Ever since taking the Professional Speaking course with Professor Stephanie Webster last fall, I’ve been paying close attention to some smaller, commonly-overlooked attributes of effective speakers in our societies. Today, I want to take a bit of time to list these out for my own understanding, and to share with any readers. I intend the scope of these attributes applies to everyday dialogues and persuasions, all the way to formal speeches.
- Use of the question “Right?” – speakers use this somewhat rhetorical question to engage with the audience. A speaker’s voice naturally inflects when asking a question – cuing the audience’s attention. This in turn challenges the audience to interpret what the speaker was talking about, thus aligning the audience’s understanding on the topic with the speaker’s understanding – building a relationship and trust with the audience.
- Telling a story – speakers effective speakers often use this strategy at the beginning of a statement. A story can be used to engage an audience (attention grabber), or as a vehicle to help an audience understand. Effective stories are relatable to the audience, and engage the audience to follow the story. Effective speakers transition the momentum, engagement, and emotion of a story to effectively convey the objective of the statement or speech.
- Remembering – and recalling – audience members’ names – this strategy is used to build rapport and trust with an audience. A great example of this is before a business presentation, meeting an unexpected member of an audience, then referencing this person during the presentation. This invokes the personability of the speaker, again continuing to build the relationship with the audience.
- Using “we”- this is especially important when representing a team or group. Let’s say you’re a part of a group project, and John doesn’t complete his responsibilities on time. What sounds more effective:
– “Okay team, we are behind schedule because we still have to complete the graphical illustrations of our data.”
– “Alright team, the project is behind schedule because John didn’t complete his responsibilities.”Kind of a trick question – the first example is applicable in most situation. You are part of the team – you demonstrate your interest in and ownership of the entirety of the project and convince others of this using “we”, not singling out and creating an island of John. Using “we” requires humbling your pride and owning responsibility as a group. The other situation: there will be circumstances that enable the usage of calling out of someone. Use your professional discretion.
- Using effective pauses – speakers with experience use this strategy with ease. Pausing in your statements exhibits confidence in yourself and what you’re speaking. It affords the audience period of time to reflect on what you’re saying, creating a more dynamic relationship with your audience.
One last attribute that I noted, that is more relevant to being an effective audience member:
- Giving genuine compliments (and criticism)- being an audience member. If someone has a great idea for a new product and business plan, but you note a significant deficiency in their business plan, what creates more value: saying “great idea!”, or “John, I really like the idea of your product; however, I immediately noticed a few deficiencies in your business plan. Care to discuss for a few minutes?”.
Give these points some thoughts, and give them a try in your everyday conversations.