Writing and Public Speaking: The Most Important Element
“What is the single most important element necessary to make an effective speech?” I don’t think that’s a difficult question at all.
The most important element necessary to make an effective speech is to be interesting. If you cannot make what you have to say interesting, you shouldn’t be making a speech in the first place. Some say the one vital ingredient is enthusiasm. I don’t agree. I’ve heard many speakers who were extremely enthusiastic about their subjects and left me completely bored. I agree that it’s good to be enthusiastic about your subject and if it’s interesting you should be… and so will the audience.
The one ingredient vital to selling anything… education, religion, hope, marriage, a product or service is to be interesting. Unless you have the person’s interest you’re simply not going to really reach him or move him to make some kind of commitment.
I remember the story about the little boy who came crying to his father with the news that his turtle had died. His father looked at the recumbent creature in his son’s hand and thought fast. “I know,” he said, “we’ll invite some of your friends over and we’ll have a big funeral. We’ll dig a little grave in the backyard and make a little coffin, and we’ll have a parade. I’ll speak some words over dead Herkimer there and… “And at about that time, the father noticed that the turtle was moving. “Hey, son, look! Your turtle isn’t dead after all!”
The boy looked at the now animated creature then looked at his dad with a sly grin and said, “Let’s kill him!”
The father had been such a great salesman in selling his son the benefits of a funeral with all the trappings… it now loomed larger and more interesting to the boy than the survival of his pet turtle. And that’s the secret: be interesting. If you can’t be interesting, shut up. There’s nothing wrong with silence.
The secret to being interesting, if you don’t have the natural talent of the little boy’s father in our story, is to plan what you have to say. Even in conversation you can take a moment or two to arrange your words and the way you say something so as to make it more interesting. But that’s the key—it’s the most important factor in selling anything. And we’re all selling something all the time.
Our responsibility in attempting to get others to do things we want them to do is to be interesting. A little thought, a little planning, will usually do the trick.
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Also published on Medium.