6 Ways Elizabeth Warren Is Helping Us All To Be Better Communicators
As a college instructor who has taught classes on Public Speaking, I’m always interested in what techniques good speakers use to get their points across.
We’ve all heard proficient speakers and unfortunately, we’ve all also heard those who are not so effective at public speaking. It all comes down to organizing your thoughts, being sure of your message, and being aware of your audience.
You don’t have to look far this political season to see a masterclass of effective speaking tools in the Presidential race. Behold the 6 effective ways Elizabeth Warren uses to get her message clearly understood when speaking to a crowd.
1. Break complex information into digestible bites
Warren is an ex-schoolteacher and boy does she use her classroom teaching skills when she speaks.
Warren is masterful in how she can take a complex concept and break it down into an idea that can be easily understood. Just look at her “two cents” idea. Whenever this topic is discussed, Warren holds up her two fingers and explains what the plan is in a few sentences (a two-cent tax on the wealthiest Americans after their first 50 million). It’s important to not get caught in the weeds of peripheral topics. She then quickly transitions to what this means for you, the audience.
This is the format she uses: Here’s the problem. Here’s why the problem needs to be changed. Here’s my solution. Here’s what is means for you.
Bam. Done. Everyone hears and understands the clear message.
2. Show passion in your message
Warren is not afraid to show passion while sharing her vision. If you want to see this in action, listen to her story about her mother’s Sunday dress. Even though she’s told the story many times, you can see her visceral reaction each time it’s told. It was an episode that made an impression on her when she was young. Warren remembers and uses that passionate reaction every time she tells the story.
Also just look at what goes on in her photo lines. Warren literally gets on the same level by kneeling alongside young girls and pinkie swearing with them as a form of empowerment — yes you too, can do amazing things! Look at the faces of the kids she does this with!
Speak about things that you are truly committed to and don’t be afraid to show your passion. People will hear that conviction in your voice and will more clearly relate to the message.
3. Use stories
In this day of instant text messaging and 240-character messages, people don’t have long attention spans. They want to be able to understand the information and move on.
This is where storytelling comes in. Think about the Aesop’s Fables you heard as a kid — short stories that always ended in a moral. Take the story of the Lion and the Mouse — when a friend is in need, be a friend indeed. Or the story about the fox and the crow — listen to flattery, but don’t believe all you hear. People can get overwhelmed with fact after fact being thrown at them. When you can make your point in a story — you can reach those people.
Warren is an accomplished teller of stories to make a point. One of her strongest examples of this is the story about her mother’s Sunday dress. Using this short story she’s shows us the devastation of healthcare impacts and the determination of her mother “not to lose the house.” While that story may appear on the surface to be a family story, it’s really a story about the grit and determination of all Americans. When times are tough, we reach down deep and do whatever it takes to “not lose the house.”
Almost everyone can relate to and can embrace the message of that story.
4. Use 3 examples
When you are making a point, you don’t need to include every single bit of information in order to support your case. In fact, if you add too much information you end up muddying the message. Instead choose the three best reasons to support your case and showcase them. Warren is incredibly skilled at this, a typically response to a question at her rally begins with “that’s a great question, here’s three things I would do about that.”
To anyone who has seen School House Rock, you know that three is the magic number. Any more than that and you tend to lose your audience or even forget the points you were trying to make.
5. Humor is okay but it shouldn’t overwhelm the message
Warren tells a great story about her brothers and how one is a medic and no one dares to even cough around him at the Thanksgiving table because he knows how to do a tracheotomy. It’s a funny story that always get a laugh. But the laughter does not drown out the messages of the story which are: Warren is proud of her family — her family is close, has done good things, and is respectful toward each other.
Humor is a tricky thing. We’ve all heard jokes that fall flat or that don’t make sense. So, if you don’t have a good sense of humor then you might want to stay away from trying to be funny. But if you do have a good sense of humor a positive joke (one that makes people laugh while appreciating a situation) can and should be used in moderation.
It makes you relatable and shows people that you have awareness of and can appreciate the human condition.
6. Don’t be afraid of questions
At all of Warren’s events, she passes out raffle tickets to anyone who wants to ask a question. By doing this, she is offering everyone a fair shot at getting heard.
Can you appreciate how brave this is?
She is opening herself up to any questions — good or bad. And with a drawing like that she takes her chances. I understand that initially there was some push back by the campaign director about this approach — what if she gets a negative question or doesn’t know the answer to a question?
Here’s what Warren has shown us. As any teacher knows, there is no such thing as a bad question. If you know your stuff, done your work, and if you really believe in what you are saying, you simply don’t need to be afraid of being asked questions.
Questions simply become another opportunity to share your ideas and beliefs.
The bottom line is this — When communicating with others, be like Warren with every message you deliver. Make those messages concise, informative, geared to your audience and deliver that message with the passion of all your beliefs. Trust me, if you use these techniques, people will be able to relate to and understand what it is you have to say.
About the author
Wendy E.N. Thomas is a New Hampshire State Representative. She represents the town of Merrimack and is one of the “Water Warriors” elected to help fight a local industrial polluter who is contaminating the town’s water with PFAS chemicals. Educating others is an ongoing passion of hers.