Effective speech 101

The first step is to overcome the fear of public speaking. Effective speaking is not an inbuilt talent. You can develop it through correct practices just as we learn other things in life.

You can do this through:

  1. Deep breathing: Before and after your speech
  2. Shifting your focus from how you look and feel to the message you want to share with your audience. Do not imitate others, just be yourself.
  3. Visualizing: Take 10-15 minutes a day to relax, close your eyes and visualize the room you are speaking in, the audience and yourself confidently delivering your speech, smiling and moving across the stage.
  4. Focus on facts, not fears: Instead of focusing on your irrational fears- mind going blank or audience getting bored- focus on the thoughts like ‘I have the sketch, I know the bullet points or I am knowledgeable on this topic.’ Rehearse it with your friends or family.
  5. Focus on speech clarity: Organize the speech around two or more important points rather than including all the information from everywhere.
  6. Never memorize it word to word. Just remember the facts and major points and you will come around. Make brief notes of interesting things or which you don’t want to miss.
  7. Be excited about your subject, include experiences and provide examples. They do wonders!

After overcoming the fear of speaking, begin with all the important points for effective speaking.

  1. Story telling

Audience can forget data and statistics, but they will never forget a delightful story. Use stories from real-life events, something funny to share from your past incidences or challenges, struggle and success stories, etc.

Your stories should be:

  • Relevant to the subject
  • Short and simple
  • At proper intervals
  • Relatable

        You should:

  • Express emotions through body language.
  • Use adjectives and verbs to make the stories more interesting.

You should not:

  • Use more than two stories on the same topic.
  • Fill it with too many minute details or characters which distract the audience from the primary concern.
  • Not use uncommon jargons.

2. Body language: It is our way of communicating through our body movements and gestures to express our emotions, expressions, and actions. We should also read the body language of our audience.

For a positive body language:

  • Posture: Feel comfortable and stay upright. No slouching shoulders or bent posture. Do not lean or grip the lectern. If you are sitting, do not lean, bent or move your legs very much.
  • Body placement: Move as you speak. Use the space, be with the audience and not behind the lectern or just positioned in one place. This cannot apply if you are sitting in a studio where you need to be seated.
  • Arms: Do not use hand gestures which reveal anxiety. Example: Clutching your hands, fiddling with your clothing, cracking fingers, etc.
  • Facial expressions: Smile at your listeners as you talk. It is very effective when you gain their admiration.

3. Tone of voice: The study related to the vocal part of the non- verbal communication is called paralinguistic. And paralanguage refers to the non- verbal elements of communication. These are:

Speech Pace: It is the speed at which we speak. Practice for 150 words per minute. It is the ideal limit. Steady your breathing, focus on enunciation, reflect about punctuation in your speech.

Speech Pitch: It is the placement of your voice on a musical scale from high to low. Usually men have lower pitch than woman. Varying your voice pitch differentiates different emotions and points. It is the easiest way to avoid monotony, add excitement, make certain words and ideas stand out, appear relaxed and confident to the listeners. Identify the exact words and phrases that you want to emphasize. Example: Use higher pitch for excitement and lower pitch for seriousness or to add weight to the message.

Speech Volume: It is the loudness of your voice. It depends on the space of speaking and the size of the audience. It should not look as if you are shouting when you are not. There should not be a difficulty in listening to you. Reach everyone in the distance too. You can change your loudness for creating dramatic effects or expressing powerful emotions.

4. Pauses: Pauses are much needed. There is no need to fill silence with umm, ahm, like, you know or and. There are 3 types of to use in different ways:

  • Brief pause: Last for half a second to 2 seconds. Use it for separating a thought, emphasizing last words, or building anticipation for what is coming.
  • Long pause: Can last anywhere from 3 seconds to a couple of minutes. Used for creating tension.
  • Spontaneity pause: Speakers are to use it when they are searching for the right word or pretending to reflect on something.You can also plan and plot these pauses. They ultimately make your the speech look more real, polished and less rehearsed.

5. Visual aids: These include flip charts, projectors, slide shows, handouts, and certain props.

  • Adding a visual dimension can make a speech look more vivid, graphic, and professional looking.
  • Multiplies understanding
  • Helps to maintain attention
  • Adds humour or creates excitement
  • Organizes complex information

Encourages gesture and movement to connect more with your audience. With good practice and knowledge of your subject, you can easily become an effective speaker.