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Illustration by Ahmed Amin
Illustration by Ahmed Amin

The art of public speaking can do wonders for you as a student or a professional. Speaking the right words, with the appropriate facial expressions at the right time not only adds value to your personality, in the long run it builds your character too. For students, public speaking skills help when making class presentations or giving speeches in declamation contests.

For professionals, public speaking can herald a robust career growth as verbal and written interaction and correspondence builds and nurtures professional relationships. Professionals have to speak up when delivering a presentation to their boss or client, and when speaking on behalf of their company at a conference or seminar.

The personality building traits you learn in school, college and university remain with you forever. This article looks at some key tips and strategies you can use to become a good public speaker.

and correspondence builds and nurtures professional relationships. Professionals have to speak up when delivering a presentation to their boss or client, and when speaking on behalf of their company at a conference or seminar.

The personality building traits you learn in school, college and university remain with you forever. This article looks at some key tips and strategies you can use to become a good public speaker.

Confidence

The key to public speaking lies in being confident at all times. Stage fright affects almost all of us, however, it is in that fear that we find the courage to stand in front of people and speak

Self-assurance and poise are developed when you know what you want to talk about. If you know your content, you can deliver a good speech or a talk because your information will become the source of your confidence.

Practice speaking in front of the mirror to see how you stand and how your gestures look. Speaking in front of close friends and asking for their feedback also helps.

Be natural

A renowned public speaker or even a celebrity host can influence you. However, you will succeed only if you deliver presentations/speeches in your natural style. You should learn tips from everyone, but the style of delivering you choose must be your own.

If you imitate someone, you will not remain original. Be who you are. Do not try to talk in an accent that is not yours. Yes, the pronunciation of words is important, but it is your accent which will keep you original and natural.

Know your content

The information you deliver when speaking is the message and the purpose of your talk. A well-researched content on your chosen topic will be a game-changer. You would need to prepare an outline of the key points you will discuss in your presentation/speech.

To deliver effective presentations you need to inform, persuade or motivate the audience. Where students during their class presentations inform and persuade, they motivate through their speeches made at declamation contests. You would need to fine-tune your content based on the objective of your presentation/speech. The more informed you are about your topic, less are the chances of you fumbling or getting confused during the presentation.

Illustration by Ahmed Amin
Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Read, read and read some more

You speak what you know. Therefore, make a habit of reading books on all topics relevant to your studies and profession. Because the more you read, the more information you will retain.

Public speaking is not about who talks the most, it is about who talks the best. Content matters in delivering a good presentation/speech and reading will provide you with this content.

Take it slow

Even if you have a well-researched content and a visually appealing presentation, you must deliver it without rushing to the end. There must be clarity in the pronunciation of your words and you should talk slowly. A dear friend of mine, Dr Qazi Tauseef Uddin, who is also a corporate trainer, taught me that the art of effective public speaking is to take small half-second breaks between your sentences. These mini breaks will give you time to think over the sentences or the words you need to speak and such breaks will also give your audience the time to understand the meaning of what you are saying.

Personally, this tip has helped me during my presentations and I am sure it will help you too. Always remember, in public speaking, quantity or the amount of time you spend talking does not matter. What matters is the quality, which refers to the content and information you share and how much value it adds to your message.

Body language

Your body language is what makes or breaks your image. A positive body language compliments your public speaking skills. You must stand and walk upright to exhibit buoyancy and charisma. You need to create constant eye contact with the audience to ensure them that you are aware of your content and will deliver a concrete and credible talk.

You need to use your hand gestures accordingly. Especially when delivering a presentation, you need to walk around the stage and move your hands and arms accordingly, contrary to when delivering a speech, which you should do while standing behind a podium. However, when delivering a speech, you still have to stand upright, maintain eye contact and move your hands. Keep in mind to always walk and move your body slowly and unhurriedly. This adds maturity to your character.

The art of impromptu speaking

Anyone can become a public speaker. However, a real public speaker is someone who can speak impromptu and unrehearsed, and improvises as he/she speaks. This requires years of hard work and learning.

If you have ample knowledge and information about a specific topic with regards to its key facts, then you can make an unplanned speech. Even if you have prepared a presentation, you will look less at the slides and talk more on your own. However, it is always better to put on paper some one-liner bullet points, which you can glance upon if needed and explain one by one.

Teach, not impose

Most public speakers don’t leave a lasting impact for they intend to impose their thoughts, opinions and information instead of teaching them to the audience. You will never become a public speaker if you impose your thoughts, as the audience naturally blocks their sense of understanding when a speaker is imposing an idea.

However, the audience will be eager to listen to you if you present or speak on a topic as a teacher or a guide. Therefore, always assert and never impose your teachings.

Build bridges

When speaking in public, you need to engage with the audience. This interaction builds a sacred bond between you and your listener. When the audience responds to your questions, they naturally unite with your thoughts to create an air of friendship and learning, while instilling confidence in you.

If you are giving a class presentation, you can engage the audience by asking relevant questions and continue this practice frequently during your presentation. This two-way dialogue always takes away the pressure from the speaker’s shoulders to make him/her more confident.

Vocal intonations

How you emphasise a word or a sentence adds colour to your vocal delivery. Delivering a presentation or speaking with the same vocal tone will leave your audience bored. They will feel as if they are listening to a robot.

You will add depth to your narrative by increasing and lowering your voice and by emphasising a word or sentence by changing your tone.

Questions and answers

Anyone can deliver a good presentation. However, speakers are tested by the audience during the questions and answers session following their presentations. At this time, the speakers are unaware of the questions and would need to respond to them without delay.

The art of impromptu or improvised speaking will become beneficial at this point only if you know your topic inside out. With practice and sufficient research on what you want speak on, you can easily give a speech or presentation that is well-received by that audience. So don’t be afraid the next time your teacher asks you to explain something in the class or take part in a speech event. Just remember these tips and you will do well.

Published in Dawn, Young World September 16th, 2017