Friday, November 18, 2011
Want To Be Better At Public Speaking? -- Listen to Country Music
I was not a fan of Country Music. I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, and it was just not a "Country Music Town". While in college (in San Diego) I never even saw a country band play anywhere. Nobody I new listened to the genre. (I have memories of some Kenny Rogers being blasted on a camping trip once, but not sure who was responsible for that cassette tape). After I moved to Texas I kept my musical tastes tied to Rock, Pop, Oldies and a little Jazz. No Country!
However, as a professional speaker I have learned that successful oratory is tied to the ability to tell a story. Regardless of the topic, if a speaker cannot reach the people listening, their whole presentation can fall flat. The same is true for musicians. While all types of music tell stories, there is no better way to learn how to clearly and quickly weave a captivating tale than listening to the master song writers from Country Music.
Two years ago I began listening to a local country station as a means to understanding how to connect the power of a story to the message of a speech. The songs are more than entertainment, they are windows into the soul. In just a few minutes we can see the mental pictures and be transported to a different place and time. We are allowed to share the experiences of others and thus we become more connected to the greater world view.
Too many speakers take the stage and give a data dump of information. They fail to see themselves as needing to entertain and tell a story. Some actively shun the idea of being more than a brilliant mind that barfs knowledge.
While statistics, graphs and spreadsheets are useful, they are not enough to grip an audience and cause transformation. To have a real impact on people we must connect to them at a level of the soul. Ancient tribal leaders did not use pie charts to inspire and educate people, but instead they told relevant stories.
Every presentation should have a story. If the person speaking has no personal connection to the topic then they are simply delivering a book report. In a world filled with so much noise and little differentiation, your story is the unique stamp that takes ideas beyond a passing string of words and implants them forever in the memory of the audience.
If you want to become a better storyteller, and thus improve your presentation skills, tune into a little Country Music and do more than tap your foot to the beat. Dissect the words and seek out how that short story set to some guitar strumming becomes a movie that plays out behind your eyes. Over time you will begin to see the ways that Country Music will make you better at public speaking.
Have A Great Day