Lessons in Public Speaking from Game of Thrones

As any fan of the Game of Thrones would tell you, the insanely popular fantasy series features some of the best writing and dialogue ever seen on screen. Every episode sees the sharp-tongued characters trade verbal daggers full of wisdom, sarcasm and rhyme. For those wanting to improve their communication skills, the show is a gold mine of lessons, incredible examples and inspiration.

One such lesson comes from the ever impressive Queen Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen. Not only is she good at feeding her enemies to her dragons and majestically watching things burn, she’s quite the skilled speechmaker too.

Take, for instance, the famous speech she made to the entire city of Meereen as she was about to invade it. You can watch the speech at this link.

Let’s take a good look at this impressively forceful speech. The key intent of the speech should be very clear to most: Daenerys slices her target audience in two,  the slaves and the masters, and she clearly addresses her speech to the slaves only; “Your masters may have told you lies about me…” she begins with, “I have nothing to say to them. I speak only to you.” Daenerys then proceeds to turn the slaves against their masters in a brutally effective manner.

Know Your Audience

There’s a valuable lesson in public speaking here. And no, I’m not encouraging you to incite your audience members to kill and enslave one another. Rather, the lesson is how to treat your audience. A highly skilled public speaker knows exactly which audience members matter in their audience, and how to influence them.  All experienced and knowledgable communicators understand that no audience is identical to their last, and they know that when speaking, they are really only speaking to those members of the audience that matter.

Just as Daenerys understands that the slaves are key to her conquest of the city, so you should identify which audience members hold the key to your success. It could very well be all of your audience members are your target such as if you’re speaking to inspire your team, and all of them are vital to what you are trying to achieve.

It could be but a few of them such as if you’re speaking to convince the parliament to change laws, influencing the most powerful coalition leaders could be enough; they’ll do the leg work for you and bring the others onboard. Or, your key audience could even be just one person in a sea of faces.  Such as if you’re speaking to convince a company to undertake a new venture, impressing the ever intimidating CEO could be enough; she or he will exert the influence required to get your project underway.

Before every important communication, verbal or written, ask yourself: “Which audience members are most crucial to the success of my speech?” Then devote considerable amount of time, well ahead of time, to get to know who they are and what will make them sit up and listen, get up and act.

Getting to know your audience is challenging however there is an abundance of information available that will show you the best method to achieve this lofty goal. Nancy Duarte’s best-selling book Resonate has some excellent practical wisdom on this topic and is well worth a read.

Another valuable resource on the topic is World Champion Craig Valentine’s World Class Speaking. This excellent book also offers extremely useful tips and strategies on how to get to know your audience.

Once you know your target audience, the next step is to persuade them to your message.  There are a number of strategies to achieve this.  I have highlighted three key items to focus on when persuading your audience to get on board with your message.

1. Body language

The majority of human communication is done nonverbally, and people commonly respond and understand it very well. In order to effectively connect with your audience, enhance what you’re saying through nonverbal cues.

These include eye contact, hand gestures, pacing across the stage and the like to stress your words and statements. For example, if you’re trying to imply a key point point, you point a finger upwards. If you’re telling a story, pace a short distance to indicate that you’re bringing the audience to a certain point. You’ll be surprised how significant a difference it makes (in a negative manner) when the speaker simply goes through his speech in purely verbal manner, without the use of body language to aid in expressing important information.

2. Know Your Stuff

Influence is your main concern when speaking before an audience so you have to know what you’re talking about. You have to persuade them into buying into the point that you’re trying to make by citing facts, accepted truths and sources to show that your speech is actually based on something relevant.

Understand that there is no debate or an exchange between you and your audience so be very mindful of every single aspect of your speech or your audience may find you to be stereotypical; or worse, they may see you contradicting your own statements. Do plenty of research and be aware of new ideas and opinions on your topic before speaking; this will further guide you how to be a more persuasive speaker.

3. Build Rapport

Treat your audience, no matter how great or small in number, as your utmost concern. They are the reason you are speaking, so behave towards them as if your message and efforts will be in vain if you cannot convince them to buy into your message.

You have to create a link between you and your audience to successfully deliver your speech. This connection can be made through personal anecdotes, humor or even asking an audience to speak a little, such as sharing their experience with your topic or opinion on a topic being discussed.

The goal is to be able to build rapport between you and your audience where they will know that it matters to you that they listen and that you are not only a decent and genuine person but you also have an important message to communicate. This will be the basis for a smooth flow for the duration of the speech and is certainly key to effective persuasion.

To gain a deeper understanding of the art of persuasion when public speaking, grab a copy of Michael Lee’s fantastic book Prepare Persuade Conquer: Win Friends, Influence People and Get The Yes.

Summary

In a persuasive speech, you as the public speaker should know how to persuade and convince. There are a number of strategies that can be used to achieve this however the key to winning over your audience is through a combination of knowing which audience members matter (i.e. which ones do you actually need to convince), using body language to highlight key points, being confident with the topic you are discussing, and building a strong rapport with your audience in order for them to more readily accept your message.

The audience should be driven to a point of influence that your message will successfully be delivered and received. One method that has not been discussed is the repetition of your key ideas, facts and opinions which will further enhance your point and positively boost your persuasive public speaking skills.  This is a topic for another time.

If you’ve found this information useful you may also be interested in reading some other recent posts; You Don’t Fear Public Speaking More Than Death – But You Still Need to Manage Your Fear or How to Improve Your Public Speaking Through Storytelling.

Also, if you’re after a short online course in public speaking, I cannot recommend ed2go’s online public speaking courses enough.  I’ll be posting  review of their online courses in public speaking very soon.

Enjoy!

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