Wednesday, February 13, 2008

who does the speaker remind me of?

We're always looking for ways to define eloquence, and the ability to persuade an audience does impact the speaker's perceived eloquence. Now the New York Times reports on recent research about mimicry--the extent to which your audience, whether one person or a large group, responds positively to how similar you are. The article notes:
Artful persuasion depends on eye contact, but not just any kind. If one person prefers brief glances and the other is busy staring deeply, then it may not matter how good the jokes are or how much they both loved “Juno.” Rhythm counts.

Voice cadence does, too. People who speak in loud, animated bursts tend to feed off others who do the same, just as those who are lower key tend to relax in a cool stream of measured tones.
The research reported here doesn't say whether the mimicry must extend to gender--that is, whether women have a tougher time facing a male audience--but does note that gestures, accents and other similarities gain a good response. It cautions, though, that these can go too far, feeling forced or worse, as if you're mocking the people to whom you're speaking. We say, be genuine, but do pay attention to the room. Have you caught yourself in mimicry when speaking in public?(Photo by etech)