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Public speaking

How to be an effective public speaker

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Does the thought of public speaking give you the jitters? Do you break into a cold sweat when you get the microphone in your hands? Relax, fear of public speaking is a very common phenomenon. In this article, Mr Vishnu Shekar, TGT English, Kendriya Vidyalaya Adoor (Shift 2), shares his own first experience of public speaking and lends us tips as to how to overcome the fear of public speaking.

Being a young boy, I envied public speakers. It's a fact that everybody aspires to become an effective speech-maker. Why? - everyone admires a good public speaker. Has anybody heard of Srinivasa Sastri, nick-named as silver Sastri? He is called a silver tongued orator. British Kings, Queens and even Winston Churchill appreciated his oratory skills. The following tips on public speaking will help you to become one.

"Fear defeats people more than any other thing in the world."

Self-confidence is one of the important qualities of an elocutionist. Without faith in oneself, a speaker cannot face a large public-if anybody does, he is going to forget what he is going to speak. What is at the bottom of diffidence? It is fear that robs your coolness. What causes fear? Unpreparedness causes fear. If you prepare your speech and practise some time prior the delivery, you will be able to face your audience more confidently. Do you like to hear what happened when I made my first public speech ever? The occasion was India's 48th Independence Day celebration. I was asked by my tutor to deliver an Independence Day speech. I readily accepted it because I thought I could easily do it, even though I had no previous experience. I requested one of my friends to jot down a few beautiful sentences. I learnt them by rote and straightaway headed for the stage. I managed to remember the first line, but forgot the rest. I said, "It has been 48 days since we got independence." Immediately a burst of laughter stemmed from those present. First I didn't understand what was wrong with me; then my class teacher came and said into my ears "48 years not 48 days!". I learnt a lesson on the day - never memorise your speech.

"If you care enough for a result you most certainly attain it."

First you have to choose your topic. Do you think any topic can be a good topic for public speaking? No. Every topic is not your topic. The best topic for you is the one you are quite comfortable with, a topic you are very much interested in, a topic you think you can challenge any body. For example, I like English very much, so English can be a good topic for me. If somebody asks me to speak on 'Black holes', I will immediately turn it down because I don't think I have a knack for Physics. It is possible that I buy a series of books on Physics and memorise some facts about Black holes and give a talk. No. If anybody does so, he will be going over like a lead balloon, he will be disapproved by the audience. So, as part of preparation, the first step is to choose a topic that you are at ease. Next step is to put in writing all the important points you desire to say on a scrap of paper. Then organise them on another foolscap. Next is to practise them. You can practise your speech before a mirror or your folks or your friends or much as part of a normal conversation if you don't have a whim to tell them that you are actually practising your speech.

"A half-prepared person is like a half-clothed person."

An effective discourser is a constant learner. He learns more and more about his topic. He never stops from adding information to it and reassesses it constantly. Only then one can speak on a topic enthusiastically, passionately and authentically. Only then one can pass along the same enthusiasm to the listeners. Only then your audience will appreciate your speech. If a salesman longs to sell his products in a fast way, first he must learn the about the products at a fast pace. Just as well, if you want to sell your topic more, you should learn that topic more.

"I did it the same way I learnt skating - by making a fool of myself until I got used to it."

Stage fear means the fear that affects a person at the point of facing an audience. With good preparation and practice you can easily control your stage fear. With each successful experience as a public speaker, stage fear will disappear own its own. When I was afraid of darkness, I went out in darkness, my fear went away. When I was suspicious of water, I went to a river and bathed in it, my fear was no more. When I was afraid of speaking, I deliberately made speeches in the face of all men, my fear went away. Is stage fear good or bad for you? Odd as it may seem, a touch of fear does good to face challenges. It is but a positive body-response. Fear helps you think faster. It increases your circulation and prepares you for the work. So, with a little fear, actually, you can do better. Make public speaking a habit, your fear will vanish.

Beginners, when they get with an audience, become self conscious immediately. They think more about their audience than the topic. So, when you speak, stop worrying about the audience, centre around your subject. One technique is considering yourself as if you are speaking to empty seats.

You might have seen many people delivering wonderful speeches. As a student once I was smitten by a teacher delivering an address. Thereafter, I made an effort to imitate him. When I delivered a speech the following occasion, I deliberately applied his style. The result was - I could not make an impact on the audience. They were asking me whether I had learnt the whole thing mechanically. What I missed was a natural flow. What I missed was my own individuality. Every living soul varies from one another. A topic is spoken differently by different people. That is the beauty of oration. Your speech will appeal only if you speak your topic naturally through your own experience. Your topic might have been spoken by scores of people. Does it mean that you cannot choose that topic. You can. But, your manner of presentation should transform the subject into something new and interesting to the listeners.

Do you know that your physical gestures and vocal modulations can convey as much information as you speak? Your physical gestures like shrugging, raising of eye brows, movements of arms and heads, your walk, your smile, your look and vocal characteristics like volume, pitch, raising and lowering of your voice can convey information effectively to your listeners. Most important thing is spontaneity. I mean you cannot narrate a heart-breaking story laughingly. We use all these gestures in our every day communication though we don't notice it. You can improve your voice strength through regular practice. If you give your heart to the matter, all these will come naturally to you. Imagine you are talking to your teacher. She questions your coming late to school. You are getting down to the wire just for the reason that your bus conks out. How do you convince your teacher? You will speak spontaneously. You will put all your resources to use, won't you? In all likelihood, you will pull off because you have given your heart to the matter. As a public speaker you must speak in the same way - with a lot of emotion and passion.

[This article is authored by Mr Vishnu Sekhar, TGT English, Kendriya Vidyalaya Adoor (Shift 2)], in November 2016.