Friday, April 22, 2011

For effective public speaking

I still remember the day when I offered on an impulse to speak for the first time at a function organized to bid farewell to a Professor from France as none of my classmates came forward to speak. I had mentally prepared a short speech of half a dozen sentences. After the speech by the Head of the department, it was my turn to speak. There were about 20 persons as audience most of them classmates.

I started with the usual salutation and said “I stand before you with mixed emotions. While I am sad that Prof…….. is leaving us” I stopped for a second to look at my friends before me. I could see them glum and I suspected they were not impressed.. Suddenly my mind went blank. I could not utter one word. My palms became sweaty, the heart pumped at feverish pace, the throat became parched and the tongue dry. When I repeated after an embarrassing silence of what looked eternity that I was sad, the French professor who understood my predicament patted me on my shoulders and said “I understand Partha, you are choked with emotion. There is no need to be sad. I am happily going back to my country. Thank you very much. Please be seated “There was a gentle murmur of suppressed laughter from the audience..I felt ashamed at my failure to speak even a few sentences that I had mentally prepared. I knew it was the fear of failure that made me fail that day.

Within a week I joined public speaking clubs like Toast Masters club where we were required to speak extempore on any subject at short notice. While I could conquer the stage fear over a period I found that to be an effective speaker and to articulate your thoughts in an inspiring way, one needs a little more than mere fearlessness. As a lecturer in a college, I found I could speak fluently continuously for an hour without any discomfort or pause. It was because I knew my subject well and was well prepared. It is essential therefore that one must have a very good knowledge of the subject to make an impressive speech. The speech should be structured and revolve under a predetermined few major points you wish to convey.

“There are always three speeches for everyone you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave and the one you wish you gave“- Dale Carnegie. The gap between the three can be abridged only by assiduous practice. There are no shortcuts to mastering the art of public speaking except by practice. An interesting beginning with a good anecdote, speaking slowly in an audible voice to reach the farthest person, good pronunciation, avoiding uncommon and bombastic words, lacing the speech with gentle humour with appropriate modulations in voice make one a popular speaker and much sought after. The ability to keep the audience in splits does not come by easily to all but can be cultivated by practice and preparation. Good speakers are generally a greater success in career than the silent ones. It is good to remember what Mark Twain humorously put "It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."To put it differently, never undertake to speak in public unless well prepared


  1. I totally agree with dale carnegie. I always fumbled when somebody (teacher) wrote the speech, in school, and then I started requesting that I be allowed to write my own. thankfully, they had faith in my writing skills and let me do it after briefly reviewing it. good times! I loved extempores. and debates!! ah.. fond memories.

    you are right. It is not easy initially. You should not be afraid of making mistakes, and you should know how to move on after the embarrassment. imbibing humor is something that very few people are good at.

    I am sure you were the fav' teacher for your students :)

  2. wow!!!!!!!!i want my daughter to read this.

  3. To be a good speaker is an art, some have it in them whereas some have to work on it. Both of these can succeed, it is the ones who don't realize that they are a big bore is the problem.
    First they don't have a loud enough voice, or are real mumblers, or keep talking of something totally uninteresting and that too for a long time.
    I always have the last minute stage fright, but once I am on stage I just don't feel anything and I just automatically become the character I am playing, I don't goof up. But till i am on stage I am terrified, i keep visualizing the worst to happen.
    There was a time many years ago, one of my Reiki student( he was an Indian teaching German), arranged for me to give a lecture on Reiki in the British Council, although I had agreed and even prepared the points, I was very tense, and I was also worried that somehow I must not let down my student.
    Now as always all fright went out of window once I was called on stage to give the lecture, because I was comfortable with the subject it just flowed out of me, and as I finished it i was totally relaxed, and ready for all the compliments that came my way.
    I also always have a plan if in some way it looks like i am going to goof up.
    It was such an interesting blog, brought back memories of my theatre days and my lecturing days.
    Now I really don't know how I would react if I ever get the chance to be on stage.
    What was your field of interest?
    I am sure you must have been a very good lecturer.

  4. Hi,
    there is a Versatile Blogger Award waiting for you, why don't you come and collect it?

  5. That was an interesting post Partha! I recall a funny incident where I was forced to give vote of thanks at our college function. Bringing up all courage I went up stage and said a few nice words and then said, "...on behalf of the staff and students of St. Joseph's college, I am sorry, Hans Rover college..." St. Joseph's was my alma matter and I got mixed up :(

    Sure, the chief guest found it funny too and our Principal roared out laughing right on the stage and said, "Are you still in Bangalore Madam?" That is one speech I will remember for a very long time.

    Carefree were those days gone by...

  6. Once I was asked to anounce the next meeting..yes that was it and I fumbled and blabbered and was sweating.....and next time when I went on stage for anchoring, I forgot half the lines:)...