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