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Elocution for a New Age (Mechanics of Alignment)

BY MARK W. HARDWICK, PhD.

Power Point #1

Mental Success Strategy:
Learn from past experiences because doing more of the same or what doesn’t work won’t improve your communication or presentations.

Power Point # 2

Top skill of the 21st Century: executive presence and ability to communicate in a concise, clear and compelling style.

At the beginning of the last century there was a great emphasis on the art of elocution  Although reserved primarily for the upper class; it became a really for any student in higher education in the 19th Century. Let’s start by looking at the history of how people learned to express and communicate with self-confidence and effectiveness.

Most historians of rhetoric credit Francois Delsarte with the modern discovery of laws for expression and rhetoric.
One day on my wandering through the aisles of a used book store in downtown Denver, I discovered an old classic book  written by  Eleanor O’Grady, entitled Elocution Class which captured how Delsarte’s  personal ambitions to be a musician where thrown into disarray and influenced his passion for exploring the field of elocution. Having a great aptitude for music, Delsarte sought and obtained admission to the French Music Conservatory in 1825.  Here, in consequence of faults in method and direction by poor teachers, he lost his voice. These tragic circumstances motivated him to devote his life to speaking and elocution.

Webster’s defines:   el•o•cu•tion
Pronunciation: (el"u-kyOO'shun),--n.
1. a person's manner of speaking or reading aloud in public: The business person’s elocution is faultless.
2. the study and practice of oral delivery, including the control of both voice and gesture.

Elocution defined: natural expression of thought (message) by voice  and gesture (visual presence)

“Let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”  Shakespeare, Hamlet

Natural tones are the tones of truth and honesty, of good sense and good taste.

Now we are pretty much on our own to figure out the path to successful presentations and communication with others. Of course, there are high school or college speech classes and for the lucky ones, debate societies and drama clubs. 

It is with the understanding of elocution tools that audience’s needs become top of the mind for the presenter.  With an alignment of verbal, visual and content, we can arouse and awaken the focus and intelligence of the listener, which is the object we always have in mind, whether we speak our own language or that of another culture.

Elocution for a New Age: Assumptions and Ideas for Communication Effectiveness

What are some of the theoretical assumptions on which the elocution for a new age and effective interpersonal interactions, dialogue and persuasive communication materials are built?

  • People want to understand what you have to say and you learn as you open up to their feedback and questions.
  • Most people in the audience want you to be successful when speaking and want to understand your message so as to take something worthwhile away.  Being audience centered not self-centered is good rule to follow.
  • Doing your “best with what you have” is all you can expect
  • Find your natural strengths and build on them do not focus on your weaknesses
  • You can not determine and control outcomes
  • Internal thoughts are the biggest barriers or interferences for changing behavior and learning new skills
  • Mental maps or implicit theories of learning guide the everyday actions presenters take to prepare and deliver their speeches
  • You have the potential and capability to be a better performer if you can identify your fears and interferences.

The “Best Practices” come from a meta-analysis study of 5000 articles on communications, social psychology, cognitive developmental and neurological research related to thinking, presentations, public speaking, emotional intelligence and learning.  The analysis provides evidence that leader-presenters are at their best when they do some of the following:

  • Drive out defensiveness and anxiety with preparation, practice, clear thinking  self confidence  and composure
  • Engage and challenge the listeners with: vision, mission and strategies for creating the future.
  • Presented the message with enthusiasm, energy and believability 
  • Present a logical flow to your conversation that is clear, concise and compelling.
  • Encourage the heart of the listener by being empathic and appreciative
  • Provided information that is true
  • Demonstrate leadership through their ability to communicate in honest, trustworthy and authentic ways
  • Create solutions that are practical and understandable—communicate without jargon
  • Encourage creative approaches to learning “how to learn’   through self-discovery, feedback and action.