It’s Not What You Say, it’s How You Say It – Connecting With Emotion

When it comes to writing a speech, deciding on the words you’ll use is only half of the job.  Unfortunately, that’s typically where most presenters stop.

If you want to take your presentation to a higher level, it’s time that you start spending just as much effort on scripting your delivery.

In fact, the emotion and tonality we choose for our delivery can sometimes carry more weight than the actual text itself.  One great example of this is the link below:



Rajkummar’s segment us a perfect illustration of the point.  The words *literally* don’t matter.  Even when many of us can’t understand what is actually being said, the emotions and the context underlying them are crystal clear and universal.

The preparation and thought put into how we will deliver the lines in our speeches deserves just as much time as the writing of the text itself.  The more time you invest on experimenting with your tone and emotional range, the more unexpected opportunities you will find to enrich the depth and emotional impact of your presentation.

This can also be a great test for your speech overall–if you can’t find any portions of your speech that can be improved by infusing  emotion into your delivery, it may be a sign that you need to reevaluate the speech itself.

An exercise:

1)Read the following line:

“You’re not going to believe what happened to me today”

2)Take that line, and read it as if you:

i)Had just met the person of their dreams and fallen in love that day.
ii)Had caught your longtime significant other cheating with a best friend.
iii)Had just gotten fired from your job.
iv)Had just checked a lottery ticket you found lying in the street, and discovered it had the winning numbers for a fifty million dollar lottery.
v)Just went to the doctor to get test results back after having an annoying cough for weeks, and getting diagnosed with cancer.
vi)Just saw a ghost with your own eyes.

3)Give yourself some time to practice your delivery with each of these examples, until it feels real and authentic to you.

4)Make notes for each of these delivery styles, observing in as much detail as you can how your tone, face, voice, and body language changed when you were feeling or expressing the emotions connected with the scenario.

Why it matters…

As an audience–and as humans–trust is a prerequisite for connection.  If I don’t trust what you as a speaker, nothing you say will carry any weight or influence.

One of the fastest ways to lose the trust of your audience is appearing to be insincere.  In turn, one of the easiest ways to look insincere, is for there to be a disconnect between what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.

We’ve all seen it–the politician who talks about how distraught he is over a tragedy without showing a shed of emotion.  A speaker who exclaims how happy they are to be speaking to their audience, when their tone and their body language suggest that they’d rather be doing almost anything else.  The significant other who tells you that everything’s perfectly fine–when it’s obvious that reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

If the emotion in your tone and delivery doesn’t embody the message you’re trying to express,  the effect will be hugely damaging to your credibility with your audience.  Conversely, a speaker who can find a way to communicate a broad range of emotions through their delivery and body language can drastically elevate even mediocre material to something profoundly moving and impactful.

One last example…

To close out, I’d like to leave you with one last dramatic example of just how significantly a presentation can be effected by the emotions we choose to infuse into a presentation.

The final example is from the Broadway play “Fences.”  The clip shows the same scene performed by two different actors: James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington.  The language may be strong for some viewers–apologies in advance!–but it’s too valuable of a case study not to share with you.

The contrast is a textbook example of just how drastically the entire context of a presentation can be influenced by the choices we make in our delivery.  At the end of the day, the old saying is true–it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.



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