Second kiss: what is rhetoric for job hunting


Rhetoric: a "strategic" definition

Matt McGarrity, professor of Public Speaking at the Washington University, defines rhetoric as the “art of identifying communication needs and strategically responding to them”. Here, the adverb “strategically” means “using the most appropriate tools”.

In tune with this very concise and operational definition, we have to identify these needs by asking the following questions: What is the communication goal? Why am I communicating? Who is my audience? What are their needs?

A simple concept that we studied thoroughly sometimes in the past…but tend to forget!

This is why, in most international conferences attended by distinguished guests coming from all over the world, Italian speakers rarely empathise with their audience driven by a genuine desire to be understood and convey some content that can really be of interest. They often focus on themselves rather than on the listeners and their words become self-centred and meaningless. They do not reach out to the audience, whose interest fades as a consequence. If you are speaking in a conference that mainly attended by Colombians what is the point of dwelling on local political squabbles? Or can we assume that they know who Bruno Vespa is or should we give some brief explanations, or avoid to mention him altogether and think about someone of international renown? Raffaella Carrà, for instance …😉

The concept of communication needs implies that speakers are supposed to be of service to their audience, in the noblest and less mercantile sense of the term. A speaker’s aim should be responding to these needs: exchange of information, education/training/updating, consultancy, motivation, advertising, persuasion. The content can either be of general interest or highly specialised. Even if your approach should adjust to all variables in a flexible and professional manner, some general guidelines can be very useful, especially when you speak English as a foreign language.

The first advice

The first advice is that you are expected to address to your interlocutors, all of them, and not just to some or, even worse, to yourself.

  • No doubt that the situation is stressful, you might be speaking from a podium to hundreds of people who are there just for you, who have high expectations and have invested their time and money to be there.
  • Alternatively, you may be going through a tough and painstaking hiring process in competition with other highly competent candidates for a position you would love to obtain.
  • Or, even more nerve-racking, you have a slot of 2 minutes to present your project or your start-up during an elevator pitch…a short time, like an elevator rise, but not as boring.

Whatever the situation I recommend that you focus on your listener, stay in the present, silence your inner critic, try to be yourself and let go.

The second advice

Preparation is key: today nobody turns up to a business meeting without having collected all relevant information, or to a conference without having meticulously drafted and rehearsed their slides and lines. If you are required to deliver your speech in English, you absolutely have to adapt to the rhetorical canons that are in use in that language and in the Anglo-Saxon culture, which will be further illustrated in the next posts.

The third advice

Two pitfalls should be avoided: perfectionism and unnaturality.

The former undermines your development whereas the latter makes you seem artificial, or even fake.

Nobody enjoys listening to a speech that is read or recited, or a presentation that sounds like a piece of theatre. In both cases there is no soul, no spontaneity: your non-verbal cues are not aligned with what you are saying, and the audience will perceive the mismatch, at least subconsciously, and be badly impressed.

I know that being fluent in a foreign language is not easy, even if you have a good level. People often try to bridge the gap by attending general language courses (vocabulary, grammar, syntax) that are essential, but not specific to their communicative challenge.

Sometimes, the challenge itself is not well defined: you might believe that you need to improve your pronunciation while your main problem is intonation, or speech structure.

The fourth advice

Defining your gaps is the first step towards bridging them in a targeted and timely manner. A few communication coaching sessions in English can solve issues you are not even fully aware of, and enable you to express yourself at best through your personal and unique style in a more concise and straightforward way.

This concept is summarised in the title of this post. Second Kiss is a pun that should not be taken literally (certainly not during social distancing, when kisses are strictly prohibited). It’s my second post on the concept summed up in the acronym KISS*, i.e. KEEP IT SHORT AND SIMPLE. A safe compass to effective communication, especially in English.

One more kiss to come soon…

Have you missed my First Kiss? No problem…it is still online. Click here.

* “KISS” also stands for Keep it Simple, Stupid…which does not apply here given the high level of our readers.

About the author
Cristina Moretti
Cristina Moretti owns a peculiar combination of two complementary skills. For over 25 years she has been working as a conference interpreter in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese for top institutions (EU, UNO) and major companies and multinational organisations. Since 2006 she has been offering my services as a trainer and ICF Professional Certified Coach specialised in Communication Coaching, especially for English. Her career allowed her to work in international settings and live abroad, in particular in Belgium, France, United Kingdom and Brazil.

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