Words are innocent and powerless in themselves, Nathaniel Hawthorne said, but they become immensely powerful in the mouth of someone who knows how to use them to persuade others to follow his lead.
And it doesn’t take much. If you improve your speaking skills by just 10 percent, you will double your personal power.
Think of the many times in your daily life that you could benefit from being a persuasive speaker. Think of the conversations you have with your spouse, your children, your colleagues, your boss, and your employees.
Imagine if you could convince anybody of anything.
Imagine how much you could achieve.
Becoming a powerful speaker is not that difficult. Like any skill, it can be acquired if you are willing to put in the time to practice. Today, I am going to outline three steps to becoming a more powerful speaker. You can take all three of these steps immediately. And you will notice the difference as soon as you start.
Persuasive speaking, like copywriting, involves strategic thinking. Inarticulate people suffer not so much from ignorance of how to use language but from the habit of lazy thinking. Lazy thinking results in half-baked notions and contradictory thoughts. And that, in turn, contributes to grammatical, syntactical, and diction mistakes.
Step One: Figure out what you want.
Let’s say you’ve been invited to take part in a business meeting… or perhaps you’re gearing up to have an important conversation with a family member. Spend some time beforehand thinking about the topic you will be discussing. Figure out how you can benefit from the meeting. Set a specific, measurable goal for yourself. Then figure out how you can achieve that goal.
This may seem like an unnecessary step. You might be thinking, “I don’t need to think about what I want. I am always aware of that. It’s not necessary.”
In fact, most people don’t know what they want. They have some general impressions about being wealthy or successful. But they don’t analyse those impressions. They don’t break them down. They don’t understand how to achieve them strategically.
Step Two: Figure out what you can give others.
Contrary to what some self-improvement gurus will tell you, you won’t get what you want in life simply by asking for it.
Everybody is ultimately motivated by self-interest. Achieving your specific goal, therefore, is a matter of figuring out how you can satisfy the desires of others.
If, for example, your goal for that business meeting you’ve been invited to is to be nominated to head up an upcoming project, plan for it by making a mental list of how your nomination will help each person attending the meeting. Think about what each person wants. Figure out how, in leading the project, you can provide that.
Most important, think about how you can direct the project so that it will achieve growth and profitability for the company. Spend some time formulating the phrases you will use to drive that point home.
By putting the company first, you will enlist the respect and support of just about everyone. You will establish yourself as a natural leader. And then, when you explain how the project will benefit people individually, you will see how quickly they line up to support you.
Step Three: Take time to consider the objections.
After figuring out how you can achieve your goal by providing benefits to others, make a list of the objections you might encounter.
Good copywriters do this every time they write a promotional package. Good public speakers do this before presenting a speech. You should do it too before making any informal presentation.
Of course, it’s not enough to list objections. You must find good responses for them. You must craft concise arguments that will overcome those objections. You must show your listeners that you are sympathetic to their concerns and that you have a plan to deal with them.
Break the objections down into their component parts. Analyse those parts. Discover their weaknesses or find ways to minimize them. Base your thinking on research, if you have time to do it. But also think about your past experience. Remember that your ultimate goal is to find a goal that is good not just for you but for the people you’re speaking to. If you do that, you will be able to find the solutions you need.
Ready, Fire, Aim
Most of us, most of the time, speak impulsively. We are stimulated by some event or remark and utter the first thing that pops into our heads. We don’t stop to consider the effect our statement will have on those to whom we are speaking. And neither do we consider how our words will affect us. Yet they surely do.
“Words are all we have,” Samuel Beckett said. When it comes to many aspects of our life, this is often true.
You can’t force your colleagues to listen to your ideas. You can’t force your boss to give you a raise or a promotion. You can’t force your spouse to agree with everything you say. But if you learn how to think strategically, you can speak persuasively when you need to. And that will make a big difference in your life and your career.