Seminar: Rhetoric & Public Speaking

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University Lecturer Cherno Jobatey Rhetoric Seminar

Seminar: Rhetoric & Public Speaking

Whereas musicians have it relatively easy when it comes to setting the mood through tones, it is much harder for public speakers: they only have words and content to rely on. And from that must emerge something that is not only relatable, but also riveting.

Digitalization Sparking the Renaissance of Rhetoric

Pop music was the first art form to undergo a radical transformation through digitalization. In the analog age, concerts were often just a market ploy for the “actual” product, the recordings. Nowadays, however, it is like before the invention of  “canned sound”: bluntly put, the stage is pivotal for musicians wanting to market their art to actually make some cash. Just like football: The moment of truth is on the field!

This shift is now affecting everyone hoping to market something. Because “markets are conversations”, and digitalization has changed them. Performance is key. As such, the traditional craft of rhetoric, the art of communicating well and with conviction, is undergoing a miraculous Renaissance.

The Seminar: Rhetoric

Planning: Clarification and honing of the topic. How can you execute argumentation strategies, how can you remain credible? How can you evoke visuals in people’s minds? Do emotional arguments exist?

Target Definition: What message should be broadcasted? Boss, expert, or maybe nitpicker? Good leaders and bosses use simple language! Arresting stories are told with strong visuals. and they don’t ooze with complexity.

Traditional Rhetorical Devices: You will acquire the tools of rhetoric, like: alliteration, innuendo, allegory, adynaton, epanorthosis, hyperbole, metaphor, simile, ellipsis, rhetorical questions, the rule of three, inversion, and also stichomythia.

Theory: Good communication also requires a theoretical basis: a command of communication theories, like insights into media impact research, strengthen every discussion, every speech, every performance. Like the “four-sides model”, “third-person effect”, “the stimulus-response model”, “the knowledge gap hypothesis”, “priming”, “framing”, and of course the good old “sender-receiver model”.

Never unprepared! It is an absolute misconception that the best speeches are off the cuff.
At the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, I learned the mantra: YOU HAVE TO OWN IT TO GIVE LIFE TO IT!
And to make sure it sunk in, all the students were reminded of the 5P program in boot camps:  PROPER PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE!

However, you shouldn’t necessarily be able to tell when speakers are extremely well prepared. The best praise after a speech is when someone says: that was amazing, did you just come up with it?

Practical Rhetorical Execution

The seminar also gets into the details, the concrete and practical aspects:
It’s important to understand the art of the introduction. We’ll work on standard openings as well as a few classics. When it comes to content, you should always highlight one advantage.
Never forget the audience. Always keep them in mind. Make logical and emotional appeals to people. Always corroborate everything: work quotes and figures into the storyline. Vary the length of your sentences, tone, rhythm, and tempo so you don’t come across like a robot.

And: Dare to pause!

And last but not least: Master the finale.

Non-Verbal Communication: Body language, our underestimated tool. Our face is an ambassador! Our voice a soundtrack! And on top of all that, the whole range of expressions, gestures, and postures. Non-verbal questions or exclamation points? You’ll learn how to express the full spectrum of grammatical punctuation through your physical self. Whether or not you’re a proponent of Albert Mehrabia’s famous “55-38-7 rule” (the impact of a presentation is 55% body language, 38% the sound of your voice, and only 7% content) or prefer other studies, they all have one thing in common: words alone are not enough.

During the seminar, we’ll work a lot with video recordings so you can immediately review the skills you’ve learned and acquired.

The Seminar Dispels Any Myths

Rhetoric, performance, and public speaking are a craft! One you can learn! But that also means: You have to practice! Any skeptics should take a look at old videos of former Senator Obama, who came across as quite the professor. He only really refined and changed his style during his presidential campaign. It was most certainly hard work. If you see him during appearances after his presidency, like on the Netflix-Letterman show, you’ll be shocked at how verbose he now is (again).

Authenticity, which oddly enough is always so praised, shouldn’t be a ball-and-chain around your neck. It can also turn into a trap. Just like technology transfers horsepower from the crankshank to the road, so, too, is content communication. Craft and technique beat out intuition. Here, too, Einstein’s wisdom applies: genius is 80% perspiration and the rest is inspiration!

And: The ABSOLUTE NO-GO List: No long sentences, no cliches, no catchphrases, no passive constructions, no foreign words, no weak verbs.

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