What is the role of emotion in public speaking?

What is the role of emotion in public speaking?  We have all seen speeches that seared their audiences with emotion and were unforgettable as a result.  You have probably seen speeches that were inappropriately emotional as well.  Perhaps the CEO lost his temper at the wrong moment, or the VP for Marketing burst into tears like John Boehner, embarrassing everyone in the process.  

There’s still a mistaken belief in the business world that emotion is inappropriate anytime, and still a lot of personal fear of showing up with emotion because business speaking in general is so bland.   

Here’s the problem with bland.  Recent brain research confirms that the way memory works is by attaching emotion to events.  The stronger the emotion, the stronger the memory.  So bland just doesn’t cut it if you want to be remembered.  

Business people have to get themselves out of the trap of thinking that bland is OK.  Bland is forgettable, and if you’re going to speak with the intention of being forgotten, you shouldn’t be wasting everyone’s time.   Find the right emotions and make them a part of your presentations.  

 

Comments

  1. says

    I think you answered it in the first few sentences:
    “We have all seen speeches that seared their audiences with emotion and were unforgettable as a result.”
    And we remember the others where the emotion was, maybe not inappropriate, but…it overwhelmed the rest of the message.
    No emotion, no meaning. No meaning, no memory.
    You rock.

  2. says

    “Business people have to get themselves out of the trap of thinking that bland is OK.” – Yes! And yet so many of my clients seek “business speak” training because they have been told that they don’t have “gravitas”, smile too much, or are too approachable.
    We need a movement!

  3. Charlotte says

    It’s so tricky to get that fine line between being not emotional enough and being too emotional. Are there any tips you can suggest to get the balance right?

  4. says

    Hi, Charlotte — ask yourself, what is my audience feeling? Where are they emotionally? What is appropriate for this situation? Ultimately, it comes down to tact.

  5. Charlotte says

    Thanks for the advice. I have actually been searching the internet and found this website called Present.Me
    It allows you to attach a video of yourself presenting to your PowerPoint so you can present even if you cannot be there in person. However, I’m finding it very useful for rehearsal as well and can try and find that emotional balance. I highly recommend it.

  6. Christopher says

    That’s a brilliant article Nick thank you. I deliver speeches a lot and emotion is certainly very important is maintaining interest and conveying the point. Charlotte – I use Present.Me a lot. Unfortunately due to a busy schedule I cannot always attend events and send a present.me in my place.
    Nick I particularly enjoyed your reference to John Boehner!

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