My family and I adore soy sauce. We have soy sauce with our rice, soy sauce with our stir-fry, soy sauce in our noodle soup, and even soy sauce on our desert. Chinese food, (like most food out there) is terribly bland without some form of seasoning to enhance the taste. But that’s not just a problem with food; without the proper passion reflected in our delivery, our speeches are just as boring. This article will explore what it takes to craft a winning speech and 3 ways to get there.
Most of us have the content necessary for a winning speech, or maybe even have the right rhetoric written out. But we lack the passion needed to set us apart from all the other “good” speeches, who have solid content as well. Imagine a perfectly grilled steak, made with the finest beef, cooked by the finest chef, but without any seasoning whatsoever. Without any barbecue sauce, without any salt or pepper. It might taste okay, but it definitely wouldn’t be what you were expecting.
Don’t get me wrong, the other aspects of a speech are all necessary. You can’t just have a very passionate speech without any solid content or smooth flow. But far too many people focus so much on writing their speech and memorizing it, that they neglect the seasoning that passion can provide. Aristotle, a famous Greek philosopher came up with three things every public speaker should have called the three pillars of persuasion. Most of the time, people only include Logos and Ethos in their speeches but completely forget that Pathos is an important factor as well.
Two years ago, I thought I had written the perfect speech, it was going to do amazing. I had solid quotes and amazing rhetoric. I went into the first tournament of the year full of high hopes, but as you probably guessed, those hopes were dashed. I couldn’t understand why. I rewrote it and made it even better than before, with more solid content and more amazing rhetoric. Once again I didn’t place. Tournament after tournament that year, I came back defeated. In fact, I only managed to get one green check that year for that speech.
The next year, I came back and wrote a speech on something that I was passionate about, and this is where I realized what I had done wrong. I had the same good content and rhetoric, but when I went to my rounds, the way I presented was drastically different. The passion I held for my topic found its way into my voice as I spoke. I ended that tournament with 1st place and many other awards as the season progressed. You might have a very good speech written out. You might have solid examples and evidence to back up what you are saying, but do you have the passion that makes your speech come alive?
Here are 3 tips to help you do just that:
1. Pick a Topic You Are Passionate About
Obviously it’s hard to have passion for something that you aren’t passionate about, and faking it doesn’t help either. When you pick your topic, you should be looking for something you care deeply about, which will then be reflected in your delivery. When I wrote my speech, It was on something that I strongly believed should change, and when I went into the competition room, I sounded passionate about my topic without even realizing it. Judges aren’t just looking for a good speech, they’re looking for one that makes them want to change something as well. It’s hard to inspire someone else when you don’t care at all.
2. Practice Voice Inflection and Pauses
Maybe you have a topic that you are passionate about, but find it hard to express that in your delivery. The best way to change a boring speech into an exciting one is changing not what you say, but how you say it. Just like me, you’ve probably heard those monotone speeches that some people give. Even if you have a brilliantly thought out speech or some breathtaking analogies, if you deliver it sounding like you don’t care, the judges probably won’t be inspired to care either. Whenever you practice, remind yourself to change the pitch and volume of your voice and add dramatic pauses to make it more interesting and sincere.
3. Practice Overdoing it
One thing you want to be careful of is not overusing passion, that’s a logical fallacy called an appeal to emotion. But at the same time, far too many people are too afraid of overdoing it, that they don’t use nearly enough at all. In reality, practicing overdoing passion in your speech can actually lead you to having the right balance between facts and emotion. You might think that you are going too slow, but it’s actually just right for the judges. You might think that the pause is too long, but it gives the judge time to digest what they just heard and anticipate what is coming next. In the same way, you might think you are using too much emotion but it might be just right. Practicing overdoing passion will help you break out of the template you’ve created for yourself that fears any use of emotion.
So many speeches out there could be improved with this simple tweak. Whether it’s platforms, limited prep, interps, or even debate speeches. If you want your speech to be remembered, if you want it to make a difference, then don’t neglect the third pillar of persuasion. If you want to turn your good speech into a winning speech, if you want to make sure that your speech doesn’t sound boring or bland then use the seasoning every speaker has access to. Content gives you the shell of the speech. Passion is what makes that speech come alive. Don’t forget to use it.