When God made us, he put talents in everyone alike. But then why is that only some people excel in sports, some in music, some in dance, and some in academics, some in art and some in oratory? Well, something to ponder about, isn’t it? I guess, the way of unearthing talents is different for each. And to some extent, destiny too plays a critical role on how each personality shapes into. But then public speaking is one of the many talents which is hidden in each but surfaces only in few. So coming to the crux of this post, I have a few tips on improvising oratory skills. Most of my tips are from my own experience and also from a good deal of observation around. But before, I share with my readers about the magic tips, I would first like to share, how the idea of writing about this topic got into my mind…..
Somewhere back in ’95, when I was in 6th grade, I was given my first chance in oratory. It was an elocution competition where young students had to speak on road safety, considering the fact that it was 31st August, Road Safety day. And my father had put my name for the competition. And he also prepared me well with the speech. All I had to do back then was to go and speak out what I had memorized by heart. And so, when we reached the venue, I looked around only to find many other contestants and surprisingly all of them elder to me. Some were fumbling through their notes and some were murmuring with their eyes closed. I could see a girl mouthing short prayers softly after revising each Para of her speech and there was this spectacled boy who was bubbling with so much of enthusiasm that his body language spoke louder than his tongue. A half an hour later, the competition commenced with the introduction of the jury and boy, I was surprised to hear my name being called out as the very first contestant! Later, I realized that the contestants had been queued according to their age and I happened to be the youngest and the first one too. The time limit was 3 minutes. I looked at my father and he gave a slight nod that meant 'all the best'. And then I started. At 2 and a half minutes there was a warning bell that there were 30 more seconds to go. And then the next one came 15 seconds before the time limit got over. Somehow, I managed to start well and end well, not knowing what the elocution thing was all about. To be frank, it appeared all mechanical to me. Whatever I did that day was mug up the speech, go on the stage and blurt it out! But then the only good thing of all I did was, that I was not scared of stage unlike the many I met that day. But at the same time, my speech had not kindled the slightest interest in any of the audience. If there were one thing, anything to be appreciated about what I spoke then it was the flow and the content of the speech (and for that, I owed those credits to my father). There was no hitch and there was no fumbling. My father told me frankly that I resembled more of a news reader. But I knew what he meant. And I myself knew, I was not up to the mark and that the audience had somewhere failed to understand what I said. Something was missing. And I realized more about the missing ingredients in my speech when I sat down to watch the other contestants in action. Yes, that experience was not only my first experience in public speaking but also my first lesson on how to speak. It was not just about the speech, but it was everything that came along with it, the content of the speech, the tone of the voice, the body language, the facial expressions, the eye movements and most important, the knack of making the audience understand what the speech is all about. Although, I got a consolation price for my speech, I figured out, that there was a lot, a real lot to be improved at my end. With years, such participations helped me get better and better with speaking on stage and that potential also helped me host events and give speeches in functions and events in school and college days. I may not be the best when it comes to public speaking, but I definitely have the experience to share some ready tips with my readers.
Here let me share a few tips for students who might be interested in public speaking/elocution/debate/extempore etc…..And yes, these tips I have gathered from my own experience and also a great deal of observation.
Choose the topic.
When a list of topics is given, do not select it or reject it on impulse. Take your time. Scour through the list and I would suggest, go through the topics as many times as possible. After this exercise, you may feel comfortable with one or two. The reason, why you must go through the topics carefully is, some topics may appear drab but when prepared may become very interesting and similarly, some may appeal to you at the first sight, but may not give that effect after speech preparation. And in case, you are participating in a debate, analyze the pros and cons of your topic thoroughly. Make sure which side you want to advocate for, before making your pick final. However, in a extempore, where topics are given on the spot, you need additional preparation before hand. As you will be given your topic a few minutes before the competition, you better be well versed with topics involving current affairs and general knowledge. If an abstract topic is given, you should rather feel lucky as it puts your creativity in action and is a check on how well you can speak on a random subject. For that, you must make language your friend, by striking a good relationship with the vocab part. Fetch the right content for your topic.
For debates and elocution, once you have selected the topic, the next stage is preparing the content. For that, first you need to search and gather the relevant content and assimilate it. During my school days, there was no Internet and even if it were there, I did not have access to it. So, I relied more on books, magazines, Manorama editions and viewpoints of elders. But the current generation is lucky enough to have an ever helping companion – Google which gives you loads and tonnes of information. So now that you have the content in a raw form, all you have to do is prepare the content as per your choice. Keep in mind, when there is too much of information, you might lose your focus and end up putting too much of information (some of which might turn out to be irrelevant) in your speech. So make sure to understand your pick well when gathering the content.Preparing the content for your topic.
