Speaking with a spark

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One of the few bonuses of winter is a roaring open fire. All that warmth, all that life, toasty.


And to think it all comes from a little spark.


If you ask me, making a great speech is like those burning logs. It should have some fire, it should have some warmth and it defiantly needs a lot of life.


And to think it all comes from a little spark.


Yes, the fire, the warmth and the life all come from one little thing. Passion.


You can’t speak without it


If you can get a bit of passion into your speeches, you are halfway there. If you are passionate people don’t fall asleep. If you are passionate people offer to help you. If you are passionate you win elections.


Say what you like about Donald Trump, he’s not short of passion.


So, let’s take a really good look a putting a spark of passion into your speaking.


Pick your subject


By far the easiest way to get some passion into your speaking is to speak about something you are passionate about. Sounds obvious? Most people don’t do it because they feel the subject has been imposed upon them. Even if what you are speaking about is dictated by circumstances like the theme of the event, you can still find something in it that you care about.


If you always focus on the areas that you love, then the passion will come naturally. And best of all people can tell that you are being yourself. Authentic and passionate ticks a lot of boxes.


Don’t stamp on the passion


Even if you pick the right area there are still a couple of pit falls to be avoided. People commonly kill the passion in one of two ways: over scripting or toning it down.


Over scripting


Probably the easiest way to strip the love out of your speech is to write it out in full. If you develop your speech sitting at a notepad or computer you will end up developing an essay rather than a speech. When you read this out it will be completely devoid of passion. Bottom line, you don’t write the way you speak.


So instead of slaving over a key board waiting for the words to come jot down a few ideas and start speaking about them. Yes, I know talking to yourself is a bit odd, so don’t do it on the train. But if you talk through the various ideas like you’re a speaking to people about them the best way to say them will begin to emerge. Don’t forget to make some notes about what you said. Unless a line is absolutely brilliant don’t write it out in full.


By focusing on the ideas, rather than the individual words, you give the passion a chance to breathe. Developing a speech by speaking, you help yourself get comfortable with it, which in turns helps you to be your authentic, passionate self.


Toning it down


Sometime people use a bit of self-censorship because they think it will help them fit in. What it does is make you bland. Think about the most passionate speakers you’ve heard. Who comes to mind? Martin Luther King? JFK? Winston Churchill? Part of the reason they come across as passionate is the strength of their opinions. And those opinions would have upset some people. It is impossible to be truly passionate and universally popular. If you believe your message strongly don’t be afraid to share it.


There is another good reason not to tone down your performance. If you are on a big stage you will appear to be quite small. That means everything you do needs to be a bit bigger. If not people won’t see it. In these situations, it isn’t just OK to be a bit over the top, it is important that you are a bit over the top. The best speakers are often the ones that do get a bit carried away.


What to do if you are struggling to find the passion


If it really isn’t happening for you then take a break and take stock. If you have absolutely no passion for the speech that you are making, the best thing to do is to say you are not able to make it. After all, if you don’t care then your audience isn’t going to care.


If you are going to continue then you need to find something to hang onto. Get back to basics. Why are you making this speech? You must have some interest, what was that? Re-examine the whole speech and find something that sparks some passion. Then grab hold of it.


Take that flame of enthusiasm and keep it in mind as your deliver your presentation. That feeling should help you inject a little life into your talk. Even better, why not put that at the centre of your speech? Make that spark the heart of your talk and then the passion will come naturally.


If it still feels flat


If you still can’t muster some passion try this quick exercise. Spend two minutes talking about something that you are passionate about. It could be sport, politics or your family, the subject doesn’t matter what matter is that you really care about it. Get it all out, even if it does turn into a bit of a rant.


How did that make you feel? Because that is what we are looking for. If you hold onto the feeling, then use it while you are speaking you will come across as being passionate.


Can’t hold the feeling


If you are finding it a bit tricky to translate the feelings that you have for your family or your football team into the latest budget projections don’t worry. You can try the same exercise again only this time video it. You could use your mobile phone or the webcam on your laptop. The quality is not really important so long as you can see and hear what you do.


When you watch it back concentrate on what you look like and what you sound like. How are you moving your arms? Are you static or are they purposefully moving to support your argument? How is your voice? Is it a dull monotone or is it rich with pace, pitch and power?


Take what you have done in the video and put it into your speech.


You can fake it


Ultimately, being passionate is a series of behaviours that we recognise in someone. A good speaker should be able to mimic those behaviours to create the impression that they are passionate about something even when they are not.


With a bit of practice, you could develop this skill but would you want to? Yes, by adding a bit of strain in your voice, speaking faster and using striking purposeful movement, you can fool some people into thinking that you have a deep love for a topic that you are not interested in. But would you want to?


Be true


For my money it is much better speak about things that you are passionate about. That way you don’t have worry whether anyone will notice that you are faking it. Authentic and passionate is the best combination.


Keep it real and follow these tips:

  • Focus on the areas that you love then the passion will come naturally
  • Develop your speeches by speaking, don’t over script them
  • It’s OK to be a bit over the top
  • What does speaking with passion feel like? Hold onto the feeling
  • What does speaking with passion look like? Try to do that when you speak
  • But above all else, stay true to yourself


Put that spark of passion into your speeches and your audience will thank you for it.

Duncan Bhaskaran BrownSpeaking with a spark

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