The whole of the internet, it seems is currently going Game of Thrones crazy – and who am I to disappoint? So here is a blog with a Westerosi theme – and no spoilers for the finale! It’s also a post which, I hope, will help you think of speaking a little differently.
In the world of Game of Thrones, Jon Snow is a character with unique claims on the loyalty of others. They respond to him as they do to no other leader: with respect, and as someone who has earned his authority. In this way, the show’s catchphrase – “You know nothing, Jon Snow” – couldn’t be further from the truth.
Jon is in reality a great leader. Other characters vying for position look on him with jealousy – because they can’t repeat his trick. The Baratheon brothers are a great case study in failure, for example: one is capable but unlovable, the other charismatic but not as competent. Jon has the whole package, and people see that.
In speaking, inspiring confidence also comes from authenticity and awareness together. Jon Snow attracts followers because they trust his lack of artifice, and because he is clearly capable. When you are behind a lectern, you want to work the same alchemy.
Pretending to be something you’re not – like Jon’s adoptive brother Theon Greyjoy, who in trying to be a great conqueror destroyed himself – will lead to disaster in speaking, because your audience will ultimately find you out.
Equally, however, even those who are approachable onstage must also be a master of their material. If you cannot inspire confidence in your abilities and knowledge, you’ll fail to convince anyone – like Westeros’s ill-fated King Tommen.
The best speakers express themselves with conviction: in other words, they are clear about both who they are and their expertise. It’s this fusion of charisma and competence that really wins an audience over. They will feel that they can trust you as a person – but also that they can trust in your ideas.
Most speeches have a purpose. You may be advocating for a particular product or idea, trying to persuade an audience to think differently, or simply proposing a vote of thanks.
In all those cases, you’ll need to convince the audience they should listen to you. That’s precisely the point at which authenticity and capability come in. Like the erstwhile King in the North, you need to prove to your audience that you’re worth following.
Far from knowing nothing, speakers who take inspiration from Jon Snow will prove they in fact know a great deal – about audiences and how to move them!