Princess Diana’s mission was to end the menace of land mines, Bono’s pet project is to end world hunger, and we know Lance Armstrong rides to “Live Strong” and end cancer. My mission is to end poor speakers who get in the way of their own message.
In new Hampshire Hilary Clinton said,
“I listened to you and I found my own voice.”
There are two responses to this affirmation.
One, you can say its just political rhetoric, which by the way, gives the word rhetoric a very bad wrap.
Rhetoric from the Greek, rhêtôr, orator, teacher, is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral, visual, or written language, according to Wikipedia.
The other response is to apply her comment to your own rhetoric and the speaking around you. What Hilary said, from a communication standpoint, is phenomenal in its simplicity: Find your own voice.
How many people have identified their own voice let alone shared their authentic thoughts from a podium? Theodore Sorenson, speechwriter for JFK in the early 60’s contends, “Speaking from the heart, to the heart, directly, not too complicated, relatively brief sentences, words that are clear to everyone summarizes the fine art of political rhetoric.”
Speaking from the heart, to the heart, directly, not too complicated, would summarize the fine art of any speaking, period. Oh, for an authentic comment, brief and spoken with clarity. When is the last time you heard that at a meeting? How can you apply this definition to a sales presentation or a podium speech?
Let’s imagine that you have the opportunity to speak to a large audience. You are asked to speak on leadership. What do you do? Get some books on leadership 101, dig up some notes you took at a seminar, and repeat the mantra you are known for saying around your workplace. All of those would be lethally boring to an audience and so much less than you could give them.
Give them you.
That’s the best gift you can give your audience.
Picture yourself with a flak jacket from your ankles to the top of your head.
You get to decide how much of the jacket you want to roll up and expose to the audience. Whether you roll up a few inches or up to your knees, that’s up to you. The goal is to expose something more than you do on a daily basis.
Give your audience something more than people that did not hear you would have received. Perhaps you can share your fear of heights, bees, or needles.
Or how you guided your company through that dismal fourth quarter when you asked yourself who was responsible, and saw your own reflection in the mirror.
You have an important story to tell that only you can tell. That is what you owe your audience. Get out of your own way of what you think you should say.
Unless you are Jack Welch, leave his quotations to him. And let the audience get to know you.
“I listened to you and I found my own voice”. Politics aside, this is a huge lesson for anyone that uses communication to advance a personal or professional agenda.
Oprah’s mission is the Angel network and her school in South Africa; Al Gore’s mission has become global warming. My mission at first glance is not nearly as humanitarian: Get out of your own way when you speak. Tell us something about you or your cause that we did not know or could not know without your insider’s view.
Speak from the heart, to the heart, directly, not too complicated, in relatively brief sentences. It’s as true today as it was in the 1960’s.