In this fast-pacing world, we all recognize the enormous importance and power of being able to speak or talk well. We don’t necessarily have to be eloquent debators or charismatic presenters, pouring out polished and coherent narratives like torrents of waterfall, nor do we want to be a loquacious conversationist, boring others to death, however, we do need utmostly to convey our ideas and thoughts super effectively so to influence the audience, moving things to be worked in the ideal way we wish.
Human beings are genetically coded to be more movable or persuaded by certain ways in a conversation or meeting: we like to ask questions as we are curious by nature; we like to hear, hence be told of the key points or takeaways repetitively; we like stories, analogies, examples than to grasp abstract, mechanical concepts; we like to listen to a speech that is paced to our intellectual level exactly with a vivid up-and-down tone; we hate being interrupted but always tend to do so the other way around. According to above human natures, in the following, I list the key points to the mastery of effective talking skillset.
1. ask a question on behalf of the audience
2. answer it by listing 2 or 3 points
3. use stories, examples, analogies to illustrate
4. sum up at the end
5. don’t let other interrupt you easily
6. gracely interrupt others
I would like to expand them with some examples and exemplarily speakers.
List number one and two are more applicable in a formal business presentation. Clients’ time are precious, they don’t have much patience to hear somebody talking irrelevant things on and on, so cut to the chase, ask a question acting for them that is spot-on their pain-points or problem to solve. Then instantly, give the potential answers in two or three bullet points concisely. You won the audience up-front. A law professor – Richard Epstein is extraordinary in this aspect. Any speech he made can be scripted to be a well-written thesis without much editing. I notice he is the master of throwing questions and answering by himself with key points and then elaborate. Check out his youtube clip: Richard Epstein Enriches Us with His Ideas on Inequality, Taxes, Politics, and Health Care.
List number three is paramountly powerful and universal in every sort of conversation, be it a formal speech, a casual talk or a business meeting. I personally love the example of Schrödinger’s cat in my attempt to understand quantum theory, which is fundamentally different than traditional physics that we are all so used to, even Albert Einstein adheres to this old principle when he dies.
List number four can be lumped in a sequel to number one and two. Technically, we should bear in mind of this full circle – ask a question, address the question, close up.
In accordance with human’s nature to favor a vivid, well-paced speech over a dry, flat one – we all love beautiful melodies – we need to always adjust the speed of talking to be suitable to the receiver’s acceptable level. I oftentimes prefer a fast speaker, but I realized it is mostly based on the familiarity of the topic: if it’s esoteric and abstract, I would appreciate a slower lecturer too. Fast or slow, setting this aside, we do all appreciate a vividness or clear up-and-down tone so we follow the flow and grasp the marrow of a talk. This is why the perfect, impeccable robot-reading never can ravish the listeners as a passionate speaker can. The iron-lady, former Prime Minister of Britain is a remarkable reference model in this regard. She reaches her climax stage in 1990, this clip is worth a watch – The Thatcher Interview – BBC1 Scotland – 9 March 1990.
When it comes to list number five and six, they are more applicable to business meetings, in which you always can witness some “talking bullies” dominate a meeting with little contribution, muting the attendees with substance or different opinions, hence defying the very essence of the purpose of calling up a meeting – to tap multiple perspectives and reach to a collective and comprehensive understanding of a matter and form a wise decision making. An effective way to stand out, to keep the bullies in check, call it anti-bully as you wish, is to grasp the following lines, practice, and hone in, until you master them in real meeting circumstances.
First, to interrupt, timing is important. you don’t want to be improper and rude. Be attentive to the time when the speaker is pausing to breathe, or when the speaker is finishing a phrase or sentence, and you deem you have a good point to make that would contribute positively to the discussion concurrently. Even there are a lot of practices using “uh em” or “excuse me” as an attention getter, I don’t like it simply because it’s not elegant and conveys somewhat weakness and lack of confidence. Direct lines such as “Could you explain that more fully?”, “Could you clarify that last point before we move on?”; “Can we just pause a second?”, “Before you move on, I’d like to say something”, “The way I see it…”, “It would be interesting to…”.
Second, to stop others from interrupting you is far less difficult to execute, but much less practiced by nice people, always undermine their career advancement. So the very important thing is to remind yourself – don’t be too nice to those rude conversation hijackers. Again, Magaret Thatcher is marvelous in this regard through years of battling with her enemies and hostile interviewers. Citing some examples here that she frequently uses masterfully: “I don’t quite recognize what you are saying”, “No no no, one moment”, “I don’t think I am necessary the right person to answer, but I wouldn’t entirely say it was true that…” and above all, she simply forges on without minding the interruptions at all.
Lastly and foremost importantly, we need to keep building up the vocabulary, knowledge library, contemporary news knowledge, bit and pieces, they all come into at disposal in an effective talking.