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  • Bruce Rule

Show Passion When You are Public Speaking

rule communications public speaking
Show your enthusiasm when you can!

The best public speaking comes from the heart. When audience members see you are passionate about your subject it catches their attention, in large part because in today’s society many people think it’s not cool to show emotion.


Maybe it’s not cool, but it is effective when you are speaking in public show your enthusiasm.


I used to do workshops at a company that developed and made medicines. The students were scientists and financial people, who were sent to the workshop because they needed help with presenting projects to the top brass. It was a great program, because effective presentations made things run smoother all along the chain of command.


These students were well-educated and very knowledgeable in their fields. Most of the time I was the dumbest guy in the room — which is not a bad thing. Before class and during breaks I would ask about what they were working on, and they would get excited and tell me about the experiments they were involved in and what diseases might be treated. Even the finance people were enthusiastic because they were doing work that they hoped would lead to a better world.


Then I would ask them to stand in front of the room and talk for a minute or two about their work in front of the whole class.


They became dead fish. Deadpan, monotone, rambling sentences with lots of jargon. They suppressed every bit of the enthusiasm they showed when talking to me informally.


Why? Because they thought that was what they were supposed to do. They told me straight out that they thought they needed to be professional in their presentations, and that meant not being emotional about their work.


That is just plain wrong when it comes to effective presentations.


Who Gets the Money?


Think of it this way. Say you are the CEO and you are trying to decide how to allocate some money for research. You are considering two projects, either of which could lead to a new product or more profits for your company if successful. Like most things in life, there’s no guarantee that either project will succeed. It’s too early to rule out either one based on what little is known.


One presenter walks in slowly with an expressionless face and drones on about his project with lots of jargon and minor details.


The other presenter strides into the room with a smile, talks with enthusiasm and points out how excited she is to show the benefits the project brings to the company.


As CEO, you need to place a bet on which one of these presenters will be successful. Who do you think you would be more willing to give the money to?


The simple fact is it’s the second presenter who gets the cash, almost every time.


The key factor here is likeability. As I have mentioned before, if people like you they are more willing to listen and be open to what you are saying. And enthusiasm and passion, when appropriate, are things most people like.   


Outside Work as Well


The same is true with becoming a more effective communicator in your personal life. Ever notice that people who are enthusiastic and passionate about life tend to have more friends? Ever wonder why?Years ago I met a guy who was into birding (also known as birdwatching). He spoke with honest enthusiasm about his birding trips, and was passionate when telling me about the birds he has seen and the ones that he is hoping to spot someday. Even though I never had any interest in birding, I liked hearing about it, because he was so open about his interest in it. I enjoyed his company because of it. Now when he talks about any subject I am more open to considering his opinions. Did I make a conscious decision to listen more carefully when he talks? No. It’s just that I like the guy.


There are a few things to keep in mind:


1) Enthusiasm and passion is good, when appropriate. Being enthusiastic about your work project when talking to the bosses is good, but showing your co-workers how passionate you are about watching half-naked people mud-wrestling on the weekend isn’t.


2) There is such a thing as being too passionate, so read the room. If you are going on and on about how wonderful your project is and the bosses are waiting impatiently for you to get to the point you may need to rein your enthusiasm quickly.


3) Don’t let your passion lead you to exaggerate or lie. Yes, tell the boss how your project will benefit the company. Don’t tell him that it will revolutionize the entire world.


The scientists and finance people I worked with did improve during the workshops once they understood it was OK to be passionate about their work. They came across more honest and more trustworthy, and most importantly, more effective.


Show some passion when you speak. You will see the difference.

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