7 proven principles for speaking powerfully
Communication has become one of the most important – and effective – means of influence for leaders and those who aspire to be leaders.
Long-gone are the days when leaders could outsource their communications to HR or through PR missives. While those departments still assist in crafting and delivering corporate messages, employees, customers and suppliers increasingly want to hear directly from leaders – and they expect those communications to be personalized and authentic.
Power and influence can be created or gained during big events, in private interactions and in small meetings – and leaders and business professionals need to put their best foot forward in all of them.
Powerfully presenting yourself
Social ties and how you present yourself through language and demeanor are the components of creating and maintaining your personal brand, and they deserve your attention to optimize every opportunity for artfully expressing your views and projecting authority.
The language we use and how we construct presentations helps establish our professional reputation, persona and power base. Language that influences is able to create powerful images and emotions that often overwhelm reason. Such language is evocative, specific, and filled with strong visual imagery that pushes listeners’ emotional hot buttons.
Persuasive language that produces support for you and your ideas is language that promotes identification and affiliation. Words suggesting common bonds cause the audience to believe you share their views.
Here are seven well-established techniques that can help you subtly obtain greater influence when you speak, compliments of Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University, from his book Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t.
7 linguistic techniques that create persuasive speech
- Use us-versus-them references. It’s widely known that the need to resist an external threat, whether real or imagined, has always been an extremely effective rallying cry for strengthening group solidarity.
- Pause for emphasis and invite approval or even applause through a slight delay. This is an effective device designed to produce greater approval for your ideas.
- Use a list of three terms, or enumerations in general. One of the main attractions of three-part lists is that they have an air of unity and completeness about them. Lists make a speaker appear as if they have thought about the issue and the alternatives and considered all sides thoroughly.
- Use contrasting pairs, comparing one thing to another and using passages that are similar in length and grammatical structure. Contrast is strategically chosen to make a point. The use of contrast as a rhetorical device relies in part on the ‘us versus them’ construct, but it also invites explicit comparison that are structured to be favorable to the ideas you’re advocating.
- Avoid using a script or notes. If you speak without aids, the implication is you have mastery of the subject, are spontaneous, and allows you to maintain eye contact with the audience.
- Use humor to the extent possible and appropriate. Humor is disarming and also helps create a bond between you and the audience through a shared joke.
- Sentence structure is important for making language persuasive. Simple, declarative statements are more effective, and if skillfully employed, the use of repetition of sounds can enhance a logical point or even the illusion of one when none is present.