As a speaker, one of the most important qualities you can hold is to be seen as credible, or to be considered an expert in your field.
However, when starting out, many speakers will suffer from the ‘Curse of Cassandra’, which means that they feel they know the truth, but others do not believe them.
Cassanda was a greek mythological figure who worked in Troy in the Temple of Apollo. Her beauty was compared to that of Aphrodite, the most beautiful of all the Goddesses.
Apollo wanted to woo Cassandra and offered her the gift of prophecy if she would exchange a kiss with him.
Apollo gave the gift first, however, and as Apollo leaned in for the kiss, Cassandra saw the future. She saw Apollo leading the Greeks to invade and destroy her home of Troy.
Seeing this, Cassandra spat in Apollo’s face. So, in a rage, Apollo added a curse on top of his gift.
Now, whenever Cassandra saw the future she could not tell her prophecies convincingly. No matter what she said, nobody would believe her.
Later this led to the invasion of Troy.
Even after Cassandra had prophesied the demise of the city on countless occasions and warned the Trojans to prepare, nobody believed what she said.
When delivering an address or prepared talk, many speakers can feel frustrated that they aren’t articulating what they want to say in the correct way.
This may be due to their own insecurities about their status as a speaker, or self doubt about the validity and detail of their research.
Due to their self-criticism a few things can result.
- A person may decide not to speak at all about their chosen subject in meetings, or from the platform
- They may tailor their message to soften the blow, even though they may know there is much more to it
- Or they will tell their truth, but their body language and sub-communication will indicate they are telling falsehoods.
All of these outcomes are undesirable for a speaker who wishes to win over an audience.
When a speaker takes to the stage, the platform, speaks on video, or even holds attention in a business meeting they need to be congruent. Their words, thoughts, and body language need to match.
So, how do you avoid the curse of Cassandra?
Cassandra gained the gift of prophecy due to her bargain with Apollo the god of the arts. In a modern sense we can look at this bargain as the dedication to research and our craft.
If we do not practice our speech, or we fail to dedicate significant amounts of time to researching our topic, we can feel like we do not know enough to convince our audience.
If you want to be considered a credible speaker, research well grounded peer reviewed journals, cite sources, and use case studies of your own work that show how you are an expert in your field.
When I see a speaker, or even a writer who chooses to use the words or examples of other people without citing them correctly, it kills their credibility instantly.
While some things, like jokes, or some old stories, or even myths like Cassandra can be used without citation for inspirational speeches, we must be careful when using scientific research or the intellectual property of other people.
Make your commitment to Apollo and dedicate yourself to your art, but keep to your end of the bargain and do the work necessary so that you do not suffer the Curse of Cassandra.