Do you want them to understand you, believe you, and remember you when they listen to you? This article is for you.
1. THE FIVE LETTERS
The five lyrics that in 2020 came to change everything (COVID) have swept away in their wake the distant memory of those mass rallies and great spectacles that used to be traditional political campaigns. Today, in a “distant intimacy,” the viewer watches us from home, distracted by so many hundreds of other messages vying for their attention to the luminous screen of a digital window. The politician stopped occupying the center of the stage, and from another similar screen, competes and debates in that sea of content and perceptions that can become the internet and social networks.
It’s been 57 years since Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a Dream” speech and others that separate us from those speeches that moved the world and marked an entire era. Today’s political leaders aspire more to deter than to persuade (the two sides of power) and in the race to star at all costs on stage and win the election, there are various instruments at their disposal: money, food pantries and even social government programs; all but speech, a tool that has survived all of humanity’s pandemics and hecatombes and has the ironic characteristic of being shared by many, albeit effectively exercised by only a few. In this article we will talk about the discourse and discover its power.
2. WHAT MAKES A SPEECH POWERFUL?
If we were to talk about political discourses, necessarily by the surname “political” we would have to talk about POWER, a central element of political science and also of language; not in vain Aristotle called us humanity as “Zoon Politikon” or political (social) animals for the ability to build collective consensus reached precisely through language, or more precisely “the logos”, which is that marriage between our ideas and our words. It means then that language is a builder of consensus and that, when someone makes public use of it, it can modify the perception and therefore the action of a group, mobilize it for or against something, orient them to action, which could range from choosing a new government such as repealing a law, extending the exercise of a right or determining a person’s guilt or innocence; it means that, in essence, every discourse (electoral or not) has a share of power, specifically the power of influence that, when exercised, can mobilize the will of the listener.
Do you want to make yourself listen and be understood, believed and remembered? This article is for you.
3. THE 3 FILTERS OF POWERFUL SPEECH
In the book “The Power to Convince” I share with readers and practitioners of method 3 filters that today I will share with you so that your political discourses connect and persuade the audience: be understandable, be convincing and be memorable.
If exercising the power of discourse is to influence the will of the other, one would have to wonder if that other one understands what we are talking about. The first filter for a discourse to connect, is that it is understandable, so that we start from a central definition of communication, from the Latin “communicate” and that means “to do in common”, then every act of communication will seek to establish a nexus of the listener, “to come together” from the ideas he shares to the words he uses to communicate them.
There are speakers who prefer to make themselves admired rather than make themselves understood, said the famous English essayists “Steele and Adison” in the 18th century and despite having spent 300 years and several pandemics since then, such speakers have not yet died. It is common to find political leaders who prefer to win the palms of the souls of the audience, leaders who want to make themselves applauded rather than persuade. However, to connect with the audience the first step is to find that “common point” that characterizes them and that he can also share with the speaker.
The selection of words will be key, avoid unnecessary technicalities, use well-known and common terms for your audience, as well as adapt the message to different audiences. It will not be the same to talk about the decriminalization of abortion in front of a collective of feminist women as it will be in an evangelical church; however, the same message must be shared with both recipients, what changes are the words. Segmenting audiences and mapping the demographic characteristics of regions, as well as sociological, cultural, political, economic and social characteristics of our audiences, will give us an advantage. Also know the needs and preferences of the electorate, being these “common points” that can be inserted in the discourse.
When we read the title “speeches that connect” we surely imagine the political speaker of the rostrum, the one who speaks from the microphone and enchants his audience with the eloquence of his voice, however a speech can be very eloquent but unconvincing. To achieve the latter, the argument is necessary, which will be the set of techniques that will help us to deliver reasons (logos) in favor of our point of view, so that those who listen to them can follow the same path that we take until we reach our conclusion. Practically the argument will be to show step by step the way for the other to reach the same point of view on its own, so that the conviction will be an exercise in which the audience considers having reasoned for itself what we have led to think. Also consider that the political leader must exercise the double task of convincing reason and moving the heart, so he will also give emotional reasons in his messages that empathize directly with the public (Pathos). While the logos are the discourse (idea and verb) and the pathos is emotion, a third element of the credibility of the message is added together, the “ethos” and represents the coherence between the speaker and the message, whether or not his image, his expression, lifestyle, way of speaking, etc., represents the message he delivers with words. This is relevant from the political image and the construction of electoral perceptions.
And finally, what good would it be to have a message that is understood and believed if it is easily forgotten? Therefore, the third filter will seek that the message is remembered and for this it will use tools delivered by the “Rhetoric” such as the word play, the rhetorical figures, the metaphor, the example, the sonority and even the repetition, with the aim of fixing the key messages in the audience of the electorate. Let us remember that the purpose of electoral political communication is to mobilize the intention of voting so that all communicative efforts will be aimed at influencing the electorate to make the final decision: to vote for our project. That the message can be remembered until “D” day is essential for it to be an electoral reference at the time of making its decision and at the same time compete in the face of the message of the adversaries, since, a “choice” is always a “decision” so that our message will communicate in our favour, but also make a difference with the others , this being what is known in political communication as a contrast campaign.
A great example of this is the facts narrated in Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant” book, an analysis of speech between the election propaganda of Republicans and Democrats in the US, and how the selection of terms created symbols and images that in today’s sun persist in the electorate.
Let us remember that, in the political context of the war for power, discourse is not only the message that a person issues, but that message that can lead many more people to the target. In terms of power, Foucoault would say, power is not, therefore, powerful discourse will be able to exert greater influence over its audience and fight in a field of much controversy with an understandable, convincing and memorable message to achieve: the power to convince.