasters. They can be simple things that add an emotional element to your speeches and enhance your presentation skills.

Presentation skills tip: Use sensory words to get your audience emotionally involved

Using sensory words in a story can add more emotion to it. These can include the sensations experienced during the story. If you were speaking about road safety and telling the story of a car accident you could bring up the screeching of the tyres, the shattering of glass and the smell of smoke.

Onomatopoeia is the term that describes a word that phonetically imitates, resembles or suggests the source of the sound that it describes. It is highly effective way to enhance your presentation skills.

Examples include:

  • splash, sprinkle and squirt ‒ for water descriptions
  • giggle, mumble and blurt ‒ for voice descriptions
  • bang, thump and thud ‒ for describing collisions
  • bark, meow and moo ‒ for describing animal sounds.

By using these types of sensory words, you can add emotion to your presentations and enhance your presentation skills.

Logos – logic, reason

Logos can be described as the logical component of your argument. Whether you want people to buy your products or agree with your ideas, you need to use some form of logic or reasoning in your speeches and presentations. So logos is a key component in boosting your presentation skills.

Presentation skills tip: Use facts and figures for logical support

Facts and figures can build a solid foundation for a logical argument used to persuade your listeners. For instance, let’s say you represent an insurance company and want to highlight the problem of people being underinsured. You can point out that 80 per cent of Australians are underinsured and list the source of the statistic as a survey conducted by a government agency. This fact will make your listeners think and ask, ‘Am I one of 80 per cent?’ If audience members believe they are underinsured, they might start to worry about their situation. In this case, a statistical fact can lead to an emotional response, another key element of presentation skills.

In a speech I wrote for a cancer survivor and financial planner, who speaks about the importance of income protection and life insurance at industry events, I used many statistics to get people to think about the subject:

That brings me to another important way I want to make a difference — and my reason for being here today. As a financial planner, I have always been aware of the need to protect against risk. During my career over the last twenty years, I have helped my clients create a better life for themselves and their families. One thing that I never really paid much attention to was income protection insurance.

As financial planners, many of us focus on life insurance but don’t realise the importance of income protection. But when you look at the facts, it becomes clear that there’s a big gap between the possibility of needing this insurance and the number of people covered.

Let’s consider the statistics.

Did you know that every working Australian has a one in three chance of becoming disabled for more than three months before they reach the age of 65?

Did you know that workers compensation only covers you for accidents and injuries that occur during working hours or illness that is a direct result of work?

Did you know that two in five Australians will suffer from a critical illness by the age of 65?

You might already be aware of these facts, but many of your clients probably are not. Also, each day in Australia:

  • 214 people are diagnosed with cancer
  • 41 people undergo coronary artery bypass surgery
  • 35 people between the ages of 35 and 69 will survive a heart attack.

But let’s look at the other side of the equation.

Did you know that only six per cent of employees have income protection insurance?

And only 31 per cent of the self-employed are insured against a loss of income?

Most people insure their homes, their cars, their lives, their holidays, and even their pets — but don’t have income protection insurance. So let’s compare the risks.

The odds of having your car stolen and not recovered are 1 in 800. The probability of having to claim on your home and contents policy is one in 13.

Most people consider their home to be their greatest asset. But did you know that for every single home lost as a result of fire, four homes are lost through a death, and forty-eight homes are foreclosed and lost as a result of disability?

In reality, the biggest asset for most people of working age is their income. As I mentioned, only six per cent of employees are covered by income protection insurance. But do you know the percentage of people who have comprehensive car insurance? It’s 83 per cent!

Again, the statistics show how big an issue illness and disability can be in earning an income. Health issues are the third most common reason for working age Australians not participating in the labour force. Only 29 per cent of people in poor health are employed full time. In comparison, 60 per cent of people in good health work full time.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, I was fortunate to be one of the six per cent covered by income protection insurance. During my treatment I wasn’t able to work for nearly two years. I don’t know how I would have survived if I didn’t have income protection insurance. Having to go through treatment was challenging in itself, but I didn’t have to worry about where my income would come from while I was going through it and the ongoing health challenges I face today. It amazes me to think that I was one of the few people who had income protection insurance when it was needed.

Given the target audience of financial planners, who are accustomed to numbers, the list of statistics provides a logical foundation for the idea that their clients need income protection insurance. This highlights the importance of knowing your audience as you prepare to apply your presentation skills.

