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Public Speaking Tips: The Power of Visualization

Updated on August 4, 2017

Tusitala Tom - the storyteller telling a tale

Tom telling a story.
Tom telling a story.

Public Speaking Tips - Use Visual Words - Words that put pictures in the mind

I cannot emphasize too strongly the power of visualization when it comes to presenting to an audience. We might think in words when our minds are rambling on in verbal thought, but it is the pictures in our minds which most influence us. Imagination rules. Wasn’t it the recognized genius, Albert Einstein who said that “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge?” How right he is; knowledge follows imagination; fleshes out what is first thought of in picture form.

Pictures in our minds can arouse powerful emotions

A picture imagined in our minds can arouse the most powerful emotions: abject fear for example, or profound gratitude and love. The shark’s fin you imagined you saw as you swam across the harbour; the infant’s smile you imagine you’ll see when you get home from work. As I said, Imagination Rules.

So how do we develop our ability to visualize? How do we get better at it?

Daydreaming and reading visually stimulating material

We do it not by watching television or movies. Here the visualization is done for us. We’re just passive viewers. We grow lazy and our imagination wanes. All that is created here is the reactions to the scenario based on previous mental conditioning. The ways to do it are by daydreaming and reading. Daydreaming is making up imaginary stories in our minds-eye. Reading and automatically visualizing the scenes and characters in a work of fiction is the same. Whether we realize it or not, we are seeing pictures and the pictures are remembered not the words. The words spring from the pictures.

At the Old Admiral Benbow

Think of these famous opening lines from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. “I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-barrow; a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man; his tarry pigtail falling over the shoulders of his soiled black coat; his hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails; and the sabre cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white.”

What description! How can you not fail to see the old buccaneer. It is the man in the scene you see. And along with it comes all the attendant emotions pertaining to such a character. Here is an adventure story. This man has a past!

Imagination is not passive: we create

Of course, you probably won’t see “Billy Bones” as clearly in your mind as you would someone playing that part in a film. But you will see an image, even if that image is deep down, almost at a subconscious level. It will be registered.

So, to repeat. How do we develop our ability to visualize? One way is to write scenes. Yes, write them out. This will draw out of your mind the appropriate ‘visual words,’ and by doing so will increase your ready access to those visual words. This is certainly not passive work. You’ll be being creative. It might not be easy at first. But it will become easier, so get to it.

If you want to develop visualization skills, avoid speed reading

You won’t gain much by way of visualization practice by reading non-fiction. I generalize here, of course. You will get it from reading good short stories, novels, adventure yarns. Oh, and don’t speed read. My advice as a writer and speaker is never do that! You’re after savouring the words which arouse the pictures. You want the pictures and words to blend into one another so that you can pick up the words, add them to your own working vocabulary, and be able to present those types of words when you’re addressing an audience.

I hope you enjoyed this short Hub: Public Speaking Tips: The Power of Visualization.

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