You don´t want to be a bore – R. Borbonus

You don´t want to be a bore

Interview with René Borbonus

As a leader, you want to make an impact. But how can manage to convince and inspire with words? René Borbonus has declared war on boring speeches. He masters the wide array of rhetorical devices and accompanies people on their path to their personal presentation or performance. It is all about showing authenticity and finding identity. After all, rhetoric is as individual as those using it.

Mr Borbonus, do you have to be born a good speaker? 

Speaking is a skill like any other. Like playing soccer, for example. Talent does not hurt, but it takes a lot of practice and training. You cannot become Zinedine Zidane just through training, but Zinedine Zidane must also train hard. In other words: I don’t you’re think you‘re born a speaker. Anyone can become a better speaker. Anyone can become more confident. 

What makes a speech good and captivating? And how should speakers prepare? 

We can clearly say what gives a speech quality. According to Cicero, a good speech can do three things: inform, move and entertain. As a speaker, I should focus on all three criteria. A really good speech unites excellent content and excellent form. I am very much against playing one against the other. For example, relying on charisma alone as a speaker is dangerous. Substance and impact are important. Brilliant rhetoric is created when the two interact.

Of course, preparation is key to a captivating lecture. In addition to a target group analysis, I should also consider the speaker analysis. I think it‘s hugely important for speakers to ask themselves: How can I speak in a manner that suits me? How can I play to my strengths, so that I can be as natural and authentic as possible and also be effective? If I can find the right answers to these questions, people will follow me. 

Have you ever had a blackout during a lecture? And how do you overcome this? 

Yes, I‘ve had a blackout before, or what we often call it. In a real blackout, a switch in your head is virtually flipped; there is nothing left. Someone might even have to show you off stage, because you‘ve reached a dead end. But what most people understand as a blackout is when we forget the text for a moment, and that happens from time to time.

These moments are terrifying for many. But I have some reassuring news for you. People often perceive pausing for up to three seconds as a dramaturgical break, not as a lapse. This means you can take much longer breaks while speaking than you may think. Three seconds are pretty long. This time can be used to reflect or to orientate oneself in your manuscript. Another good strategy to bridge this time is to tap into your ultra-short-term memory. It is extremely reliable. We always know where we were just before the brief lapse in memory occurred. We can use that and briefly recapitulate: “Where are we now, what have we established so far?” A short summary gives you time to think, or to take a look at the script.

Tips for a good speech, by René Borbonus

Start with something that demands attention.

  1. The power of the information deficit
    At the beginning of a presentation, introduce and announce
    something important, and only provide resolution at the end.
  2. Start in an illustrative manner. With anecdotes or storytelling.
    Good sources include: Business Punk, Brand Eins or YouTube.
  3. Use quotations.
    Good citation means finding good sources.
  4. Make an impact.
    Start with emotional examples that make an impact.
  5. Poll question.
    Get listeners involved and turn them into participants.

In the main section, put your three most important arguments in the following order – from the perspective of the listener: the second most important argument first, then the weakest argument and, shortly before the end, the strongest argument.

Think of a concluding sentence that prompts listeners to act/change their opinion. The last presentation slide is displayed for a long time. Do not just write: “Thank you for your attention!”

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