Post by Patricia Hewitt, contributing Women On Business writer
No one would argue that one of the waves our new President used to ride to nationwide fame was his superior oratorical ability. His cadence and style captured an audience and held their attention in such a way as to inspire the listener. It is one thing to be able to give a good speech; it is quite another to be inspiring. For that to occur, one must speak from their heart. There is just no other way to accomplish genuine inspiration. In many ways, this sincerity was a deciding factor in many voter’s minds this past year.
Consider the speeches you remember, such as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream.” President Kennedy’s inaugural address, President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, and others that come to mind. Any business speeches in that bunch? How about keynote addresses at a conference? Meeting openers? Ah! Motivational seminars – now that’s a good place to be inspired. Remember any of those speeches? Perhaps not.
I believe that this is because inspiration comes to us as a call to action. In other words, if you are being inspired, what are you being inspired to do? If someone gets up at the company meeting and delivers a good speech about how great everyone is; thanking them for their hard work, what is he/she really asking anyone to do? Often time, nothing. You’re just there to listen. Is this inspiring? In other words, are you compelled to take action or motivated by something else in the speech; a subtext of some sort (without you doing this and that, your bonus won’t be as large because profitability will be done).
You might argue that the need to be inspirational in a business setting is often not necessary. And, that is true. Yet, notice that I asked about meeting openers in my list of speeches you remember. A meeting opener is a speech in the context of its definition – “The expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings…” (Dictionary.com). Have you ever been inspired during a meeting (other than to get out as quickly as you can)?
Great leaders inspire people to be better and lift themselves up to a higher level than they would otherwise strive toward. For this to happen however, that leader has to be willing to be vulnerable in that he/she must put their heart out there. When one speaks with a passion derived out of their core beliefs, the listener experience will be truly compelling, memorable, and perhaps even lasting. This is true regardless of whether you are kicking off a meeting, launching a new project, speaking at a conference or delivering a training session. It doesn’t matter.
This ability to inspire does not require A+ oratory, a deep and booming voice or expressive gestures. Consider Gandhi or Mother Theresa – would you believe their voice could fill a room – no, but their presence certainly did. It is that presence one must foster; the inner conviction that we express every time we open our mouths to speak. Next time you’re asked to present something, I’d like to challenge you to take it a bit more seriously, not be afraid to allow your true voice to be heard, and ask your listeners to do something other than hear you.
If you’re interested in watching some speeches that inspire, check out the great leadership speeches on HarvardBusiness.org, and watch some of the best in action. Read their speeches aloud as a motivational tool and next time you get up to speak – make it count.