17. The most important thing about speaking.

1. It was raining, so the speakers didn’t turn up. No doubt the hecklers were there, wondering why the speakers were not there, and wondering why they themselves were getting progressively wetter. Bless them.

2. This is a good time for a reminder.
What is the most important thing a soapbox speaker needs to do?

Inform? Be controversial? Get a crowd? Be interesting?

Nuh. It’s entertain.

Sometimes we speakers forget that. We seem to think that all we need to do is present a point of view and the passers-by will stop and listen. Wrong. That’s not how it works. Passers-by will only listen if they are entertained. No other reason.

Repeat: No other reason.

There are different ways to entertain:
a) A speaker can say something so interesting we can’t help but listen.
But even if the topic is interesting, the speakers need to leave out the boring bits. The listeners don’t want to know dates, street names and the like; they want the guts of the story, the entertaining bits. The author, Elmore Leonard, once said, ‘I try to leave out the parts the readers tend to skip’. We speakers need to do the same.

b) A speaker can entertain with humour.
But the audience doesn’t want joke after joke after joke. It soon becomes tedious. Listeners want substance with their humour.

c) A speaker can present a view contrary to the listeners’ point of view.
However, if the aim is to shock, it won’t work. There’s a big difference between being an attention-seeker and being someone who presents a cogent (albeit infuriating) point of view. You have to believe in everything you say. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time, and need to question why you are up there.

d) Touch their emotions. Inspire the listener. Move the listener. Affect the listener. Give the listener an emotional experience so that when they leave they feel a little enriched and on their way home they continue to think about what you have said. Do that, and they will come back another day to listen to you again.
But what you say has to emotionally affect you as well. You have to fully believe in what you say. Otherwise, you will simply be manipulating your listeners. They will quickly sense that, and sense the shallowness of your words and your heart.

In short, when we speakers plan our speeches we need to ask ourselves important questions like, Will it be entertaining? Will the listener be glad they stopped by? Because that’s the only aim. That’s the only thing that’s important.

3. Let’s finish with a little humour.
(Click on it to enlarge it.)

Domino grave

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