Art of Public Speaking:
I Get So Emotional
If you want to get real action out of your audience during a public
speaking engagement, then tugging on their heart strings can help make
it happen. This is where your storytelling ability can really make you
shine. This is part of the art of public speaking.
Great storytellers like my friends Maggie Bedrosian and Thelma Wells
can take a simple set of facts and paint moving pictures in the minds
of their audience members with carefully crafted stories, they have
mastered this art of public speaking.
You don't have to tell stories when speaking to get emotional response.
You can get another two-for-one happy hour special when you ask the
right questions. Asking questions not only involves the audience
mentally, it can also stimulate many kinds of emotion. Do you remember
when you were a child and you could barely get to sleep Christmas Eve
because you just knew Santa was going to bring you that special
something? This question would stimulate fond feelings in most general
public Christian audiences. It would not, however, connect so well with
people who do not celebrate Christmas (remember: know your audience,
also an essential part of the art of public speaking).
How about this question, Do you remember doing something really bad as
a child? What kind of punishment did your parents give you? These
questions would cause the audience to remember bad feelings.
Did you ever have a pet that died, or did you have a friend who had a
pet that died? This would undoubtedly elicit sad feelings. If you want
the audience to smile, ask them this, Can you remember the most
embarrassing moment of your life? As you learn the art of public
speaking you know that most people will laugh when thinking back to an
embarrassment that they felt was a tragedy at the time because one of
the definitions of humor is tragedy separated by space and time. So,
tell stories while speaking in public and ask the right questions to
move the emotional state of your audience, two more colors on your
palette of painting the picture for your audience in the art of public
There are many emotions you can trigger in the audience just by your
choice of words. Happiness, anger, sadness, nostalgia are just a few.
Knowing your purpose for speaking to a group helps you to pick which
emotions you want to tap. When your purpose is known, the art of public
speaking involves choosing words to get the desired emotional response
Here's an example of a simple set of facts that a speaker might convey:
"There have been eleven accidents in the past year at the sharp curve
which is two miles north of Cherokee Lake on Route 857. Installation of
guard rails, warning signs, and a flashing light will cost
approximately $34,000. Even though we have not balanced the budget this
year, I feel that we should appropriate money for this project. Thank
Here is a little different version that uses emotional appeal to get
the message across.
"On July 18th of this year John Cochran was found dead. The radio of
his car was still playing when the paramedics got to his overturned
vehicle. John's neck was broken. It was snapped when his car flipped
over an embankment. No one here knows John Cochran because he did not
live here, but he died in our neighborhood. Most of you do know of the
hairpin turn on Route 857 that has been the scene of eleven accidents
this year alone and has injured many friends as well as strangers. We
need money to put up guardrails, signs, and a flashing light. I know
money is tight, but I hope you see fit to find the funds to remedy this
situation before the unknown John Cochran becomes one of your loved
Can you see the difference in these two appeals? The first was simply a
set of facts. Facts are important, but they rarely stimulate people to
action. The action comes when emotions get attached to believable
facts. You can bet the second version of the above story would have the
best chance of securing that $34,000. Moving people to action is part
of the art of public speaking.
To create the emotional appeal in the second version of the story,
words and phrases were chosen that had emotional power. ... John
Cochran was found dead. The radio of his car was still playing ...
John's neck was broken. It was snapped ... His car flipped ... hairpin
turn ... He died in our neighborhood. All these phrases were woven into
the original set of facts, using the art of public speaking to weave a
tapestry of thought, to create the emotional response of horror about
this terribly dangerous turn.
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