The Art of Inspirational Public Speaking
A pool of people sit in anticipation.
A sea of faces wait expectantly.
An ocean of lives tossed about by the just and unjust winds of life.
They need to hear something above the roar of the storms that lie quietly hidden beneath the thin umbrella of normality we mostly wear. Faces looking back at you masked with smiles, but secretly covering unexpressed suffering.
Some of them need to hear just one rain drop of hope.
- They have come to hear you.
- They have come to hear your words.
- They have come to hear the voice of hope.
We all need to hear the voice of hope in our lives.
There may be many reasons why you will stand in front of a group of people, no matter if it’s 12, 200 or 2000 to speak in public. Knowing the key objective of your speech before you get to your feet is critical. Being able to answer the vital question, “at the end of this speech I want to …” is a basic requirement for transformational speaking. Your objective could be to educate or inform, alternatively you could be there to entertain or convince of your ideas, opinions or values. The ability to vary your style of speaking to the objective of your speech is the mark of a professional speaker. As they say, if you only have a hammer in your toolbox everything looks like a nail! A different speaking style is needed for each different objective and none more so than the art of inspirational public speaking.
People Need Hope
We can live for periods of time without many things, we can live for quite a few days without food, we can live for a couple of days without water, we can even live several minutes without air, but I don’t think we can truly live one moment without hope.
Our bodies can take an enormous amount of pressure, humans have been made to be resilient, there is in us a will to survive, we can stand the heat of the tropics or the icy winds of winter. With undaunted courage we can face loss, go through seasons of illness, financial meltdowns, domestic disturbances, unemployment or even the death of someone we love if, and its a big if, if we don’t lose that one essential ingredient for life, hope. When hope is missing, when it feels like all hope has gone, none of us can survive.
We all need to hear the voice of hope over our lives.
An Authentic Voice
This is where the sincere, authentic voice of an artful inspirational speaker can make a marked difference in someones life at a moment they need to hear the voice of hope. I’m not talking here about the “Rar, Rar, dance on the chairs,” “pull yourself together,” “you can be anything,” (much as I may fully conceive and believe that I am the Captain of the England Soccer team – I’m not going to achieve it – ever) kind of speaking, that can typify many so called “motivational speakers.” We’ve all heard that sickly message so many times before and it’s like eating a large cream doughnut, sweet to the taste for a few seconds, but gives you indigestion for hours and negative inches on your hips, and sadly has no lasting positive effect on your life.
But we truly can as speakers inspire people, not just sugar coating the harsh realities of life, but with inspirational public speaking that connects with authenticity, experience, belief and trust. The kind of speaking that relates, the kind of speaking that repairs and the kind of speaking that rouses hope.
We all need to hear the voice of hope over our lives.
What are some of the key factors in developing the art of inspirational public speaking?
First is Passion. If you don’t truly believe and have lived the words you are speaking, people will “sniff” it out quickly. There is nothing more cringeworthy than a soundbite that sucks of manipulation or hogwash. Snake oil salesmen give speakers a bad name, but truth is there are lots of them out there called motivational speakers. If you don’t 100% fully believe the words you are saying, please don’t say them.
Second is Pace. While the speed people speak naturally differs, inspirational public speaking is marked by the pauses and the silences the speaker uses. Go listen again to Martin Luther King or JFK, yes there is much inspiration in the words spoken, but there is multitudes more in the spaces in-between the words, where the silence and pauses echo with hope.
Third is Position. Not always possible to control I know, but where you stand on the stage and how you use your posture aids inspirational public speaking. I often ask the organisers of an event to remove the lectern or podium from a stage that I am speaking from because I feel it puts a barrier between audience and speaker. Perhaps thats why I am rarely not inspired by a TED speech? The space between speaker and audience is open and more receptive to the words of the speaker. Of course, this puts a greater requirement on the speaker to rehearse, but I have written many times on the paramount importance of practice.
These three areas can help in art of inspirational public speaking, but above all these things, authenticity matters the most if you are going to be a voice of hope.
Quotes You Can Use
Many years ago I came across an inspirational poem that you could use when public speaking.
It’s a great speech opening or closing poem. If, recited from memory with passion and appropriate pauses, it can inspire people greatly. Perhaps use it in a speech about taking risks, or being brave in the face of opposition, or even in a speech to encourage a willingness for people to try new things could be aided with these inspirational words.
The art of inspirational public speaking is a skill you need to develop if you want to be able to adapt your speaking to different audiences and different needs. Practice hard. Pull together powerful authentic inspirational words, forged on the anvil of experience through a life well lived, and your voice will be a voice of hope and you will excel in the art of inspirational public speaking.
By Peter Billingham