August 30, 2020

Public Speaking Virtues & Vices: Passion

Virtues & Vices , Strictly Speaking , Public Speaking Books , The Buckley Experience , Public Speaking

"Character is the primary element that a speaker brings to the stage. Everything else can be learned," writes Reid Buckley. In his book "Strictly Speaking," he looks at the virtues and vices a speaker can project. We’re providing excerpts here in our online magazine.


"Any fool can rant and rave. Desirable, mature passion must be acquired."

– Reid Buckley

The speaker who is not passionately interested in what he is talking about is wasting everybody's time, including his own.

Passion is not all Sturm und Drang. It can be cool, it can be intellectual, it can be judicious, it can be moderate, and it can be modest.

But it must be generated...and the audience must be alerted to its existence.



Energy is required for passion and is closely associated with passion, but it isn't the same beast as passion. Sincerity is necessary to passion, but it is no synonym for passion.

The speaker who is passionately engaged unmistakably alerts the crowd about that as soon as he steps up to the stage. It's an air, a frisson; the discharge of electricity; the announcement and sensing of a powerful magnetic field, concentrated in the lectern, emanating from it. This is for real, folks.

Passion relates to personal magnetism, but it is not the same thing.

From the Stage

Passion partakes of ferocity—in belief, desire, determination. The listless, ambivalent stage personality might as well stay home. When the evening's topic is serious audiences want to know that the speaker is committed. If he isn't persuaded of the consequence of his words, why should they be? The strength of that commitment can be in itself persuasive.

Passion imbues the speaker with the concentration of energies that permits him to block out of his mind everything other than his mission, which is to convert the audience to his way of thinking…by establishing dominion over the souls of his audience.

"To sing opera, one needs two things: the voice and the passion - and above all, the passion."

– Andrea Bocelli

Passion energizes voice, facial expressions, gestures, and body language.

Passion—conviction in the truth rightness and importance of what one is saying—is the dynamo that can generate a rapt and enthusiastic response in the people one is trying to reach.

When disciplined. When controlled. When contained. When deployed with that indispensable French word mésure—in measured manner.

Passion is not to be confused with enthusiasm, a lesser emotion. Enthusiasm can be the hallmark of the unsophisticated and superficial temperament. It cheapens easily.

Unbridled passion, like excessive enthusiasm, is a horror, turning audiences off at once. Mature, subdued, dignified, sagacious passion is the goal.

Thus held in check by the speaker, his passion can be expressed in the steely glittering of an eye, in his detached attitude, in his diffident tone, in his mordant wit, in his belly laugh, in his loving-kindness…in the residue notwithstanding of his unshakable conviction.

Any fool can rant and rave. Fanatics are passionate. Desirable, mature passion must be acquired. Passion must be proofed in suffering, forged in wisdom. This is the emotional charge that the accomplished speaker must convey: the dominion of wisdom in his soul, thirsting for justice.

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