“Public speaking is an art and every speaker is an artist“. Having said so, no art form can be mastered without proper efforts. Unlike our engineering examinations, where we prepare in the last minute and still manage to clear the exams, art forms need proper practice and efforts to achieve a step by step success. These are few P’s that might be essential to give a good speech. These are the points I have learnt from senior speakers and out of the little experience I have.
Speech scripting phase
- Passion – Develop passion towards the art of public speaking. As Oprah Winfrey said, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focussing on what excites you“. Let the art of speaking in front of an audience excite you. Feel elated each time you speak in front of an audience. Your passion will drive you to write great speeches.
- Purpose – Speech Purpose is a very important element in public speaking. A speech would have a general purpose and a specific purpose. At a high level, the general purpose can be to entertain, enlighten, inspire or persuade the audience. Specific purpose depends on the topic or subject you choose to speak upon.
- Preparation – Prepare a rough outline of what you are going to speak. You may have 100 speech topics running through your mind and you may be confused on which one to choose. Finalize on one topic and have a set of ideas which you can speak about in 5-7 minutes. Normally when I get a subject to speak, I take a piece of paper and have the ideas like a flow chart. Not because am a computer programmer, but because a flow chart helps me to keep the ideas ready so that I can start writing. For example, when I wrote my CC #3 speech about my friend, This is what I initially did.
- Pen down your ideas in the form of a proper speech. Choose the points that are of high importance and organize them so that you stick to time limits. Remove the points that are of less significance.A convenient idea would be to have roughly 100 words per minute. So if it is a 5-7 mins speech, which again has 30 seconds grace time, you can roughly have 750 words in it.
- Prioritize your ideas properly as speech organization and development is very important. There are umpteen ways in which the speech can be organized. It can be chronological, cause-effect etc. Make sure you have a striking opening and a bang on conclusion. Your opening has to be attention grabbing. Have an organized body, which keeps the audience hooked to your speech. Conclude in such a way that it leaves a lasting impression in the minds of audience. In DTM Saro’s words, “Last words are the lasting words“.
- Personalize your speech according to the target audience. At times we use few jargons and end up in excluding a set of audience. For example when a speaker says, “Life was tough when I was working in night shift. Everyday we used to have compilation issues and the deployment would fail. I had to fix them diligently”. In the above statement, words like compilation and deployment may suit only those who are from a Software engineering background. It is ok to use them in corporate clubs where all of them are from the same field. But when you address a mixed crowd, make sure to avoid these. Ensure that everyone in the hall is included and none of them feel excluded from your speech.
- Proofreading or script review is a very important phase. This is the phase where your speech script would attain a state of completeness. Send your script to your mentor who would review it and give his/her comments. Based on those comments, edit your script and create a final copy that would be delivered on stage. You can even deliver once in front of your mentor before going on stage so that you feel more confident. You would also learn stage usage and body language for the speech by doing in person rehearsals with your mentor. Make sure to send the script well in advance to your mentor, at least 10 days prior to the day of speech delivery. This gives sufficient time to mentors to review the script. This also gives you enough time to implement the changes and rehearse.
- Practice makes a man perfect is a well known adage to all of us. Nothing makes you a better speaker than constant practice. You can practice the speech in front of your mentor, family members, or even a mirror or camera. Make sure to time the speech when you practice at home. Be sure that you do not get time disqualified on the day of delivering it in your club. At times there are speakers who deliver a wonderful content, but they get disqualified by time. They could have made things better if they had attempted the speech at home, with a timing device in place.
- Pronunciation is a key challenge for most of us while speaking. Since we are not native speakers of the English, we end up in pronouncing the words with mother tongue influence. One technique that has really worked for me is “Words in the news” by BBC learning English. It gives you a passage from the current news. Ten words the in passage will be highlighted and their meaning would be given in the bottom segment. There is a listen button which enables you to listen to that passage as read by the BBC news reader. So every day, if you can spend 3 minutes on this, you can learn ten new words, with meaning, usage and pronunciation. Another technique that I learnt from my mentor is to read newspaper or an English book loudly for few minutes everyday. By doing this your tongue gets comfortable in pronouncing English.
Speech delivery phase
- Punctuality – You might be thinking, “What is public speaking to do with punctuality”. I would say that there is connection between them. Arrive early to the club meeting when you are delivering your speech. Or if it is a contest, be there at the venue well in advance. If you come late and see that the meeting has already started, your nervousness will increase. Your heart will start beating faster due to tension. It is very important to make sure that you are in your comfort zone when you are delivering a speech. So go early, say by 15-20 minutes, have casual talk with people around and relax yourself.
- Positivity – Positive attitude defines your performance on that day. It is necessary to look positive and sound positive. As Toastmaster Rajesh Natarajan told in one of his sessions, “Everyone has fear. It is inevitable. What is important is masking the fear and looking positive and confident on stage”. If you want to mask your fear, the only way is to be positive.
- Pleasant look – Look pleasant with appropriate dressing when you deliver a speech. A pleasant attire does not just mean wearing a suit and tie. The clothing that looks appropriate to the speech content is always welcome. If it is a professional talk, or a seminar, an educational session etc, a suit and a tie would be the perfect choice. Your dressing is the first thing that would catch audience’s eye even before you start your delivery. Make a careful choice in this aspect.
- Pitch, Pace, Pause and Projection – Once again, I learnt these 4 P’s from my mentor DTM Saro. These are the major elements of vocal variety. Pitch is nothing but the ups and downs that we bring in to add emotions. Pace is the rate at which we deliver the speech, or the speed of delivering. It should neither be fast, as this may lead to few words being unheard, nor be too slow. The pace has to be in accordance with the script. Pauses play a major role when we speak. The can be used for a lot of purposes. For example, you can pause before you break a suspense in your speech, or you can pause after you deliver a heavily emotional line (both happy and sad emotions) thereby giving the audience some time to absorb those emotions and react to them. Projection of your voice is based on the size and acoustics of the auditorium. The projection should be such that even the last seated person in the hall is able to hear you.
- Palpitation is your friendly enemy. You can neither avoid him completely, not let him take over you. It is natural to be nervous, but make sure that it doesn’t become obvious. At times when we get nervous on stage, we start clasping our hands, fiddling with our tie, holding our id card, looking up and down etc. Make sure not to do all these as this would portray your nervousness evidently.
- Performance – At the end of the day, what matters is your performance. Try and give the best shot. Despite the Sergeant’s instructions, there might be mobile phones ringing, people walking in and out. Do not get distracted by all these elements. Just focus on the delivery and make sure that it creates an impact. Deliver a speech to express yourself and not just to impress the audience.
- Power – The power of your speech should be such that it has to leave an imprint in the minds of the audience. The audience should be able to take away something from your speech. It may be a message or it may even be memories, ensure to deliver in such a way that it stays longer in the hearts of audience.
- Pride – Pride is one feeling that has to invade you after your delivery. You may or may not have done well. Whatever be the case, feel proud that you have taken one step forward in your career as a public speaker.
“Proper planning preparation & practice prevents poor performance”