How to never run out of things to say – Inside the minds of great speakers
I was recently watching an episode of the Joe Rogan experience with Alex Jones. You can find a snippet of it here:
Usually, Joe’s podcasts run for about 1:30 to 2:30 hours. The style of the show is more or less unstructured and freestyle, so the host and the guests are allowed to ramble and rant without any serious time constraints. This time, however, the norm was seriously violated. The episode lasted for 3 hours and 43 minutes and, from what I saw, they could keep talking for hours.
Joe Rogan and Alex Jones are considered moguls in the podcasting industry. Their shows number millions of listeners and have influenced thinkers across various domains and disciplines.
To the untrained eye, their success is probably a matter of talent and circumstance. An experienced strategist, though, can see way beyond that. Podcasting is an industry that requires extreme planning and the ability to create a level of unprecedented engagement.
This engagement cannot be honed without a prowess towards effective and stimulating discussions. One needs to be ready to delve into a topic, elaborate, approach it from many angles, and eventually create a robust and coherent narrative. This isn’t something simple. This ability requires a specific strategy and an unconventional approach towards the art of speaking.
Hence, the innocuous abnormality noticed in this particular podcast, naturally, raised some challenging questions:
How do they do it? How is it possible that some people are able to talk for hours? How is it possible to jump from one topic to the next and never run out of things to say? And most importantly, how can one make this attribute appealing and eventually magnetic?
How to never run out of things to say
Try and think of your favorite speakers. Try and focus on the things they say and do that allow you to feel drawn to them. They are usually an amalgamation of entertainment, education, and energy. I like to call these three elements the 3 Es of effective speaking.
Normally, a great speaker employs the 3 Es to accomplish one fundamental goal – to capture your attention. Once he does that, he moves to the next step, which is maintenance.
Maintaining your attention can only be achieved via the art of talking forever, for talking forever constitutes a form of hypnosis.
The main tenet of hypnosis suggests that during that state, a person is said to have heightened focus and concentration. A hypnotist’s main goal is to help you concentrate on a specific thought or memory while blocking out sources of distraction. While hypnotized, you will be able to demonstrate an increased response to suggestions, thus becoming more open to the hypnotist’s views and proposals.
Talking forever has a hypnotic element entrenched to it and that makes it an extraordinary tool. When you manage to be captivated by an influential speaker, you allow yourself to surrender to their narrative and, eventually, he becomes a person of stature and influence.
Ergo, I consider the art of talking forever an essential skill to understand and, if it caters to your personal interest, cultivate.
The 6 pillars
After extensive scrutiny of famous speakers, I managed to collect a set of parameters that, if used collectively, can form the substratum of the art of talking forever.
1. Knowledge and Frame control
You can’t really talk forever without possessing a relatively adequate amount of knowledge of a topic you are discussing. For instance, I can talk for hours about topics that interest me like politics, influence, relationships, business, and whatever I cover in this blog, but if someone raises a topic I am not familiar with, I will stay silent.
Knowledge helps you access the necessary memories that are stored as groups of neurons in your brain and are primed to fire together in the same pattern that created the original knowledge experience . If you haven’t encountered that experience before, your brain will inevitably revert to a silent state because of lack of preexisting information and required pathways.
A great speaker is capable of shifting the dialogue towards charted waters. This allows him or her to elaborate extensively and showcase increased levels of competence during a conversation or debate.
A topic shift should also work in tandem with a frame establishment. All influential speakers are characterized by a strong frame and a propensity towards maintaining their frame by all accounts.
You can see how this plays out masterfully in the Joe Rogan and Alex Jones episode. Joe invited, for unknown reasons, one of his friends, Eddie Bravo, to partake in the discussion. My interpretation of this is twofold:
- To release from himself the responsibility of having to deal with a guy like Alex Jones for the whole duration of the podcast.
- To kind of intimidate Alex Jones and somehow try to tame his wild persona.
For Alex Jones, though, this is his bread and butter. He knows his frame perfectly and has an extraordinary ability to control the conversation by avoiding provocations and focusing on things he knows well.
Additionally, Alex knew that the star of the show is Joe and not Eddie, so he focused on marginalizing Eddie in order to allow himself and Joe to become the epicenter of the set.
I am not really endorsing this attitude, but it is interesting to notice regardless.
2. Mind mapping/Elaboration
If you ever endeavored to read philosophical essays or any sort of treatise, you have most probably noticed that the philosopher tends to overanalyze a topic. Oftentimes, I feel that they go around in circles just to make us feel intimidated by their extraordinary cognition.
However, that is a pattern observed among smart and prolific thinkers. They are inclined to demonstrate a systems-thinking approach to a topic in order to cover all its relevant parameters.
