On the first day of my college public speaking courses, I tell my students this:
I have no intention for you all to come out of this class sounding the same when you speak. I want your speeches to be as different as you are. And while I’ll teach you the bones of what makes a speech great and gives it stability, it will be up to you flesh out your messages in a way that only you can.
Public speaking is an art form. And just like no two people sing or write or dance or paint alike, no one communicates exactly alike either.
In fact, you could probably listen to audio of several prominent public figures and identify them just by their speech. Think about former President Barack Obama’s signature cadence and rhythm. Things like our voice qualities, the words we choose to use, and our body language all work together to give us our own unique speaking styles. Today we’ll explore two different styles of speaking, which are opposites in many ways, to give you a feel for what your own style might be.
I’m calling the first style category content masters. These types of speakers don’t tend to move much. They might be most comfortable behind a lecturn or within a restricted area. While they don’t read from their notes, they are more heavily tied to what they’ve written. Because for this style of speaker, words matter. They are generally great writers. They are able to skillfully craft a message with creative wording and lively examples, all of which capture the audience’s attention and help them to understand with both ease and great depth. One of my favorite examples of a content master comes from a high school commencement speech delivered in 2012 by David McCullough, Jr. and made popular, as many things are, by YouTube. It’s a speech that is enjoyable to watch not because of the delivery, but because of the writing. The speech, linked below, takes the audience on a word adventure, and they enjoy the ride.
Speakers who are content masters don’t just use words. They use the best words in the best ways to deliver a powerful and lasting message.
On the other hand, there are some speakers who are movement masters. These animated speakers have high energy. They aren’t tied to notes and like to move around the stage quite a bit. They also typically use a wider range of facial expressions and body language. It doesn’t usually bother movement masters if they tell a story differently every time they practice, as long as they are moving and engaging the audience. For these types of speakers, the words they use are less important than the connections they form with the audience. Watch an example of one of my favorite movement masters, Juliet Funt.
You are probably either more of a content master or a movement master. That’s natural. Most people have a hardwired tendency towards one or the other, and your natural preference might have shown up very early in your life. Medical studies have shown that some babies concentrate more on learning to talk while others put more effort into learning to walk. Sound familiar?
The point is, both of these styles have strengths and weaknesses. The goal of any speaker should be to continually elevate his unique style, working on content if he's naturally stronger in movement, and working on movement if he's naturally stronger in content.
At PresentationMentor.com, we want to help you learn more about your own speaking style. And then we want to help you elevate your style. Ready to get started?