Why Is Emotion Important in Public Speaking And How To Use It? [The Best Answer]

Emotion in public speaking is important because it helps speakers connect better with their audience. When members of an audience sense the emotion in a speech and are moved by it, they are more likely to relate to the speaker.

So, if the speech was meant for the audience to take action, they take the speaker’s desired action. Or if the speech was merely meant to inform, members of the audience become well-informed. They understand what the speaker discussed better because they formed some sort of emotional attachment to the subject matter.

In other words, if you want your presentation, whether that’s a sales pitch or a lecture, to yield results, you need to incorporate emotions into your speech. 

The question is this, then: How exactly can you create a speech that has emotional appeal? Before we answer that, here’s one important question we need to answer first:

How Do You Use Emotions in Speech?

You can use emotions in your speech to rally your audience around a cause. You can also use them to emphasize points that are important. That can help the audience better remember those points and get something from your lecture.

Emotions can be used in other ways, too. They can be used to inform the audience about the things that matter to the speaker. They can also be used to generate sympathy for the speaker or overhaul the audience’s beliefs.

But how do all these uses look in practice?

Using Emotions in Speech: Examples

Just to give you an idea, let’s look at hypothetical but very possible real-life examples:

  • Using emotions to rally the audience around a cause: If you’re an environmental activist, your voice might end up cracking when you explain the devastating effects of floods brought about by extreme weather conditions in some places due to climate change. 
  • Using emotions to emphasize points: If you’re a teacher and your lecture is on photosynthesis and you want your class to remember the term “photosynthesis,” you might say the word with a bit more passion and emphasis than the rest of the words you use in your lecture. 
  • Using emotions to inform the audience of the things that matter to you: Speakers are known to use emotion to make their character known to their audience. So, they might smile and light up when they start talking about their family in a public speech, for example, to illustrate how family is important to them.
  • Using emotions to generate sympathy: A medical malpractice victim, for instance, may make an impassioned appeal to hospital management to get a doctor he or she accuses of medical malpractice, fired by explaining his or her plight in that person’s hands.
  • Using emotions to overhaul beliefs: An environmental activist speaking before a pro-plastics group may paint the devastating effects of plastic when thrown into the ocean, for example.

In all these cases, the speech can only be effective if the emotions, whether that be anger, sadness, or happiness—are genuine in the first place. Authenticity is key. Nowadays, people can spot fake emotions. And once they do, the strategy to connect with them better by using emotions backfires.

How Do You Make an Effective Speech with Emotional Appeal?

Now that you know you can use emotions in your speech, let’s talk about how you can make an effective speech with emotional appeal. You need to follow these tips:

1. Know Your Audience: 

Making a speech with emotional appeal starts with knowing your audience. You need to know what gets your audience emotional to get them to respond positively to your speech. 

Let me explain. If you just let your emotions get the best out of you and hope your audience understands you, you might be in for a big surprise. After all, what may be an emotional topic for you may not be an emotional topic for them. 

Why Is Emotion Important in Public Speaking

You might be left in tears when you talk about how some people are losing their jobs to automation in companies, for example. But if your audience is composed of members of the company’s upper level management who believe in the value of automation, even if you cried your heart out, you might just end up getting lectures on how automation can actually help speed up processes and help generate jobs in other departments management can now focus on.

In short, the things you need to emphasize and the feeling you want to emphasize in your speech should depend on who your audience is. This, of course, doesn’t apply if you’re merely using emotions to emphasize important concepts in a lecture. The way you use emotions there will depend on your own understanding of the important concepts your audience needs to understand in the first place.

So, how do you conduct that audience analysis? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your audience’s stand on the topic?
  • What is their emotional state?
  • What is their background?

You can get answers to these questions from the event organizers themselves. Then craft your speech according to the data you find.

So, if you’re an environmental activist trying to convince a group of businessmen to embark on tree-planting programs as part of their corporate social responsibility, you can make an impassioned speech about how, ultimately, such programs can help save the environment, which, in turn, can also help secure the future of their businesses. 

2. Use Terms That Will Elicit a Response In Your Script

Once you’ve determined how to approach your audience, you need to craft your speech around your research results. And I don’t just mean contentwise. I also mean wordwise. In other words, the terms you use should have meaning to your audience and should therefore have an emotional impact on them.

This will require research on your part again. Going back to our example on that speech that aims to convince businessmen to embark on tree-planting programs, you’d need to incorporate into your speech the terms “business sustainability,” “positive impact,” “corporate social responsibility,” “giving back to the community,” “profit,” among other terms, if you want your audience to respond positively. You want to steer clear of terms that are not likely to elicit a response on their part like “wildlife,” “soil capture,” “afforestation,” among other terms.

3. Practice

Once you have your script, you need to practice how you’ll deliver your speech in front of your audience. I suggest that you don’t memorize your script. That would just make you sound like a robot when you speak before your audience. Just get the flow of the speech and learn the terms you incorporated into the script that are likely to elicit an emotional response from your audience.

During your practice sessions, you don’t just need to be mindful of the content flow and the use of terms. You need to determine which parts require that emotional emphasis that will tug at your audience’s emotions. I suggest you put yourself into your audience’s shoes and understand what concepts and values matter to them. Then inject those emotions–use emphasis, for example— when you’re mentioning them.

Don’t forget to use hand gestures and facial expressions to emphasize these important points. Your hand gestures are a critical part of your speech as noted in my previous article. They supplement your speech and are critical to the conveying of emotions. According to Science of the People, there are 20 hand gestures you can use for this.

During your practice sessions, you can speak in front of a friend who can give you feedback on the overall performance. If that’s not possible, you can always record yourself while making the speech so you can later watch the recording on your own and make adjustments where necessary.

For more information surrounding this topic, check out the article, "9 Killer Public Speaking Exercises You Can Do At Home

Why Is Emotion Important in Public Speaking: Final Analysis

Emotion is an important component of speeches. This is especially true if the speaker’s aim in making the speech is to rally the audience to a cause, get them to empathize with him or her, or overhaul their beliefs. Emotions can also help if the speaker aims to inform the audience about the values that are important to him or her.

However, it’s not enough for the speaker to inject emotions wherever he or she deems proper for the speech to be successful. For the speech to be effective, the speaker needs to, one, use the emotions in places in the speech that will elicit a response from the audience, and two, use the right emotion in the first place.

Central to public speaking using emotions then, is knowing the audience. You need to know the audience to determine the appropriate emotions to use and the terms to use as well. Also, you need to know what hand gestures to use to complement those emotions and your speech content, in general.

Finally, authenticity is very important. Although you need to plan the types of emotions to use and where to use them in your speech, it doesn’t mean your emotions shouldn’t be genuine. Authenticity is really important. If you want to make a great speech, you need to really feel what you’re saying. Remember, people nowadays can spot the fakers. So if you fake your emotions, your goal for using emotions in your speech to connect better with your audience in the first place will only backfire.

For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check the articles Online Resources for Public Speaking and Where Can I Learn Public Speaking. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.


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Posted in  Public Speaking Topics   on  February 9, 2022 by  Dan W ,   Why Is Emotion Important in Public Speaking And How To Use It? [The Best Answer]

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