Combine Credibility, Emotion and Logic to Boost Your Presentation Skills

Choosing the right mix of ethos, pathos and logos is a crucial aspect of public speaking and presentation skills. How you combine the three will depend on your audience and the product, the service or idea you’re promoting. Business managers, for example, often need to make a logical case for purchasing a new solution to a problem, so business-to-business products and services require a rational justification (although the decision is ultimately based on emotion).

Many consumer products and services — such as travel, leisure, health and beauty, and fashion — tend to be promoted on an emotional level. So if you’re selling a tropical beach holiday or fine jewellery, you will want to focus on the emotional element of your offering.

The following opening to a presentation shows how you can combine credibility, emotion and logic. It was written as the introduction to a training workshop that was part of a program to teach new hypnotherapists to help smokers quit the habit. The text in italics and brackets explains how the three elements are used throughout the speech. Other public speaking and presentation skills are also noted.

Good morning and welcome to the Quit Smoking Wizard 5-day workshop.

As you may know, I’m Jim Ford, the founder of the Quit Smoking Wizard program.

I’m honoured and grateful that you have chosen to join me in becoming a Quit Smoking Wizard.

As I was preparing for our journey, I was looking for a way to summarise the next five days for you.

After thinking about it for a while, one word that explains what we’re achieving here flashed into my mind.

That word is transformation. [The theme is introduced.]

Transformation is much more than change. We all change in small ways every day. But transformation is life-changing change. It’s our transformational experiences that we remember and mark time with.

Wayne Dyer said, ‘Transformation literally means going beyond your form.’ [Using quotations to bring outside confirmation, which builds authority.]

My goal is that this seminar makes it possible for you to go beyond your current form to make a better life for you, your families and your future clients. [Tricolon]

Although I’m standing here in front of you as the Quit Smoking Wizard, I had to undergo major transformations to get here.

Twelve years ago I was a different person.

I was broke. I was deeply in debt. I was homeless.

[Speaking frankly about his unfortunate personal situations brings emotion to the presentation. Also notice the triad.]

I woke up on the street one day and made a decision to change.

That decision came from within. Your decision to become a Quit Smoking Wizard came from within. The decisions your clients make to seek your help in quitting smoking will come from within.

[The previous three lines are an example of epistrophe, which is when you end consecutive sentences with the same word. In this case ‘from within’.]

These decisions all lead to transformation.

By becoming a local Quit Smoking Wizard, you have put yourself in a position to transform your financial and professional lives.

But there’s much more to it.

By choosing to be here, you will help save lives. [Emotional element in saving lives.]

Each year, smoking kills more than 18,000 people in Australia. That’s 50 people each day. This is more than the combined number of people killed by road accidents, alcohol and other drugs.

The total cost of smoking to our society is $31 billion each year.

That’s nearly $1,500 dollars for every man, woman and child in Australia — every year.

[The numbers bring facts into the speech and the logic that smoking has a high cost for our society. There’s also an emotional element about the number of people who die each year as a result of smoking.]

Should we keep paying that? [Rhetorical question]

The good news is that by helping people overcome their addiction to cigarettes, we’re transforming their lives.

Statistics clearly show the benefits of quitting:

People who are fortunate enough to quit before middle age reduce the risk of lung cancer by 90 per cent.

A person who has been a non-smoker for 15 years reduces their risk of stroke to the level of a person who has never smoked.

After one year of being a non-smoker, the risk of heart attack decreases by 50 per cent.

But these numbers don’t show the personal side of what we can do.

Here are some glimpses of the differences you’ll make by helping people transform themselves into non-smokers.

Ian, a Quit Smoking Wizard client from Sydney, wrote:

‘I wish to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Jim and the team at the Quit Smoking Wizard. My wife recently died from lung cancer, leaving behind two children under five years. It was her dying wish that I quit smoking so that I would be there for the kids for years to come. I had nearly given up on life until I met with Jim. His compassionate nature and pure professionalism not only guided me through the maze of quitting smoking but also gave me the courage to keep going. It has now been six months as a strong and confident non-smoker and I can’t praise Jim enough. After the tragedy we have been through, I now can see a future ahead for me and my family. Thank you for your patience and understanding. You have given me hope to continue.’

