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Published:October 9th, 2007 09:31 EST
Four Techniques For Speaking

Four Techniques For Speaking

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

We`ve all heard our share of poor presentations. I suspect I`ve given a few.

Oftentimes we know exactly why we didn`t like a certain speech. It was too long, the audio/visual equipment was poor, or the speaker was ill-prepared. Perhaps the speaker was just lifeless. These, and other causes, are rather obvious.

But, have you ever resented a presentation and then had to give a little thought to exactly why you did? The reasons might be a bit more subtle than those we just mentioned, but the resentment can last much longer.

Perhaps by noticing some of these subtle pitfalls of presentations, we can better avoid them in our own business presentations, as well as our own conversations.

The first of these is unfair argumentation. Nineteenth century preacher Lyman Beecher described a good sermon as "passionate logic." In light of such, the speaker who states his/her case clearly and whose subject chose him/her rather than vice versa, easily commands attention and respect. Conversely, we tend to resent it when subjected to unfair, prejudicial tactics.

For instance, arguing for or against something based on what Hollywood believes or practices doesn`t make it good or evil, true or false. Put another way, it`s not necessary to link Charles Manson to a position to prove it`s wrong. In fact, with rational individuals, such an approach can actually weaken our case and hurt our credibility.

Similarly, listeners are turned off when they are talked down to. Though the listener may not immediately realize what is happening, eventually realization is rather certain and very annoying. Generally, public speakers get credit for being smarter than we are. (Our wives and children know the real truth!) However, it`s never smart to tell ourselves we are more intelligent than our listeners.

A third weakness of some speakers (public or private) is what could be called a porcupine complex. In other words, they are unapproachable when it comes to an alternate point of view. When they encounter disagreement, they tend to impugn the inquirer`s motives, assign conclusions to the inquirer that he doesn`t accept, increase their volume and bristle with pride.

I encountered this attitude many years ago. I heard an experienced speaker who made a point with which I disagreed. Failing to recognize a porcupine in a coat and tie, I approached him with a counter argument. He bristled and replied, I`ve made that argument for years and never had a problem with it yet. " Could it be there is a first time for everything? Not as far as he was concerned. Discussion closed!

Another pitfall we often encounter is when a speaker fails to accept responsibility for clarity of speech. If words are vehicles upon which thoughts travel then, as a speaker, I`m responsible for the passenger that steps off the bus. Though certainly there is responsibility which must be assumed by the hearer, for the speaker to claim "that is not what I meant" or "I didn`t say that" is sometimes pretty lame. Though good speakers are sometimes misunderstood, they accept full responsibility for what they say.

In light of the preceding considerations, those who generally command our respect and undivided attention (and are a pleasure to hear publicly or privately) are clear in what they say, fair in their presentation, humble in attitude and approachable in conduct.

BARBER-OSOPHY: If you would speak well be sure you and your message are believable.

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