Four Winning Attitudes of Speaking

Fred Smith gives four delightful “Be”s for effective speaking.

By Fred Smith

1. Be Believable

Believe the messenger and it's easier to believe the message. Christ was believable because He spoke with authority, "not as the scribes," who were professional quoter's. Christ personified his message. I cannot teach effectively anything I don't personify or at least am trying to personify. Advertisers spend huge amounts to verify the believability of the spokesman in their advertising. Believability comes from agreement between all the elements, such as style, dress, speech, vocabulary, body language and, above all, truthful reputation. A truth that is not believed is useless. Ask yourself, can I make this truth believable? If not, then wait to express it until you can. When Father Hesberg became president of Notre Dame, his predecessor Father Cavanaugh gave him this injunction: "Be right. Be humble. Be human" This is the heart of believability.

Simplicity lends itself to believability. General Colin Powell said, "Great leaders are simplifers." Cleverness, on the other hand, creates doubt. Have the integrity to authenticate your material, whether statistics, stories, or quotations. Give your audience the right to believe you.

4. Be audience oriented

A Broadway actor was asked how he could sincerely portray a part so many successive nights and he replied, "It is for them, not for me." The great communicators have an attitude of servant, not master, they are there to contribute to the audience and grateful for the opportunity. It is imperative to speak to the audience about a subject, not about a subject to an audience. May I repeat that: speak to the audience about a subject, not about a subject to the audience, the audience is the focal point. Know their felt needs and desires before you lead them to their real needs. Unfortunately some talented speakers become seduced by the audience's appreciation of having their felt needs satisfied and fail to lead them into their real needs. The audience should be getting the message from the speaker "this is something profitable you need to hear, not something I need to say."

5. Be personal.

Television has made our communications personal, by emphasizing the personality of the speaker. Personal communication is like a conversation eyeball to eyeball. This creates the feeling that I know you and you know me. Politicians use TV to accomplish this personal relationship. The best communicators are those who feel that you would like to know them personally. There should be something in every communication that involves each individual personally. Billy Graham accomplishes this one-on-one relation by saying, "You are not here by accident. You are here by the will of God. This message is for you." Zig Ziglar, America's top motivational speaker, does this by early on asking questions and getting individuals to raise their hand. I sometimes stop at a controversial point and voice the question I have raised in the individual's minds. They feel "he knows how I feel." Eye contact helps in developing personal relations. Try to get direct eye contact with as many individuals as possible without seeming obvious. Avoid the artificial "reading from the teleprompter" side to side movement. Eye contact will help you take the temperature of the audience.

6. Be enjoyable.

Take your message seriously but never yourself. Let people join in the enjoyment with you. No matter how heavy or light the material it can be made enjoyable by a master communicator., The information may be new, vital, useful, even humorous at times. When it is profitable, it is enjoyable. Being enjoyable is so much deeper than being entertaining. I can't imagine Christ giving the beatitudes in a monotonous, droning, negative voice. To be enjoyable, both the emotions and the mind must be stimulated. The major point should be illustrated because they prove the practicality of the point. Unless it can be illustrated the communicator cannot be really sure that he understands the usefulness of the idea. Bring the point home through illustrations --- give the audience a handle for the point and make it enjoyable.

Typically I am not much for formulas, but these six"Be"s will take you a long way toward effective speaking.