Palms get sweaty. Stomach turns into knots. Voice chokes. Heart starts racing. All this chaos happens in the little time we travel from our respective seats to the podium!! If given a chance, we generally avoid public speaking. There is an enormous fear of public speaking, as the idea of speaking in front of a large audience scares the day lights out of us! Are we alone in our quests for confidence or are there examples in history, old and new that we can derive inspiration from?
Did you know that the Fuhrer was known for offering a weak handshake with “moist and clammy” palms and was awkward at making small talk? Yes we are talking about Hitler! Yet he led a whole nation to war, under his commanding voice. The awkward young man became the confident Nazi leader with constant effort, by working through sleepless nights to overcome shyness and doubt; by editing his speeches and rehearsing them over & over again.
The interesting fact about Winston Churchill is everyone thought that he was a gifted orator but he wasn’t, all he did was immense preparation. He wasn’t a natural speaker. Similarly across the Atlantic, the former US president John F. Kennedy is still remembered & admired 50 years later after his death only because of his famous inaugural address. Like other great orators- including Winston Churchill before him & Barack Obama since then- he was someone who took word-craft very seriously.
Demosthenes was an expert orator who lived in Athens (Greece) from 384 B.C to 322 B.C. When he was young, he designed a series of exercises to help him with his oratory skills. He practiced talking with a mouth full of pebbles, to overcome stammering. He also practiced reciting while running uphill and speaking in the roar of the ocean waves to improve his voice projection.
Speakers like the ones mentioned above and others such as Steve Jobs, Shashi Tharoor, Narendra Modi etc are not gifted by birth, but gifted by practice. Below we discuss the ideal steps to follow, in becoming a badass speaker on any platform!!
Understand your fear
Start with journalling your thought process in a book or a diary and try to understand why are you scared of public speaking? After rationalizing your fear by writing it down, find ways of calming yourselves down that work every time. For eg: Drinking half a glass of water, listening to a particular song, talking to some particular person etc. Watch videos of good public speakers from time to time to understand how fears are overcome and masses pleased while speaking.
Have a great script
A successful public speaker needs good content to capture the attention of his audience. You should choose a preferred structure and follow it every time thereafter to bring consistency any reduce any self-anxiety. One more key point to remember is, your content should be more EQ (emotional quotient) focussed and less IQ (Intelligent Quotient) focussed as audiences are always intrigued by intellect but moved and won over by powerful emotion. Below, we present an example of an ideal speech layout:
Introduction- Precise and interesting speech introduction to garner the attention and create anticipation
Main topic 1– Introduction and explanation of the primary (main) topic.
Elaboration 1– Extend the topic with further depth analysis
Example 1- Use some personal/common anecdotes to give the speech a unique edge.
Main topic 2– Introduction & brief explanation of secondary topic
Elaboration 2- Extend the topic further by adding humour, information or topic related banter (addition of humour or banter to keep people interested during a long speech)
Example 2- Use some personal/common anecdotes to keep the speech interesting
Compile Together – Explain a small tertiary topic (If any). Then compile the information from the above main topics to create a concise end paragraph. This paragraph should include the key actionable, the key take away points and personal experiences derived from the topics
Conclusion- End with as much emotional and personal touch as you can, but always keep it concise
Audiences expect two things from a speaker: A path and a destination. They want to know where you’re going and why. As you write and revise, focus on structuring and simplifying. In addition to that, to prepare yourself for impromptu talks on random topics, try this exercise- Anytime you see a picture, try describing it. Next time, describe it with a little more detail, then the next time try building a story around it. Try this exercise a couple of times and we guarantee, it will work wonders for your oratory skills.
The greatest tool of a speaker is his voice; it is the voice which moves a nation to tears and a population to revolt. Below we present some points to help you with your voice:
• Learn and adopt any simple breathing exercise form YouTube
• Learn the ideal way of pronouncing words and the ideal amount of open mouth, teeth, tongue and nasal quality required in mouthing words
• Learn how to position yourself properly distant or close to the mike depending on what you are conveying
• Learn how and when to take pauses while speaking to give the audience time to think and ponder on what was said before and what will come after
• Reading newspaper or a book aloud (for 15 to 20 minutes daily) also helps in improving voice modulation
Take the leap
All said and done, be ready to take the leap whenever called upon or by self-initiative; be it debates, jam presentations, talks or symposiums. Try to attract people with your views and opinions, respond positively, accept and analyse the audience feedback. Feedback (negative or positive) is vital for progress. For as they say, Practice will make a man perfect, but (studying) feedback and acting upon it might even make the man famous!!
Written By: Srijaa Datta
Edited By: Arnab Chakraborty