Thomas, a Quit Smoking Wizard client from Brisbane, wrote:

‘I am 76 years young and today I became a non-smoker. After smoking over 60 cigarettes a day I decided to quit smoking, so I contacted the Quit Smoking Wizard and was very pleased I did. Jim and his team guided me through the process, and to my surprise I have not smoked even a single cigarette since. I can’t believe how easy it has been, with no withdrawals at all. The system he uses makes it very easy to quit smoking. Now that I am a proud non-smoker, I am sure excited to be around for years to come for my grandchildren. If an old bugger like me can do it, so can anyone.’

[The testimonials above give outside confirmation that enhances the credibility of the speaker and his quit smoking program. The testimonials also add a strong emotional element which boost presentation skills.]

It’s my goal that you too receive letters like these from your clients.

You probably know that there are other programs that will teach hypnosis to help others overcome their addiction to cigarettes. I’ve studied these.

Although many of them have their strong points, most don’t take the extra steps to make sure you have the right frame of mind to succeed.

As the Director of Quit Smoking Wizard, I believe that your success is my success.

That’s why we will mentor and coach you to be successful as a local Quit Smoking Wizard. So the last day of the seminar will be dedicated to setting the stage for your prosperous future as you help people quit smoking.

This will be your time for major transformation.

My personal transformation has taken me from being homeless to helping hundreds of people become non-smokers. [Again, the emotional aspect of where he started from and how he was able to change.]

Wherever you are in your life at this time, our journey over the next five days will be a giant step in transforming your lives and the lives of those you love.

Most importantly, as a local Quit Smoking Wizard, you’ll be helping people add years to their life and life to their years.

I look forward to our journey together.

This speech is an example of how you can use the three elements of persuasion to raise your public speaking and presentation skills.

Presentation Skills Article Summary

  • The three persuasive appeals were defined by Aristotle in Rhetoric over 2,300 years ago. These include ethos (character), pathos (emotion) and logos (logic).
  • Combining ethos, pathos and logos effectively is the key enhancing public speaking and presentation skills and create persuasive and memorable speeches and presentations.
  • A good introduction can boost your authority before you speak.
  • Quoting respected authorities adds outside confirmation of your message and builds credibility.
  • Check your facts to avoid delivering incorrect information and diminishing your authority as a speaker.
  • Avoid unnecessary controversy that could decrease your credibility — such as mentioning your political beliefs when they are not relevant to your message.
  • Use powerful language, including figures of speech, to evoke emotion.
  • If using slides, adding emotion with images will enhance your presentation skills.
  • Stories are an excellent way to bring more emotion into your speaking.
  • Use sensory words for more pathos and enhanced presentation skills.
  • Facts and figures can be used to enhance the logic of your message.
  • Be aware of how you balance pathos, logos and ethos in your speaking. Remember that emotion is the predominant component of decision making.

We teach these and more in our presentation skills training courses and workshops. To find out more, visit our Presentation Skills Training and Coaching page.

This article was adapted from Speech Power – The Leader’s Guide to Creating Powerful Speeches and Presentations.

© 2016 Michael Gladkoff

[1] www.nightingale.com/articles/the-strangest-secret. This is a transcript of the audio program read by Earl Nightingale. It is an excellent example of how to weave stories, quotations, facts and other elements into a speech to support your message.

[2] Tracy, B 1995, Advanced Selling Strategies, Simon and Schuster, p. 200.

[3] Dimasio, A 1994, Descartes’ Error — Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Avon Books, New York.

Five Common Public Speaking Myths

Public speaking myths abound. Over the years I have repeatedly heard and read a number of myths about public speaking. Let’s look at five common myths about public speaking that can hinder the development of speaking and presenting skills if they are believed and followed.

Woman public speaking with flip chart.

Public speaking myth number one: ‘Your words are not that important — it’s your voice and facial expression that communicate most of your message when speaking in public.’

This myth is a result of misinterpretation of research conducted by Albert Mehrabian in the late 1960s. From his studies, he claimed that in interpersonal communication:

  • 7% of the message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken
  • 38% of the message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is the way that the words are said
  • 55% of the message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.

The problem is that these numbers were not meant to be applied to public speaking but to one-to-one communication of feelings and attitudes. For example, if you meet a friend and she tells you that she is having an excellent day, but she is frowning and her voice sounds sad, you won’t believe that she is happy because the words are not congruent with the vocal and facial expressions.

