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Passion can be a cornerstone for an effective or persuasive speech. Many speeches on certain subjects don’t need it, but many do. It’s a hard delineation to find. If you’ve ever seen a speaker with too much passion, you know how easy it is to become quickly annoyed.

A couple of helpful hints:

  1. Don’t ever force it. The audience can easily sense fabricated passion. Chances are if you have to fabricate passion, you are better off taking an objective/analytical or even intellectual tone.
  2. Utilize passion correctly. Humans make many decisions based on what they FEEL despite fooling themselves into justifying or analyzing a topic. Don’t directly or overtly pull on heartstrings by mentioning children, puppies, or tear-jerking stories. Instead, use deep or legitimately painful stories that can capture TRUE emotion, and even make people a little uncomfortable. Make your stories detail oriented, describe intuition and thoughts.
  3. Build a visual image when you tell stories. During the auditory engagement, using description to build a picture, helps your audience SEE what you are talking about. People can feel what they can see many times. Build visual imagery by using key synonyms, and descriptive words. Read any book written by a descriptively oriented author ( Joseph Conrad, Earnest Hemingway) and you will see. Here are some examples of descriptive imagery.
    • “A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side” – John Stienbeck, Of Mice and Men
    • “He felt like a man who had dreamed all night of dying, only to wake up and remember it was the morning of his execution.” – Unknown – I read it somewhere, and Google could not help me cite it. See how both those sentences made you SEE something in your head? Using visual imagery as an asset of passion is extremely helpful.
  4. Take a few random breaks and bring in some humor. Telling stories is the perfect way to include both tragedy AND humor. This will ensure your audience is interested, and not too depressed.
  5. Use volume and vocal inflection. Raising your voice, or even lowering it to a whisper, helps your audience feel and hear the change. Don’t be afraid to use attuned moments to showcase your real passion by projecting your voice throughout the whole room. A monotone style is the first way to put people to sleep.
  6. Don’t use TOO much of #4. By the same token, speakers who’s voice is the proverbial depiction of a roller coaster, are doing rule #1, and trying to force passion. It can detrimental to the credibility of the speaker.
  7. Read almost anything by Richard Weaver, to get a better understanding of WHY emotional persuasion is an attractive tool to have in your communication arsenal. In our data and facts driven societal narrative, we can forget that how people feel, determines how they react many times.
  8. NEVER pander to an emotional audience. It wrecks your credibility, and moreover engages in light sophistry.

Need an example of what too much passion looks like? Phil Davison, another Ethos-favorite video, can easily show you.


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