When we’re talking about an important subject, and need to persuade and influence, being memorable and standing out from the crowd of speakers is vital. How we use our words in a presentation has a massive impact on how memorable our presentation is, and how memorable we are for our audience. Luckily we have a wide range of verbal tools available that we will help our audience remember what is said and the speaker remember what to say.
Let’s look at some of the tools available to us.
Engaging the senses is powerful
The more visual imagery contained in your speech or presentation, the more memorable it becomes. Take the following example: ‘‘A fox with glasses told his submarine to dive beneath the surface’’. You can increase the impact by adding extra detail – perhaps the glasses are blue. Such use of vivid imagery helps to create more powerful memories for your audience.
Sound can act both as a tool in its own right but also as a reinforcement. When you describe a ‘crashing cymbal’ or a ‘crack of thunder’ the audience is automatically given an image as well as adding a sense of drama to your speech.
Symbolism related to sound can trigger powerful associations for audiences. Mentioning the skirl of the bagpipes at a Remembrance Day parade may bring to mind the ‘devils in skirts’, the famous nickname given to the Highland regiments due to their ferocious fighting during WW1 by the German soldiers.
Taste and smell
Think of any restaurant menu and the highly descriptive choice of words like crafted, fire-roasted or hand-dived, all of which are designed to activate your taste buds, enticing you to buy. It is no different to persuading your audience to believe in what you’re saying.
Invoking aromas can produce impressive reactions; take for example wine descriptions on a menu, ‘Peppery’, ‘Fruity’ or a ‘hint of leather’. These spark mental associations in the same way as perfumes being described as floral, musky or woody. Your ability to link language to senses invokes strong memories.
If you run your fingers over an object, what feeling do you experience? Can what you’re describing be thought of as smooth, rough or perhaps sharp?
The most potent weapon for a speaker wishing to deliver a notable speech are ‘word hacks’; seemingly simple word magic tricks that can be used to dazzle an audience.
Here’s an example - ‘Mocha is not my cup of tea’ is mildly amusing wordplay but when you learn it refers to a horse named Mocha and a nervous rider is making the remark, the meaning resonates further with the listener.
Here are five more top tips
In ancient Greece and Rome people placed great emphasis on oratory, developing a raft of techniques which are still in use today.
Use lists of three
An effective, simple and easily remembered tip is to employ the Tricolon; epitomised most famously by Julius Caesar. Veni. Vidi.Vici. I came. I saw. I conquered.
Use Mirror imaging
Then we move on to Chiasmus, a mirroring imaging of word order. There’s President John F Kennedy, who at his inauguration said, ‘My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’. One of the most memorable statements of all time.
Use Action Statements
‘Drain the swamp’, ‘Build the wall’ are all three-word combinations which rolls off the tongue easily and delivers a powerful message to the listener. They are short, punchy action statements. Donald Trump used these to great effect.
A highly effective communicator like Barack Obama also employed rhetorical skills, his weapon of choice being Epistrophe – ending successive points with the same phrase – who could forget the simple yet strident statement ‘Yes we can’?
Using the same sound or letter at the start of a word - makes your speech both memorable and easy to memorise though you have to be careful not to give yourself something that is easy to read but difficult to say.
Here is an example I noticed an article in The Economist. It was about eating rabbit and has two alliterations in quick succession. The first was ‘Lapping up lapin’ which is reasonably simple to remember and say. The second was: ‘But the hutch-based solution that Mr Maduro has hatched has run into a hitch’. The second example would probably need practice and verbal dexterity from a confident speaker to deliver the full comic effect.
It’s good to realise that audience members want to remember what you said. They also want to remember you. Make this easy for them by using the verbal tips and rhetorical devices described here. This is not just for politicians. It is for everyone who has an important message that they want to get across and have remembered. As you use these tips you’ll find they become second nature and powerful phrases will occur to you as you create your presentations.
Photo: Toastmasters International
Eddie Darroch is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.