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Public Speaking Course: 

I Get So Emotional

A great skill learned in your public speaking course, is to involve the audience's emotions to get a better response. If you tug on their heart strings a little bit you can make it happen. This is where your storytelling ability can really pay off for you.

My friends Maggie Bedrosian and Thelma Wells are wonderful storytellers who can take a simple set of facts and paint really detailed pictures in the minds of their audience.

You can get an emotional response from your audience by doing more than just telling a good story. You can ask them certain questions to involve the audience mentally and stimulate many kinds of different emotions. "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 toys?" This question would stimulate good feelings in audiences where people celebrated Christmas. It would not, however, connect so well with people who don't celebrate Christmas.

Here is another question you could ask to get them thinking, "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 members 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 question would definitely evoke sad feelings. If you want the audience to smile, ask them this, "Can you remember the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?" You will find that most people laugh when remembering  back to an embarrassing situation. One of the definitions of humor is tragedy separated by space and time. So in your presentation, tell stories and ask the right questions to move the emotional state of your audience.

There are many different emotions you can trigger in the audience just by choosing the right words. Happiness, anger, sadness, nostalgia are just a few. You must know your purpose for speaking to a group so that you can pick which emotions you want to tap into. Then you can choose words to get the desired emotional response your looking for.

Here's an example of a simple set of facts that a speaker could say to the audience:

"There have been twelve accidents in the past year at the sharp curve which is two miles north of Cherokee Lake on Route 657. Installation of guard rails, warning signs, and a flashing light will cost
approximately $38,000. Even though we have not balanced the budget this year, I feel that we should appropriate money for this project. Thank you."

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 657 that has been the scene of twelve car 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 $38,000. Moving people to action is part of  using the skills that you learned in your public speaking course.

To create the emotional appeal in the second version of the story, words and phrases were chosen that used 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 put into the original set of facts to create the emotional response of horror about this terribly dangerous turn.

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