When we wish to communicate our ideas, there is a panoply of tools we can call upon to ensure that people remember both the memorable phrase and its memorable speaker. Eddie Darroch, Toastmasters International believes that we can use these tools to be remembered by our audience. In addition as speakers we can gain the confidence which comes from being able to remember our own words. This in turns gives us the freedom to focus on the audience as we present.
To be memorable using our words to engage the senses is an important tool. For example:
The more visual imagery contained in your speech or presentation, the more memorable it becomes. Take the following example: ‘‘A fox with glasses told his submarine to dive beneath the surface’’. You can dial this up perhaps the fox “barked the order for his yellow submarine to dive beneath the salty, emerald sea”.
When you describe a ‘crack of thunder’or a ‘crashing cymbal’ the listener is automatically given an image as well as an added a sense of drama.
Symbolism related to sound can trigger powerful associations for audiences. Mentioning the skirl of the bagpipes at a Remembrance Day parade may bring to mind the ‘devils in skirts’, the famous nickname given to the Highland regiments in during WW1.
Taste and Smell and touch
Menus use highly descriptive words like crafted, fire-roasted or hand-dived, all of which are designed to activate your taste buds, enticing you to buy. It is no different to persuading your audience to believe in what you’re saying. Invoking aromas can produce impressive reactions; take for example wine descriptions, ‘Dark Cherry’, ‘Peppery’ etc. These spark mental associations.
And of course touch. If you run your fingers over an object, what feeling do you experience? Can what you’re describing be thought of as smooth, rough or perhaps sharp? Your ability to link language to senses invokes strong memories.
The most potent weapon for a speaker wishing to deliver a notable speech are ‘word hacks’; seemingly simple word magic tricks that can be used to dazzle an audience.
People in Greek and Roman times placed great emphasis on oratory, developing a raft of techniques which are still in use. In Star Wars Yoda exemplifies the device of using the last word of a sentence to begin the next sentence. ‘Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering’ – a rhetorical device called Anadiplosis.
Let’s look at Chiasmus, a mirroring imaging of word order. President John F Kennedy used it most famously in his inauguration address when he said: ‘My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’.
An effective, simple and easily remembered tip is to employ the Tricolon; epitomised most famously by Julius Caesar. Veni. Vidi.Vici. I came. I saw. I conquered.
A highly effective communicator like Barack Obama employs great rhetorical skills. To take one example: everyone remembers how he punctuated his famous speech with the repetition of the same phrase ‘Yes we can!’
Alliteration; using the same sound or letter at the start of a word - makes your speech both memorable and easy to memorise though you have to be careful not to give yourself a verbal hurdle. A recent Economist article about eating rabbit contained two alliterations in quick succession; ‘Lapping up lapin’ which is reasonably simple to remember but you need to make sure you can say is clearly and crisply!
People want to remember your speech or presentation. A powerful way to give them the opportunity is to by use language they don’t hear often. As you put together your next presentation think how you can engage the senses and encapsulate points in powerful and memorable phrases.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eddie Darroch is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations.