I distinctly remember sitting in a small meeting room with about 20 other people. A professional church planter had flown in from Colorado to speak to our group. His job was to equip and prepare us to start a new church in our city. I remember a few of his key points, but nearly 7 years later, the main thing I remember is how passionate his delivery was. He practically radiated passion. And it was contagious.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Curator of TED, Chris Anderson said, “presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker.” We’ve been dissecting his formula for a successful presentation. On Monday, we talked about the quality of the idea, discussing how both novelty and timeliness add to the worth of the presentation content. Wednesday we looked at what narrative means, and how we use it to communicate perspective and develop a plan. Today, we’ll be looking at the final part of Anderson’s formula, the passion of the speaker. The passion of the speaker really comes down to two things: conviction and communication.
Conviction is the degree to which you are tied to something. Without conviction, there’s not much reason to speak, right? Even if you are simply presenting a new company policy, it will be necessary for you to feel some level of conviction that the policy is necessary or helpful in order to present well.
In his 2007 inaugural lecture at the University of Amsterdam called “Cool Passion: The Political Theology of Conviction,” Thomas Blom Hansen examines the nature of conviction. He says, “Within an ethics of sincerity, the test of conviction lies in the tactics, the courage of being yourself, also in adversity. In the ethics of consequence, it is the ability to break norms, to run risks, and to strategize that counts.”
What exactly does this mean? Basically, he’s saying that speakers can display conviction by being vulnerable and by being willing to take risks. For example, in 2011 Jae Rhim Lee delivered a speech while wearing a mushroom burial suit that she had created. Whether you agree with her tactic or not, you have to admit she displayed extreme conviction which showed how passionate she was about her ideas.
But conviction alone is not enough. You must be able to translate your conviction in the way that you communicate. You must use your unique delivery style to show the depth of your passion. You’ve probably heard speakers like the church-planting guru I mentioned above—speakers whose energy is so tangible you feel like you can reach out and take a piece of it. And these kinds of speakers are highly effective. However, we need to be careful not to equate passion with energy. I’ve seen many speakers who have a more reserved speaking style, but they are no less passionate.
You can communicate conviction in different ways, and everyone has his or her own style. Some speakers move around a lot and use physical motion to demonstrate passion. Others stand almost perfectly still but use the weight of their words and the force of their voice to communicate passion. Whatever your style, you need to make sure your conviction is being clearly communicated to your audience. If your delivery tells them you don’t care about what you are saying, they won’t either.
The next time you are asked to present, try using Anderson’s formula to help you achieve success. Evaluate the worth of your ideas, examine your narrative design, and deliver with passion.
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