Extend Your Reach

You don’t have to be a professional speaker to reach people; you may think that you are “bad at” public speaking, but if you’re coming from your heart, you’ve won half the battle already. It may seem like it’s too vulnerable in a business situation, but sometimes what’s most gentle is most effective. Think of the Colorado River, softly and gently carving out the Grand Canyon. Sometimes, what seems weakest is actually most powerful.

In the same way, speaking from an open heart can seem so vulnerable yet be the strongest move of all. Naming the truth – in particular the facts of one’s experience, which no one can disprove – with simplicity and sincerity, and without contentiousness or blame, has great moral force. You can see the effects writ small and large, from a child telling her parents “I feel bad when you fight” to the profound impact of people describing the atrocities they suffered in Kosovo or Rwanda.

You want to motivate, inspire, and move your audience every time you speak. But you can’t do that with charts, spreadsheets, and numbers. To persuade your listeners and change their lives, you must learn how to use emotion, the most potent speaking tool you own. Emotion touches the deepest and most profound areas of the human condition.

So, how do you kick off a presentation that packs an emotional punch? You need to use a “captivator,” an opening that immediately captivates your audience, grabbing their attention. It can be a statement, visual image, metaphor, statistic, or other tool that uses emotion to get your listeners on the same wavelength.

The single most important thing you can do is start with the word “you.” It engages your audience from the beginning, because they feel like you’re talking to them directly. If you go back and read the opening of this post, you’ll see that “You” is the very first word. Scattering the words “you” and “we” liberally through your presentation is the best way to connect with your audience on a visceral level. If people think you’re talking directly to them, they are more inclined to pay attention.

In coming posts we will discuss other tools that you can employ to captivate your audience, get them all on the same page, and begin the process of changing their lives. It starts with “you.”


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