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Public Speech

Public speaking is an explicit, specific manifestation of oral communication skills. It involves a structured,
verbal presentation of ideas to an audience, in a formal or informal setup. It has an aspect of stylization to it.
Distinguished from academic writing in that the awareness of a listening and responsive audience is acute in
speech making. There is a far greater sense of ‘dramatizing’ yourself in this form. There is no hiding behind
the slight comfort of a pen, paper, and relative anonymity. It can be individually delivered, or can be
presented as part of a larger group.

How to Approach a ‘Speech’:

 Planning: A speech is different from extempore, in that some serious planning goes into preparing a
speech. One cannot just ramble on in front of the audience. The right amount of planning lends
confidence, but still prevents the speech from sounding rehearsed. If the speaker relies too much on
what has been practiced, he/she may become rigid and inflexible to incorporating spur of the
moment epiphanies. An exemplary speech would toe that sweet line between planning and
spontaneity.

 Objective: We have spoken extensively about how communication is always goal oriented.
Speeches, being a facet of communication, are similarly undertaken with a specific objective.
‘Objective’ can be unpacked in the following ways:
a) Setup: This involves taking note of the nature of the event under which you are giving a
speech. Is it formal? Informal? Organizational? Keeping this in mind will allow the speaker
to measure the tone of his address. Eg. An informal speech would involve a more casual body
language, may also take recourse to some jokes, be lighter in tone, etc.
b) Nature of the speech: If you are speaking under a larger event (like a Conclave), then you
must make sure that your address adheres to the broader themes of the summit. Making
periodic allusions to the same will also keep the nature of the speech in the audience’s mind.
c) Structure: Communication needs to be systematic to be most effective. Similarly, a speech
needs to be completely clear as to its content, and must properly elucidate each point in a
logical manner. Giving a title to your work allows you to keep the pertinent issues in sight
and avoid lengthy/unnecessary digressions.
d) Time: Adhere strictly to the given time limit. Plan your speech to end roughly five minutes
before the accepted time, so that you, as well as the audience get a short breather before the
Q&A begins. It also makes you seem efficient. If there is no official time limit, set a
respectable one for yourself. Being excessively verbose can test even the most patient of
audiences and lends a general aura of disinterestedness to an otherwise lively speech.

 Logistics: Before beginning your address, always conduct a run-through so as to familiarize yourself
with the logistical setup of the venue. Test the mics, check the projectors, walk over the stage (if
there is one), so that the possibility of technical issues tripping you up is minimized. Once you are
beyond the fear of an unfamiliar place, you can brainstorm as to how the setup can be used to your
maximum advantage. Eg. How much area should you cover while speaking so as to appear
nonchalant and in control?

 Audience: A good speaker will always have his/her hand on the pulse of the audience. Know your
target audience. What is the composition of the crowd whom you are addressing? This will help you
customize your speech to appeal to the greatest possible strata of listeners.

Pointers for Effective Delivery:

 Practice makes perfect: Even if you have authored your own speech, it is imperative that you read
it multiple times in order to familiarize yourself with the key points that your speech needs to chart.
It is only when you are reasonably appraised of the content, can you move on to honing ancillary
features like body language and paralanguage.
 Body Language: Body language is an indispensable supplement to public delivery. Gestures,
mannerisms, dressing sense, amalgamate with what you are saying to create a total picture of your
personality to the audience. Similarly, the audience’s body language speaks volumes about the
speech’s reception. Restlessness is easy to pick up as the audience becomes shifty. So you needn’t
just be confident in your speech, but also in the way you establish your self onstage.
 Articulation: Be loud, clear, precise, but not curt, dwell extra on important points, and speed
through the common or secondary aspects. Periodically restate your main points so that the audience
does not lose track of your argument. Do not use jargon as the audience might feel you are trying to
act too smart, or they might even lose interest in what you are saying.
 Paralanguage Features: Complexity, tone, pitch, are known as paralanguage features. They possess
the ability of elevating ordinary exposition to the realm of the extraordinary. You should audible, yet
not screechy. Speak slowly, and enunciate properly. Modulate your tone so that your speech does not
sound like one long paragraph. Combine forceful speaking with pregnant pauses. They lend a certain
gravitas to your work.
 Aids: Have your short note cards ready in case you need to refer to an important point. However, do
not keep reading from a paper because that makes any modulation impossible, and is an incredibly
soporific practice. Combine reading with spontaneous exposition. Also, choose the correct audio-
visual aids for your address. Appropriately chosen ones will enhance and supplement the content of
your speech, while a barrage of the same will detract from the structure of a proper delivery.
 Q and A Session: Encourage the audience to ask questions. The quality of the Q&A session is a
good indicator as to the success of your speech. It is an important interactive bridge in the
communication process, which allows the speaker to gauge the impact of his/her words.
 Diversify: Combine a variety of techniques to keep your audience interested. Use the correct
combination of audio-visual aids, bring in humor and anecdotal nuggets to personalize the speech,
become interactive and make the audience feel like a constructive part of the communication binary.
 Thorough research: Don’t present yourself with half-baked knowledge because it is easy to figure
out when a presenter is not completely sure of the facts they are presenting, or the point that they are
making. The Q&A becomes a litmus test for such speakers. Thorough research on the chosen topic
lends an unshakeable confidence that has no substitute.

Preparing a Presentation – Do’s and Don’ts

 Practice
 Don’t overuse slides and fonts
 Limit the amount of information that you have to impart
 Use slides to drive home facts and help the audience grasp the major points
 Test everything beforehand to avoid malfunctions
 The first fifteen minutes are crucial for creating a horizon of expectation in the audience. Smart
introductions go a long way in keeping attention. Similarly, a memorable conclusion will ensure that
people will walk out with a favorable take on what you said.

How to Handle Q&As:

a) Take one question per person to avoid someone monopolizing the debate.
b) Move on from questioners that try and derail the conversation – one strategy could be to get the
audience to submit questions beforehand.
c) Answer questions pointedly, bring in aspects of your talk that would supplement the question.

Some General Rules:


a) Smile at the audience, and make occasional eye contact so that your delivery becomes more forceful.
b) Keep all your tools handy.
c) Don’t cower behind the safety of the podium.
d) Fact check, grammatical check of your slides.
e) Try and innovate on the accepted methods of delivery.

The 3 Cs of Presentation:

Content - Good
Credibility – Don’t state random things you cannot back up.
Customize – Keep the setup and audience in mind so that you don’t end up giving a generic speech
that detaches the audience.