Haris Ahmed Chicago: Harnessing Public and Technical Language
Haris Ahmed, a Chicago consultant, is the founder and CEO of Pragmatium Consulting Group, Inc., a management consulting company that conducts workshops focusing on soft skills among executives. Today, he discusses the two types of public speaking language, how they are different, and why all successful business and organizational leaders should learn both.
One of the issues I’ve encountered in many of our clients is the way their executives speak. They are either too vague in front of technical people or too technical in front of people who do not work in technical fields. This leads to them alienating their employees, stakeholders, and others who might otherwise be interested in what they do. This is something I’ve also seen in government agencies. While people may find little resemblance in the way federal agencies and startups go about their business, they actually follow the same unwritten rules when it comes to public speaking.
You could consider public speaking in the United States as a way of putting across a policy advocacy. Even if you are a non-profit or a startup, you could take a cue from Capitol Hill, whether you are presenting a new product concept, introducing a new way of doing things, or explaining how the latest acquisition will help the company. As such, you must divide your speeches into two styles:
The term “public language” was coined by researchers at the University of Maryland to connote speeches that are easily understandable, even by those who have had very little education. It seeks to motivate public support for an advocacy by appealing to their sense of community, and paints the speaker as a leader of the same community.
Public language is marked by an informal manner. It seeks to identify with its audience and to portray the speaker as one of their own. It is likely to use metaphor, narrative, and other strategies that put the action in the context of the company’s larger history. In the same way, the speaker does his job as the representative of the employees and seeks to respond to threats to the company’s very existence. Public language is very effective in shaping public opinion, and fires up the troops, so to speak, as they march forward to deal with challenges and obstacles.
On the other hand, technical language seeks approval from those who make the decisions, and thus requires an excellent grasp of the matter at hand. This implies that the speaker is the expert, making him/her the ideal person to suggest and implement ways to solve the issue. It is also bolstered by opinion from other, more established figures in the field.
Technical language makes heavy use of dialectic techniques. The pros and cons of a suggested action are discussed and dissected, with the expectation being that the action is rendered foolproof at the end of the day. It uses analogies, causal arguments, and statistics to convince the audience of the speaker’s credibility. Thus, technical language is effective in communicating the substance of the proposed policy or action, and establishes its correctness.
As you build your career, you’ll find yourself having to talk to different groups of people. Thus, knowing the two types of public speech and where to use them will come in handy in establishing yourself as a credible yet relatable leader.
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