Elocution for a New Age: Understanding the Design Alignment Principle

 “Let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the  action.”  Shakespeare, Hamlet

Although reserved primarily for the upper class; elocution became a really for any student in higher education in the 19th Century   Let’s start by looking at the history of how people learned to express and communicate with self-confidence and effectiveness.

Most historians of rhetoric credit Francois Delsarte with the modern discovery of laws for expression and rhetoric.

One day on my wandering through the aisles of a used book store in downtown Denver, I discovered an old classic book  written by  Eleanor O’Grady, entitled Elocution Class which captured how Delsarte’s  personal ambitions to be a musician where thrown into disarray and influenced his passion for exploring the field of elocution.   ” “Having a great aptitude for music, Delsarte sought and obtained admission to the French Music Conservatory in 1825.  Here, in consequence of faults in method and direction by poor teachers, he lost his voice.”  These tragic circumstances motivated him to devote his life to speaking and elocution.

Webster’s defines:   el•o•cu•tion
Pronunciation: (el”u-kyOO‘shun),–n.
1. a person’s manner of speaking or reading aloud in public: The business person’s elocution is faultless.
2. the study and practice of oral delivery, including the control of both voice and gesture. For example, Natural tones are the tones of truth and honesty, of good sense and good taste. Right posture and placement of feet and body weight produces strong sense  of speaker confidence. 

Now we are pretty much on our own to figure out the path to successful presentations and communication with others. Of course, there are high school or college speech classes and for the lucky ones, debate societies and drama clubs.

It is with the understanding of elocution tools that audience’s needs become top of the mind for the presenter.  With an alignment of verbal, visual and content, we can arouse and awaken the focus and intelligence of the listener, which is the object we always have in mind, whether we speak our own language or that of another culture.


Elocution for a New Age: Design and Personal Assumptions and Ideas for Communication Effectiveness


Design Focus: Match content and context to Adult Learning


What are some of the theoretical assumptions on which the elocution for a new age and effective interpersonal interactions, dialogue and persuasive communication materials are built?

  • Alignment of mental, mechanics and message are powerful design principles to engage adult learners.
  • Audience members want to understand what you have to say and you learn as you open up to their feedback and questions.
  • Most people want you to be successful when speaking and want to understand the relevance of your message to their lives. They want to take something worthwhile away from the speech. Being audience centered not self-centered is good rule to follow.
  • Doing your “best with what you have” is all you can expect

Find your natural strengths and build on them do not focus on your weaknesses

Personal Development Focus

  • You can not determine and control outcomes Internal thoughts are the biggest barriers or interferences for changing behavior and learning new presentation skills.
  • Mental maps or implicit theories of learning guide the everyday actions presenters take to prepare and deliver their speeches
  • You have the potential and capability to be a better performer if you can identify your fears and interferences and use your strengths to overshadow these interferences
  • Learn the skills and techniques of mental toughness and how to access positive energy as ways to set a positive learning environment and make meaningful connecting with audience members.

The “Best practices” come from a meta-analysis study of 5000 articles on communications, social psychology, cognitive developmental and neurological  research related to thinking, presentations, public speaking, emotional intelligence and learning.  The analysis provides evidence that leader-presenters are at their best when they do some of the following:

  • Drive out defensiveness and anxiety with preparation, practice, clear thinking  self confidence  and composure
  • Engage and challenge the listeners with: vision, mission and strategies for creating the future.
  • Presented the message with enthusiasm, energy and believability
  • Present a logical flow to your conversation that is clear, concise and compelling.
  • Encourage the heart of the listener by being empathic and appreciative
  • Provided information that is true
  • Demonstrate leadership through their ability to communicate in honest, trustworthy and authentic ways
  • Create solutions that are practical and understandable—communicate without jargon
  • Encourage creative approaches to learning “how to learn’   through self-discovery, feedback and action.



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