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Charismatic speakers share a few things in common – things we can all learn from.  Here is one of the most important pieces of advice for someone aspiring to be a charismatic speaker – speak in images.

Speak in pictures - Deiric McCann

Think of the most powerfully charismatic and persuasive speech you ever heard.  Got one?  Now try to think of another.  And another.  Now stop for a moment – what did these great speeches have in common that made them so memorable for you?  What made them so emotionally impactful, so charismatic, so persuasive?

You’ll find that what such speeches share in common more than anything else is the use by the speaker of rich emotional imagery to convey his or her key messages.

Three-part series

Those speeches were memorable because they create in your mind a clear picture of the what the speaker wished to convey – whether it was Martin Luther King’s ‘I have been to the top of the mountain’, Winston Churchill’s “…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets…” or Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries” , the use of image-rich words light up a speech and make it instantly impactful and forever memorable.

Whether by instinct or conscious design the most charismatic and most memorable orators from history have always harnessed the power of images to convey their messages in a much more powerful way.

In this three-part series we’ll look at how you can dramatically enhance the impact of your talks and speeches by injecting more imagery into them.  The two posts following this one are:

The Research

In 2008 two researchers, Naidoo and Lord, scientifically proved that speakers employing images in speeches have measurably higher impact, not only upon their listener’s emotional states but also upon their perception of the speaker as being charismatic.

In their study, participants heard one of two versions of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famously moving 1933 inauguration speech.  One of the versions of this speech retained the many vivid, emotional terms that characterized it and made it so impactful.  The other version was identical in informational content, except the vivid, emotional terms were replaced with more abstract, conceptual words.

The version with the more vividly image-based language evoked much stronger positive emotional responses in listeners, and dramatically raised later listener ratings of the speaker’s charisma and leadership abilities by listeners.  Naidoo & Lord proved that image-based communication was “more comprehensible, memorable, and emotionally involving”.

Images speak straight to the listener’s subconscious and allows them to interpret what a speaker is saying in their own way – and to connect it to their own experience.  This makes image-based speeches much more emotionally powerful.

Using Imagery in Your Speeches and Presentation

The great orators from history set what appears to be an impossibly high bar in terms of the often almost poetic or literary quality of their imagery.  If you have a similar gift with language then you have a head start on those of us who do not – use your lyrical turn of phrase to invest all of your talks with language that communicates greater emotion and deeper images.

But it’s not necessary to scale literary heights to make effective use of images that will make your speeches and presentations more memorable and charismatic.

In the second of this three-part series we’ll look at five ways you can light up your talks and speeches with imagery.

What are your favorite images for lighting up your speeches?  Use ‘Comments’ below to contribute your best ideas



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