How Power Ballads Can Make You a Better Public Speaker

A Slip Of The Lip

My column A Slip of the Lip is a linguistics student’s attempt to provide interesting and (reasonably) well-researched language titbits. Hailing from the glorious city of Queanbeyan, I spent my first year of uni dabbling in Physics, Maths, English and Music. By some drastic turn of events I am now majoring in German and Linguistics. In my free time I write articles for a blog by the same name and watch far too much Netflix. I look forward to you joining me for A Slip of the Lip!

“I came in like a WRE-CKING BA-all, I never hit so HARD in LO-ove…

Power ballads: they’re hard-hitting, empowering and heartstring-pulling. They can bring you to tears (“Hallelujah… hallelujah…”), pump you up (“It’s the FIN-AL COUNT-DOWWNN”) and help you work out some angst (“Shot through the HEART and YOU’RE to-oo BLAME”). Good power ballads are nothing if not convincing, so how can some of that Total ECLIPSE of the HEARRRTT magic be channelled into your next speech or soul-destroying group presentation?
Let’s start with the warm up. Think Sharpay and Ryan from High School Musical doing their “brrr, brrr, MAH, MAH” exercises. You need to warm your voice up if you’re going to sing a power ballad, and the same goes if you’re about to give a powerful speech that wows your tutor and/or spikes the interest of that hottie in the third row. You can’t give a convincing speech if it’s 9am and “Good morning everyone” is the first thing your poor cold voice has to crackle out for the day.

Now onto tempo. Unlike your regular doof doof or dance music, power ballads have the freedom to speed up and s l o w   d o w n depending on the mood. This change in tempo can be harnessed for your speech: speeding up when you want the audience to get all excited, before slowing right back down to add gravitas or make a Particularly. Passionate. Point. If you race along at the same speed then you might get to talk more, but do you really say more? Likewise, contrasts in volume can make all the difference. The more contrasts you have in your speech, the less likely it is that the whole class will be in a coma by the time you finish.

That being said, a little repetition can be of help. Are you super proud of the epigram you thought up, but think the audience might not fully appreciate it, or perhaps sleep through it if you only say it once? Take a page out of the Power Ballad Book and say it again! Power ballads are the masters of repetition. Can’t remember what the song’s about or what it’s called? No worries, you’ll hear the chorus again in 20 seconds. As long as you work in some of those dynamic and tempo contrasts and don’t become a broken record, repetition can make you a winner.

Lastly, all good power ballads need actions. Even the sombre ones where the singer stands behind the microphone involve passionate reaching, grabbing and dramatic head turns. While you don’t need to get all Australian Idol on it (although that would be highly amusing), gestures and movement can make your speech a whole lot more interesting. Not only that, but being aware of what your hands are doing will stop you from unconsciously adjusting your nether-regions while you’re talking. It happens more often than you’d think.

So next time you’re faced with a speech or group presentation, make sure you procrastinate to the sound of Sara Bareilles’ Brave or John Farnham’s You’re the Voice. With any luck, it’ll have you singing We Are The Champions when your marks come out.