In other situations, including public speaking, your words are crucial for communicating your message. If your words only accounted for 7% of your message in general, you would not be able to listen to a radio program and understand it. More ridiculously, you would never have to learn a new language because you could communicate 93% of your messages through your voice and facial expressions no matter where you travelled in the world.

In explaining his research, Mehrabian wrote:

‘Please remember that all my findings on inconsistent or redundant communications dealt with communications of feelings and attitudes. This is the realm within which they are applicable. Clearly, it is absurd to imply or suggest that the verbal portion of all communication constitutes only 7% of the message. Suppose I want to tell you that the eraser you are looking for is in the second right-hand drawer of my desk in my office. How could anyone contend that verbal part is only 7% of this message. Instead, and more accurately, the verbal part is nearly 100% of the message.’

In the early 2000s, addressing the controversy raised by his research, Albert Mehrabian wrote:

‘I am obviously uncomfortable about misquotes of my work. From the very beginning I have tried to give people the correct limitations of my findings. Unfortunately, the field of self-styled “corporate image consultants” or “leadership consultants” has numerous practitioners with very little psychological expertise.’

Despite these statements from the author of the research, you still find public speaking ‘experts’ who say words are not that important.

You can read more about this topic in Communication is 93% Nonverbal: An Urban Legend Proliferates.

Public speaking myth number two: ‘You don’t need to prepare too much if you know the subject matter already.’

Many times I have heard ‘I know my subject matter very well, so I can just get up and present it without preparing for public speaking situations’. The problem with this statement is that having the knowledge does not necessarily mean you can present it effectively without thought, planning and preparation.  How many times have you seen experts ramble on, repeat themselves and lack impact due to a poorly planned presentation?

Taking the time to prepare for your presentation will help you organise your thoughts, conduct any additional research needed, and craft powerful phrases that are more likely to be remembered. If you don’t write a full script and memorise it, you could write a strong opening and conclusion and an outline for the body of your presentation. This will ensure you open and close effectively and present your topic in logical manner.

 

Public speaking myth number 3: ‘Speak fast to be a dynamic speaker and keep people interested.’

It’s good to be enthusiastic and passionate about your topic. However, this often leads to poor public speaking performance when the mouth tries to keep up with the mind. By slowing down, your audience will be able to absorb your message and remember it.

If we look at many of the great speeches in history, that have made a strong and lasting impact, they were delivered at a moderate to slow rate. For example, Dr Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech and Ronald Reagan’s Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate (‘Tear down this wall’) were delivered at a rate of around 100 words per minute.  As a speechwriter, I aim for a maximum of 125 words per minute when writing for clients.

Besides slowing down your overall speaking rate, pausing when making important points or transitioning to a new topic will help your audience follow you throughout your speech or presentation.

Public speaking myth number 4: ‘Don’t quote other people in your speeches and presentations, but be quotable.’

I started hearing the idea that you shouldn’t quote others in speeches and presentations a few years ago. The idea is to create your own quotable content instead of quoting others. The problem with this idea is that using the right quote at the right time can be highly effective in many public speaking situations. Quoting respected authorities, who agree with your message, will strengthen your position.

Some of the most admired speakers from the present and past — political, motivational and business — have quoted others in their speeches and presentations. A few examples are Earl Nightingale, Martin Luther King Jr, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Al Gore, Brian Tracy and Wayne Dyer.  All of these top speakers used quotations in their speeches and presentations. One of my favourite examples of using quotations effectively is Earl Nightingale. See how he used quotations in his best-selling motivational program The Strangest Secret.

 Public speaking myth number 5: ‘Great public speakers are born, not made.’

A big part of my development as a speechwriter and speaker has been my involvement in Toastmasters International. I originally joined Toastmasters in the mid-1980s. Over the years I have watched and helped speakers go from being terrified on stage to becoming masters of public speaking.

If you are in extrovert, introvert, or somewhere in between, you can boost your public speaking skills through practice and feedback. If Toastmasters isn’t for you, one approach to improving your public speaking is videoing your speeches and presentations. A video recording doesn’t lie, so you will see all the annoying, distracting and ineffective things you might be doing while speaking.

Michael Gladkoff

About the author: Michael Gladkoff is a speechwriter, author, speaker and trainer based in Melbourne, Australia. His next Speech Power workshop will be held in Melbourne on 17 November, 2016.