As a result, they end up elaborating on a topic without even the slightest indication of internal inertia. That extraordinary ability can be viewed graphically in the form of a mind map :
Mind mapping has been for ages a creative tool for individuals and companies in order to visually organize information. In essence, a mind map can help with the connection of ideas. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.
This symbiotic relationship allows the speaker to expand on different subjects without the fear of running out of things to say.
A mind map is also an extraordinary tool because it can help you hone your creativity and bring more structure to your thinking patterns. It can essentially reinforce the ability of your brain to form connections and even create mental models. 1
Tip: Create a mindmap of a topic you like, print it out and post it on your wall. That way, you will familiarize yourself with the topic.
3. Ask questions and expand on topics
When the other person discusses a topic that is not relevant to your reality, use that to extrapolate what they imply from their perspectives.
Talking can be viewed as an exercise for symbiosis. There are unlimited cases of people who, when faced with a lack of knowledge, prefer to react instead of interact.
That behavior clearly demonstrates a lack of social and emotional intelligence and makes the discourse painful for all sides involved in it.
The art of talking forever reaches its zenith when the parties see themselves as dancing partners. Their harmonious exchange of comments, questions, and empathy, leads to the formation of a unified ensemble that satisfies both the “dancers” and the audience.
What sets the stage for such a show is, to a great extent, the ability of the parties to ask the right questions. Precise, relevant and interesting questions can motivate, inspire and empower a person to expatiate on different topics.
4. Talk with yourself
For those who seek more heterodox approaches to challenging endeavors, this is a tactic I have been practicing for some time now.
Whenever I am alone, I tend to articulate my thoughts verbally in order to familiarize myself with the challenges of live speaking.
The main problem with conversation is that it takes place in real-time, and it is quite difficult to predict and control what you are going to say. Therefore, preparation can prove extremely beneficial.
Since I am a huge proponent of structure, I will suggest an organized approach to this:
Every day, for 5 to 10 minutes, stand in front of the mirror, pick a topic that interests you and elaborate. While you do this, try and be a conscious observer of your articulations. Don’t be judgmental. Rather try to evaluate objectively your views and distinguish whether or not they make sense and how you can improve them with critical thinking.
Listening to great thinkers can help a lot and it can also help you improve your vocabulary and overall eloquence. Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson are perfect embodiments of an effective speaking ability. Their debate, although it left me questioning their sanity at times, is a great source of eloquent individual expression.
Tip: If you feel that you are Ehm-ing and Ahm-ing a lot, that’s ok. You will get rid of them when you feel more confident with your speaking skills. Also, try and reduce the extensive use of the words: “like” and “you know.”
Great speakers are usually incredibly expressive and make use of nonverbal language to support their positions. This happens mainly for two reasons:
- Expressiveness, and especially the use of hand gestures, can act as a form of psychological impetus. Oftentimes the body leads and the mind follows, so using hand gestures can help you build up momentum.
- Expressiveness empowers your points. Being expressive is a form of acting and, in the eyes of a listener, can make the speaker more interesting.
Expressiveness is also related to the hypnosis argument expressed before. Look at how expressive Apollo Robins is and how effectively he makes use of his hand to maintain the attention of his “victim”:
As he says in the end:
Attention is a powerful thing. If you could control somebody’s attention, what would you do with it?
Life, believe it or not, is improvised. All these little details that comprise our existential angst are also tools that can help to make our lives more interesting.
The same is true of conversations. When talking to another person, look both inside and around you. Listen to the cues your environment is giving you and start using them to have meaningful discussions without feeling judged or afraid.
Allow yourself to learn, allow yourself to fail and allow yourself to play. Hanging onto your fragile ego and the limiting beliefs that your, most probably clueless, environment is dictating is unproductive, to say the least.
Learn to talk without thinking whether what you have to say is good enough and you will eventually realize that the art of eloquent speaking can be mastered just like any other.
Side note: This is an excerpt from my book “Speak Like a Leader” where I discuss improvisation thoroughly.
This article wasn’t just an attempt to distinguish and present the fundamental attributes that differentiate eclectic speakers. It was also a need to manifest my mental kinship with them. For, speaking isn’t just a way to showcase one’s value but it is also a form of inner expression.
Because every single one of us has the need to express him or herself and speaking is the most intimate form of expression.
Don’t suppress it.
If you enjoyed this post, you will definitely enjoy “30 challenges – 30 days – zero excuses.” All challenges suggested in this book are picked strategically in order to help you become more social and improve your speaking skills.
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Featured Image: The Peacemakers, 1868, George P.A. Healy (Wiki commons license)
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