The next item in to-do list is to group and prepare the content. Google offers you a lot of information. So do the books. But then, you need to prepare your speech according to the audience. For instance, if you are a student, your audience will like the content more simple and lucid. And when we talk about content, it must be informative, emphasizing, convincing and yet simple. If your content is highly informative from the statistical perspective and is delivered in a high vocab language, you sure will disappoint your audience. After all, what you speak has to be understood too. Isn’t it? So keep the content as simple and lucid as possible. For every speech you make, there will be three parts:
- Introduction: This is where you introduce your audience to the topic. And mind well, the welcoming part should be flawless. Introduction defines the way your speech will end as. So it is important that the beginning is always the best. One can include relevant quotes, a short story or a candid description of some events (relevant to the topic) to rouse the interest in the audience in order to keep them hooked to your speech.
- Core content: Coming to the middle part, core content forms the most crucial part of your speech. Rather it is the heart of your speech which will make your audience understand what exactly your speech is all about. The numbers, stats, facts, figures, pros/cons are always included in this core content.
- Conclusion: When the beginning is destined to be flawless, and your core content is all perfect, all will end well only when your conclusion takes the cake away. Now, when you conclude your speech, it should always spin the audience gaping for an answer. Make sure you do not make any heated/irrational/biased/unsolicited statements. Conclusion is what you are merely suggesting to your audience. Nothing more, Nothing less. Even if it is a debate, do not let your personal opinions/emotions conflict with the motive of your speech. As in debates, you are supposed to take sides, just do it in a way, that the verdict is left to the audience/jury. You may also like to add some punch lines/quotes and funny sayings as you end your speech.
Please remember: Elocution, debates and any speech to be delivered in public always has a time limit. So it is important to filter your content and deliver more information in the given duration of time in the right language.Edit and Proof read your speech.
Now, before any exam we all revise our lessons Don’t we? Why? So that if there are any mistakes, any flaws in our preparation, we utilize the revision time window to rectify them. Right? Similarly, when you prepare your speech, go through your content again and again at least 10 times before you make it final. Your speech must be devoid of grammatical and contextual errors. Take care of the commas, semicolon, full stops and double quotes. Punctuations are crucial and a wrong usage can damage your speech. Hence, before moving on to the presentation part, make sure your speech is flawless content wise and context wise.
So, after a complete and a final proof read, the next step is, how it must be delivered.Practice to Perfection.
Practice makes a man perfect. And it holds true for everything, including public speaking. So, before delivering a public speech, it is important that you practice your speech. And let me point out why. When you take over a stage, not only does the stage belong to you for that particular time limit, but so does the jury and the audience. Each act of yours: your expressions, your body language, your tone, your eyeball movements and your gait, everything will add up to your speech and to deliver perfect, you need to practice, practice hard. And I shall tell you why. Even if your content is impeccable but your presentation skills are poor, the end result will be a total washout. After all, the way you deliver the speech decides how the audience will react. For elocution and debates, understand your content, the motive of your speech and the way you want the audience to interpret your speech. Take an hour from your day’s schedule and stand in front of a mirror. Try out all the styles you know and there definitely will be one which makes you feel not only comfortable but also makes you feel yourself real, sans pretense. And one more thing, you must know your speech by heart, by which I don’t exactly mean, ‘you must cram!’. If you understand the context of your speech, you already have it imprinted in your mind!Remember before your final deliverance.
Now that your speech is ready to be delivered, remember one important tip: Don’t ever over express. Over doing anything in a presentation can kill the charm. Be yourself. Be natural and you will see the results for yourself. Keep your voice normal. Emphasize only where the punch is needed. High decibel levels in debates and public speaking can be annoying, considering the fact that you will be given a mic. So keep in mind that your speech must not only be heard but also comprehended. And, that is the purpose, right? And the most important thing to do before speech, take out 15 minutes for yourself and only for yourself. Stop practicing. Only take deep breaths. Breathe slowly. It is a mild exercise that will help in calming down your mind and soothing your nerves. Drink a glass of water and make a small prayer (if you are a believer). And then, you are sure to reap the benefits of your hard work.
Public speaking aint everyone’s cup of tea. Agreed! But it does play a big role in everyone’s life at some time or the other, right from school days, then during college days and then even in work life. After all, what is public speaking. Facing a crowd you do not know much and trying to place a point, a view, an opinion. And for people who are so fearful of stage, I only got to say, ‘People! You must belong to the bravest of the brave to walk on a stage and face a crowd that is not entirely within your control and there, make a point’
. And if at all, by any chance you seem to forget in the middle of your speech, no worries! Complete it! It is not the end of the world yet. After all, it is not about winning or losing. It is about the satisfaction one gets at the end of the day, after making the speech. A contentment that the audience has understood, which sure is acknowledged by a round of applause. Try these tips out and am sure, you will taste success. And that.....is a scout’s honor!