ICM 506
Being a speaker they can trust

Being a speaker they can trust

Speaking is a balance of specificity. A speaker takes their audience on a journey of intrigue leading to a better understanding than before the topic was presented. Listeners seek understanding from a speaker with credibility. Complicate your message and it will be too hard to follow. Vagueness conveys a lack of authority on the topic.

Saying just enough

Credibility, like trust, must be earned and may easily be lost. Establishing oneself as a trustworthy person to speak on a topic may be done in many ways such as through personal experience, quality sources, and earned professional titles. Falling into clichés and corny synonyms can result in a lack of trust which Zinsser describes as Non-taste in his book On Writing Well “Non-taste reaches for the corny synonym, which has the further disadvantage of being imprecise… Non-taste uses ‘umpteenth.’ And ‘zillions.'” (pg. 235). It can be hard to trust a source who overgeneralizes sources.

Conversely a lack of revising one’s content can lead to an over-reliance on the exact data from sources rather than the heart of the matter in relation to the topic it was pulled from. Speaking in an overly precise manner such as every digit in a dollar amount down to the cent is no better than saying “zillions” in a spoken medium. Donnell King suggests in his article Writing for (not by) the Ear that we “Round off and ‘verbalize’ statistics”. Sounding natural is a goal not served by what I refer to as Reading from the Slides Syndrome. It’s important to remember you aren’t talking to your slideshow, if you use one, but to an audience of real people.

Speaking like a friend

People have a limited capacity for what can be understood and that capacity can vary between medium. Jill Swenson speaks on this in Writing for the Ear Instead of the Eye, “When writing for the ear, make what you say easy to comprehend. Listeners don’t have time to stop and look up a word in the dictionary. If you introduce specific terms or jargon, make sure their definition is crystal clear from the context”. Speakers can best demonstrate their understanding of a topic by being a quality educator to their listeners by ensuring their content is being comprehended.

The medium of the spoken word highly benefits from a focus on putting oneself in the audience’s shoes, be compassionate, be empathetic. Ensure the audience can comprehend what is being said while balancing being overly specific or not specific enough. Speak to listeners professionally yet personable and trust can be earned.

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