Public Speaking and Communicating are essential skills. Ideas move or persuade people to change. A person can have the most brilliant idea but in order for the idea to spread it must be communicated. Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking both have proposed some of the most complex scientific theories to the world and they both had to communicate these complex ideas in plain language. If these ideas weren’t communicated effectively they would be trapped in someone’s head without humanity’s benefit. Today with recent growth in social media it’s easier for voices to be heard.
Technology has made it easier to communicate and given us access to more information. The Internet has allowed us to access more information and be exposed to ideas we weren’t aware of before. Humans have always interacted with each other and the Internet has multiplied the amount of ideas we can exchange with one another. Communication is more valued than before because we can now see on a global scale the power of ideas and effective communication. Technology also has its drawbacks because people have misused it. All of us have fallen asleep during PowerPoint presentations. Too many people have decided not to engage the audience and thought visually appealing slides have the ability to keep people focused. They don’t. Nothing can put people asleep better than turning off the lights and reading without expression from a slide presentation. Human interaction needs to be maintained despite the new tools we are using.
When people are trying to sell ideas, words are important and people need to speak in a common language when selling things. In Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, a computer science professor with terminal cancer inspired people to pursue and learn from their childhood dreams. One of his most powerful stories showed the power of words and how the wrong use of the words can create unnecessary conflict and tension. He told a story or two Deans he approached to take a sabbatical. The first Dean had misgivings over the leave of absence and because he didn’t have all the facts wanted to reject the request.
“And so deal’s off. Just go and get them to change that little clause there and then come back to me.”
The second Dean phrased his concerns in a more flattering way:
“I don’t have very much information. All I know is that one of my star faculty members is in my office and he’s really excited, so tell me more. ”
Dr. Pautsch said they both were saying the same thing. Both of them didn’t have all the information and one acted hostile to the request and the other presented himself as someone more curious which created a positive impression. Using the wrong words can distort a person’s message and create hostility. Using fear or intimidation has its limitations. It usually can work temporarily but it’s always more effective for people to help your cause because they want to not because they are afraid.
One of my first jobs I worked some kids who were out of control at a camp. It was bedtime and they were willing to run around all night. We used various penalties against them and it didn’t improve things. So if they obeyed the curfew, I decided to offer them a reward the next day. That simple change of strategy changed everything. Giving people a cause or a goal to fight for is always more effective. Positive reinforcement provides hope and unites people in a common cause.
We now have more control over how we acquire our information. No longer are we forced to watch TV or read the newspaper at a certain time. We also can read and watch various media forms that satisfy our specific niches. For decades since Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated it was thought there was no longer great orators in our world today. Then came-Barack Obama and his speeches were watched in their entirety by millions.
Was this an accident?
Kennedy and King both were present during the infancy of TV News when speeches were shown in their entirety and the era of sound bytes hadn’t arrived. Obama arrived on the national scene shortly after YouTube arrived. Social Media has allowed Internet users to see media content unfiltered. If Obama speeches were limited to thirty-second sound bytes they wouldn’t have attracted millions of people who were disinterested with politics to view them. Another theme that surfaced during his election campaign was the debate over rhetoric and power of public oratory. His main opponent Hillary Clinton accused his campaign of being just based around his speeches and not substance. Obama responded with his famous “Just Words ” speech:
“Don’t tell me words don’t matter. ‘I have a dream’ just words? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ ¬ just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ – just words? Just speeches? It’s true that speeches don’t solve all problems but what is also true is if we cannot inspire the country to believe again, then it doesn’t matter how many polices and plan we have”
Speech matters because it motivates people to perform better and unite us for a common cause. Words do matter. Winston Churchill kept England’s spirit from falling despite the fact they were being bombed from the air. Gandhi used speech to lead a non-violent protest and freed India from the British, which was the world’s most powerful empire. In Canada, Tommy Douglas formed a provincial government despite leading a new political party and introduced universal healthcare. Words help us fight for our ideals.
“If the truth were self evident eloquence would be unnecessary” Cicerro
The power of speech was even realized 2000 years ago when Cicero a Senator in the Roman Empire used words to protect democracy against Julius Caesar’s autocratic ambitions. Cicero’s quote shows speech’s use goes behind leading people for a common cause. Speech has the power to persuade and inspire. We are not told the truth all the time and the truth isn’t always visible. When the truth is drowned out by the powerful, people with ability to persuade need the courage to speak up. Great orators have the ability to reveal the truth. Unlocking complex ideas changes out of date practices and moves humanity forward.