How to Spot A Weak Speaker

If the speaker opens with, “The dictionary defines [topic] as…” you know you’re in for it.

The story here is simple and sad. The poor speaker was given a topic (let’s say “hope”) and, probably a little bit nervous, they repeated the question in their head over and over and over again until the word had no meaning.

What is hope?

What is hope?

What is hope?

With no answer and no meaning, they just Google it and that gives them a set of dictionary glosses.

First gloss: “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

That’s kind of dry.

Second gloss: “a person or thing that may help or save someone.”

That’s kind of abstract.

Third gloss: “grounds for believing that something good may happen.”

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

And if we tack on some pleasantries to the front end, we get the opening to the speech:

Thank you, Misha, for that kind introduction. And thank you all for that warm welcome. I’m truly humbled to be here with you all this evening. I’m going to talk about hope. What is hope? The dictionary defines hope as “grounds for believing that something good may happen.” [repeat again with emphasis] “grounds for believing that something [beat] good [now sell it] is. Going. To. Happen!”

And we’re off!

The dictionary is the answer key for speakers who don’t know what to say.