In the delivery of a speech, there are two factors at play: the intention of the speaker and the perception by the audience of the speaker’s intent. The two do not always go together – there are gaps, misinterpretations, or in the worst scenario, backlashes. Perhaps it is a commonplace to acknowledge such discrepancies. But, can we do anything to avoid them when delivering our speech?
Naturally, we take great care in crafting our speeches and presentations. We would conduct thorough analysis of the audience so that we could relate to their experiences. We would diligently gather information, and compile statistics that are particularly compelling with this audience. We would use an appropriate amount of concise and simple supporting materials that suit the occasion perfectly. Further, we would exploit the characteristics of spoken words and choose apt analogies and examples to illuminate our points. Above all, we are prepared to commit ourselves to establishing rapport with this audience, acknowledging their expertise, their values and their constraints.
These are carefully crafted intentions. Will the perception of the audience reciprocate? Well, the perception of a speech has little to do with the intentions of the speaker, no matter how carefully it has been crafted. The audience leaves with their own understanding of what you meant – which might be quite different from what you intended to say – and even different from what you actually said. The reality of a speech is not determined by the preconceived intentions of its speaker. In other words, our speeches exist as perceptions.
So, how do we achieve the perception that corresponds to our intention when delivering a speech?
Let’s introduce “the natural speaker” – a speaker who is authentic and is naturally engaged in interacting with the audience. The natural speaker is authentic because he or she is genuinely involved with the audience in its thinking process.
The natural speaker knows that the reality of a speech lies in the perception of its intent by the audience. He or she sees the process of delivering a speech as one that discovers the real meaning of the speech through the interaction between the speaker and the listeners. He or she is vigilant, highly focused, and 100 percent attentive to the audience.
The natural speaker makes a remarkable contrast to those speakers who are battling with “fear of speaking,” who are either self-absorbed or worrying about “projecting” their voices or using “appropriate” gestures. Neither does the natural speaker bear any resemblance to those old fashioned speakers who stop dead at the end of a sentence and silently count to five because they has read in a book the importance of “pausing for effect.” To the natural speaker, delivering a speech is a process that functions on a higher dimension - a dimension that is very different from the one created by the monologue of the solitary speaker who is mentally disconnected with his listeners. The natural speaker is engaged with the audience in earnest – searching the listeners’ faces, looking into their eyes, and appreciating the meaning of what is being shared. The natural speaker experiences adrenaline and excitement from the anticipation and actual involvement in this process of discovery.
So, how do we achieve the perception that corresponds to our intention when delivering a speech? Now you have the answer! You achieve this by following the example of the natural speaker.
You’ll achieve the perception that corresponds to your carefully crafted intensions by studying from moment to moment the verbal and non-verbal responses of your audience, and refining accordingly the message that you meant to convey. You’ll find that every part of your speech will be more or less effective than you imagined it was going to be. Some of your speech will be irrelevant – other parts will take on a relevance you had not even thought of. Your audience will be gratified to learn from you things that you thought were of minor importance. They will be moved and touched by stories that you thought were only mildly interesting. And, as you may know, they will be annoyed and maybe even offended by some things that you believed would be comfortably accepted. This, in fact, is the essence of communication.
During this process, in which you as the speaker and your listeners are fully engaged, you’ll discover the real meaning of the speech that is being delivered and heard. Through the course, the speech itself evolves, thriving on the feedback of the audience. And in the end, you will find that, to your delight, intention and perception do reciprocate.
For more training on developing a Commanding Presence and becoming a Natural Speaker, managing anxiety, and increasing your speaking skills to the same high level as your writing skills then you should attend one of our Commanding Presence Advanced Communication and Presentation Skills Two-Day workshops.
The workshop is designed to improve every aspect of personal communication skills, from strategy and text preparation to establishing rapport and overcoming speaking anxiety.
Participants are recorded 4 times with feedback from the other participants and personal coaching from the workshop coach. Each receive a USB of their video clips along with a letter of analysis from the workshop coach.
Learn more about our in-person training here