The use of personal anecdotes in speeches

Many German speakers think that the purpose of a speech is to deliver information. Therefore, their speeches are full of facts and figures and do not provide much emotion or personal information about the speaker.

This is however a mistake, as a speech is not an information medium. A speech is a leadership tool that serves primarily to convince or motivate people; not to deliver information. People don’t follow sheer thoughts and ideas. People follow people with ideas.

The German writer, Kurt Tucholsky, advised speakers to not include in their speech, any information that speakers could readily look up in an encyclopedia or a newspaper. In today’s world where people can instantaneously research any necessary information on their tablets, computers or mobile phones, this advice is even more prudent than it was in the time of Tucholsky.

If a speaker wants to use a speech to convince his/her audience to accept and follow his/her ideas, it is necessary to allow the listeners to get to know the speaker. The best way to achieve this is with the use of personal anecdotes.

In the USA, everyone has intimate knowledge of their President’s biography, and Barak Obama tells his personal anecdotes whenever they serve his political interests or enhance the occasion/moment. Germans rather a position of a separation of private and business life.

That is a mistake that costs German speakers a great deal of credibility and persuasive power.


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