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Rhetoric – the born talker?

Rhetoric / Bild Nr. 56542840
Rhetoric | ©: lassedesignen - Fotolia

Each and every one of us experiences how important it is to be able to articulate, argue and discuss well in daily life. What use is a good idea if it cannot be formulated, presented and cannot be correctly “brought over”? It is therefore important to pay attention to the configuration of rhetoric such as body language, language techniques and use of language.

As beliefs are known to come from sermons (Romans 10,14 et seq), every proclamation in youth work is simultaneously a speech. It therefore cannot be a bad thing to master a few speech rules. Not everyone is a born talker or elocutionist, but at least a few rhetorical rules cannot hurt. A person, who has learned to make a speech as a youth leader, has a valuable tool for their future working life.
Therefore “learn for life.”

Your body language!

  • Walk upright and relaxed
  • Make eye contact
  • Keep gestures and mimics under control
  • Touching the nose, mouth or chin shows insecurity
  • Touching your ear when someone else talks is a type of „self punishment gesture“
  • Folding your arms in front of your chest shows tension and insecurity
  • Folded arms show defeat
  • Present yourself as open, interested and attentive

You as a person!

  • Do not try to disguise your real self
  • Be confident and present yourself and your subject just as you are and as well as you can.
  • It does not help to try to use flattery or try to crawl up someone’s “a…..(arse) and come out as an idiot.

Which subject do you want to present?

  • Without subject matter, the best rhetoric does not help at all. The best elocutionists are probably politicians. Say a lot but as little concrete contents as possible.
  • Consider what you want to achieve with your subject and what the best way to bring it over is.
  • Try to present your subject in a positive way. This makes the listener more receptive. No-one likes listening to negative contents, criticism, blame or negative prospects.

Be well prepared – do not underestimate this.

  • Good preparation can only be replaced by one thing – better preparation!
  • Look for a catching example, a gimmick.
  • Start off with brainstorming and write down all of the words which relate to your subject.
  • Structure and put your ideas into sections.
  • Supplement your ideas with key words and examples etc.

Avoid a chaotic, unstructured composition

  • Check the logical structure and group the points together. You should cross off any points which do not fit into the logical structure of the speech (the listener must be able to follow. Therefore a change in idea direction or a break in the structure is not recommended).
  • Try to win the listeners attention from the beginning with a good introduction/gimmick.
  • Structure your chain of arguments so that the strongest argument is at the end, the weakest point should be placed directly before the strongest, the other points (not too many!) should be placed at the beginning. This means that a increase can be recognised, just like the comparison black-white, in this case it is “weak-strong“.
  • Pool your conclusion/facts together in a short presentation which comes straight after the strongest argument, so that the listeners can follow your opinions (or not!).

Open your ears!

  • Adapt your speech to suit the group. Try to address the group/individuals according to their own level of understanding. Otherwise you will run the risk of missing the interests of the individuals/the group.
  • Place the individuals at the centre of the speech (the listener must recognise himself in your speech).
  • What speaks to youths at the moment? Which interests are „In“ at the moment? How can I address the youths in a way they will understand? What will I achieve with the individuals/ the group by bringing up this subject? (It is an art to be able to get inside the thoughts and feelings of youths!).

Make yourself understood!

  • Do not make excessive demands on the youths/the group.
  • Try not to read from a sheet, but talk freely and in short, clear sentences.
  • If you do need to read out from a sheet, avoid long, interlaced and boring (long-winded) sentences.
  • Watch the listeners to find out whether they are following and understanding the sentences.

Show feeling and commitment

  • Do not distance yourself from the theme.
  • Use emotion in your voice to show your commitment to the subject.
  • Build up the confidence of the youths, speak to them directly. Words such as “maybe”, “possibly” and “should be” etc. only show that you are not convinced yourself.
  • Show the group that a mistake is not the end of the world. Show them that you have been in the same situation, that you have also made mistakes, that you have also chased yourself up the wrong tree....

Visuals are important

  • A speech using only text is quickly forgotten. Only approx. 10 % of the contents are remembered.
  • Listen and watch – considerably more is taken in, approx. 50%
  • Listen, watch and take part – approx. 70-80 % of the subject is taken in.
  • Therefore: use pictures, posters as an eye-catcher, maybe a piece of music which is suitable to the theme or even a film.
  • Use parables and a visual, descriptive language – even Jesus used visualisation in the bible. He could reach certain people, only by using this type of language.

The secret lies concisely: take notice of the length of your speech

  • Speak slowly (you can practice this).
  • Take small breaks.
  • Hide repeats by cleverly reformulating your points with other words.
  • If someone starts to fidget, maybe it is the subject matter, a lack of understanding or the fact that you have talked for too long.

Talking can be learnt

  • The more often you speak in front others, the easier it becomes.
  • Use each opportunity (in school, in a club, during studies, in your job), where you might be allowed to present a speech or give out information.
  • Don’t let yourself be put down if it doesn’t run as planned and take criticism positively – it will be better next time and you will know which mistakes to watch out for.

Help! I am so nervous!

  • see nervousness as a positive, you are much more convincing with stage fright.
  • Stage fright heightens alertness and attention.

The creative finish

  • Consider a creative conclusion, no show, but you should underline the point of the speech at the end.
  • Encourage action. The finishing statement "thank you for your attention" is wrong. The listeners are gone without an impression of what you have presented has sunk in. A salesperson would encourage people to buy at the end of a speech, if you are presenting a youth group, a registration form could be filled out at the end or if you want to collect funds, the collection box should be sent around the room. A good finishing phrase might be "give us your money quietly, that makes us happy!"
  • Consider your finish carefully. One or the other points must be organised so that the link works.

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