Skills for Sustainability: Workshop 2 – Inspiring change through the power of speech

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On Thursday 24th September, 2015, the Net Impact Bristol team hosted its second workshop in the series of ‘Skills for Sustainability’. These workshops are designed to provide professional development for sustainable change and to build on personal qualities enabling more effective collaboration, innovation, inspiration and communication

   Our second workshop was located in Roll for the Soul, Featured imagewho provided some delicious snacks for our wonderful audience.

Entitled ‘Inspiring change through the power of speech’, James Cullen of Oratemate, took us on a journey of discovery which went beyond the comfort zone of Powerpoint and demonstrated how it is  possible, through the power of speech, ‘To move your audience to Action’.

Words predispose our actions, so choosing your words carefully will matter to the impact you want to make on your audience. Public speaking is powerful – we are all aware of famous historical speeches that moved people and nations. With regard to this, James talked about Kairos – a Greek word, which involves saying the right thing at the right time and this is when we can make our voices truly heard. But how do we do this?

To help illustrate the tools required, James used a TED Talk by Graham Hill: Why I’m a weekday vegetarian. As well as being short, clear and worded simply, there were a few other examples as to why this speech was effective:

  • Hill started with a question, but directed it to himself. He immediately created a ‘safe’ environment where the audience could listen freely to make its own mind up about the topic being presented and not feel threatened or judged by having a question directed at them.
  • There are enough facts which help the audience relate to the subject matter and to the dilemmas Hill himself faced. But not so many that the audience feels overwhelmed or bored.
  • There is some humour, an essential element for connection and engagement.
  • There is a proposed solution which has accompanying benefits. This generates a feeling in the listener of ‘Oh, I could do that. It doesn’t seem that hard.’

Potentially, through the power of speech, Hill has moved his audience to action.

James went on to explain the importance of the use of rhetoric in speech. Rhetoric is the art of speaking or writing effectively where language is used to communicate persuasion. Rhetoric traditionally, is made up of 5 Canons and within this are included 3 Appeals.

The 3 Appeals of Rhetoric are:

  • Ethos – What entitles you to speak on the subject? Experience? Relevance?
  • Logos – The use of logic/truth/statistics to make an impact without fear
  • Pathos – The appeal to emotion

The 5 Canons of Rhetoric are:

  • Invention – Finding ways to persuade
  • Arrangement – using the 3 Appeals of Rhetoric
  • Style – The use of questions/metaphors/lists/humour etc
  • Memory – A speech should always, where possible, be memorized
  • Delivery – Relevance and Preparation means everything else will fall into place.

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James invited the audience, of Net Impact, to apply Rhetoric to a 60 second speech we were to make to each other! Despite the initial shock and trembling at the thought of the task, after 20 minutes of preparation, each of us took our turn to execute our individual speech. It was an incredible experience. There was passion, emotion and captivation. There were 15, 60 second speeches and each one was powerful, because of the relevance attached to its speaker. Using Rhetoric really works and as I write this, 2 days after the event, I find myself remembering still the content of many of the speeches…

…I will give blood at the next opportunity…I will always wear a helmet when I cycle…I’ll try and forgive David Cameron’s mistakes….I will connect with nature during the winter….I will treasure the life of my children…I will say hello and smile to people in the street….

These speeches and others were successful at ‘Moving me to Action’.

Thank you James Cullen for your fun and expert guidance in this workshop.

Written by Natalie Martyn, member of Net Impact Bristol.

MSc Student in Sustainable Development in Practice

View Natalie’s LinkedIn profile

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