Thanks a Million!

1000000

In the past couple of weeks, this blog reached two milestones: five years since the first post was written; and 1,000,000 visits. Even as I write this post, the numbers do not seem real.

My sincere thanks to everyone who has supported and encouraged me throughout this journey, and to everyone who has visited Manner of Speaking. It has been a labour of love and a privilege to be of some small service to others.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 181) – Veda Upanishads

Upanishads

“It is not the language but the speaker that we want to understand.”

— Veda Upanishads

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“So” what?

“And so,” said the Cat in the Hat, “so, so, so … I will show you another good game that I know.” — Dr. Seuss

A recent article in Fast Company takes direct aim at a seemingly innocuous two-letter word that can undermine your credibility when you speak. That word is “so”.

Author Hunter Thurman frames the problem this way:

You’re at an industry conference making small talk. The discussion invariably turns from “who you know” to “what you do.”

Your brow furrows, you cock your head slightly, and you launch into the elevator pitch:

“So, we’re building a multi-channel platform that leverages…”

“So, I’m the global brand director for our portfolio of…”

“So, I recently exited my startup when we sold to…”

The part of this lead-in that seems the least important but actually dramatically frames your message is that first little word: “so.”

It’s actually a damaging tendency. Beginning your sentence with “so” orients your message and subconsciously alerts your audience that what you’re about to say is different than what you’ve been talking about up until this point.

According to Thurman, the word “so” undermines our credibility in three ways:

1.  It subconsciously tells the audience that the speaker is going to dumb down what follows so that they can understand it.

2.  It announces that what is about to follow is rehearsed.

3.  It shows that the speaker is not 100% comfortable with what comes next. The “so” is a psychological marker that the speaker is trying to call up the response.

I agree. Beginning a sentence with “so”, as in the examples cited above, is unnecessary and potentially damaging to the speaker. Much better to cut the “so”, pause a moment and give the response. 

So … does this mean that we should never start a sentence with “so”? Of course not. There are times when “so” at the beginning of a sentence serves a useful purpose. For example, “so” can be used as a synonym for “therefore”. It can also serve as a pivot in a story that sets up a transition into what happened next.

To put this discussion into context, let’s look at the short the speech below, which I have analyzed in a previous post. In it, Dr. Daniel Kraft begins several of his sentences with “so”. Sometimes the “so” is fine; other times, it is not.

Bad Uses of “So”

  • 0:19 – “So, I am a pediatric cancer doctor and stem-cell researcher at Stanford University …”.
  • 1:53 – “So, the Marrow Miner, the way it works …”.

Acceptable Uses of “So”

  • 1:45 – “There’s probably a better way to do this. So I thought of a minimally invasive approach …”.
  • 2:20 – “We can do multiple passes through that same entry. … So very quickly, Bob can just get one puncture, local anesthesia …”.
  • 3:01 – “So why should you care?”

So be careful how you use the word “so”.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 180) – Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic - Serbian Tennis Player

Novak Djokovic – Serbian Tennis Great

“I stopped thinking too much about what could happen and relied on my physical and mental strength to play the right shots at the right time.”

— Novak Djokovic

Photo courtesy of www.novakdjokovic.com
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Seven Powerful Public Speaking Lessons from “Mad Men”

My recent post in which I had some fun with the hit TV series, Breaking Bad, reminded me of a clip from another popular series about which I wanted to write, Mad Men.

If you who don’t know the show, Mad Men is set in the 1960s and is focused on the people who work for a fictitious advertising agency known as Sterling Cooper. I have only seen a few, random episodes of the show, but I have liked what I have seen.

In the short clip below, two executives from Kodak are visiting Sterling Cooper to hear the agency’s proposal for a new slide projector that Kodak has invented. Up to this point, Kodak has insisted on incorporating the concept of a wheel into the ad campaign.

When pleasantries have been exchanged, they get down to business. The job falls to Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), one of Sterling Cooper’s star admen, to explain to the Kodak executive the way in which he thinks ad campaign should be run.

There are several powerful public speaking lessons to be learned from this scene.

1. Emotion is powerful.

Well, technology is a glittering lure. But there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.

———

But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product: nostalgia.

———

[And, generally, the way in which Jon Hamm speaks.]

2. Stories are powerful.

My first job, I was in-house at a fur company, with this old pro copywriter. Greek, named Teddy. And Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is “new”.

3. Metaphors are powerful.

Creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of … calamine lotion.

———

This device isn’t a spaceship. It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. 

4. Interesting facts are powerful.

Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means, “the pain from an old wound”. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.

5. Rhetorical devices are powerful.

It’s not called the Wheel. It’s called the Carousel. 

6. Images are powerful.

[The slides in the projector.]

7. Pauses are powerful.

It’s delicate … but potent.

———

It lets us travel the way … a child travels … around and around, and back home again … to a place where we know we are loved.

———

[These are only a few examples. Play the clip again and count how many pauses, long and short, there are.]

You don’t have to work at an advertising agency to incorporate the above techniques when you speak. Try using two or three the next time you present; your audience will go “mad” for it.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 179) – Bill Bernbach

William (Bill) Bernbach (1911 - 1982) American Advertising Creative Director

William (Bill) Bernbach (1911 – 1982) American Advertising Creative Director and Co-Founder of DBB

The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”

— Bill Bernbach

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