Public Speaking – it’s easier SAID than done!

I’ve been a debater/ public speaker for three years now, taking part in different competitions. I just wanted to share what I’ve learnt from my short experience.
  • The first thing you have to worry about in your speech is obviously: Content, Content and Content. Once, you’ve got that right, the rest becomes easy.
  • Your content should always abide by the rules of the contest. Read, reread and memorise all rules before starting with the task at hand. Don’t include names of personalities while accusing them. A hint for the wise is all you need.
  • Don’t start with a Google Search. First, see what your own mind can produce. If you directly log on to the Internet, the ideas there would brain wash some of your own ideas at the back of your mind which could have proved excellent. So first jot down points in your mind. Then look up those POINTS and collect data, quotes etc. If you’re really stuck, then and only then should you search by the Topic.
  • Be original and try to depict your own culture. If you’re telling a story, for instance, try to use Pakistani names that are easier for the audience to relate to. If I say “Frederick Algernon Troteville was a hard working fellow” and if I say “Abdul Rehman was a hard working fellow”, more people will register my second statement more accurately than the first, in Pakistan.
  • Be vivid and precise. “Brevity is the soul of wit”. The more you exaggerate, the louder the audience will snore! Public speaking means you have to give an impression that you have researched well and you don’t have time to exaggerate too much. Consider “Bribery, extortion and robbery, nepotism, cronyism, embezzlement and kickbacks are common practices.” against “People in our society have succumbed to evil deeds and are commonly seen paying money to get illegal crimes commited without facing punishment, thieves loot the banks day in and day out while favouritism thrives in the country giving rise to emotions of mistrust and hopelessness.”
  • Just giving the impression of a well researched work is not enough. It has to be true.
  • Your content should not be too much and should not be too less. Your speech should fall within the time limit and should ideally end about 7-10 seconds before the last bell.
  • If you know your opponents, try to think of points that you think they would highlight and if you can, try to top them or include retorts in your own speech, whichever the case may be.
  • Twice I have heard Chief Guests advising students not to repeat content from their previous speeches. If you really need it and it’s good, there’s no stopping you; but if you can, endeavour to produce an even better punchline.
  • Always keep in mind that the power to speak to an audience of hundreds at once brings with itself a lot of responsibility as well. Try to convey a message through your speech, to touch atleast one heart, persuade atleast ONE person in the crowd.
  • When you go on the mic, you represent yourself, your family, your upbringing, your religion, your school, your college, your teachers and your country. Keep these in mind and you’ll never make a bogus speech.
  • When content is done, it’s time for your style of delivery. Practice clarity. It’s the most important aspect of all. If they can’t get you, you’re doomed!
  • Your pronunciation should be up-to-the-mark. Check from an authentic source or dictionary, the pronunciation of words you are not sure about.
  • Prepare yourself before hand and tell yourself that sometimes things do go wrong. With that frame of mind, you will find it easier to cope up with mishaps than if you would enter the field with an opinion that you’ve just entered Utopia. Brace yourself! Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
  • Discuss with your teachers the points of emphasis. Try different tones. A rhythmic up and down harmony is most pleasing to the ears and most appealing as well. Resound punctuations, change of paragraphs and ideas as the public can only hear you. They donot have a written draft of your speech.
  • When ending your speech, if you plan to thank the audience for its attentiveness, take a breath after your last sentence and then say “Thank you”. It should not sound as if “Thank you” was a part of your last sentence.
  • Take a deep breath and take your time adjusting the mic. Survey the audience and then start. Speak as if you’re trying to convince an audience that doesn’t know anything about it. Relax. Breath in, breath out… Shoot!
  • Give yourself time. Don’t rush things. That would mean that you should start early and not at the eleventh hour. Practice at night and have a good night’s sleep.
  • Public opinion is always preferred. Deliver your speech infront of your peers, family, teachers etc. so that you could have a general comment on your content. But do be careful and don’t follow Everyone’s instructions (Refer to “The man who tried to please everyone – Aesop Fables”).
  • Last, but not the least, now that you’ve mastered all the basics, learn to trust your instincts. Make sure you read your speech aloud to yourself and cut out any points you don’t feel too good about. Remember, you cannot deliver well anything you don’t feel confident or happy about. Pray to God before entering the dragon that He gives you the ability to mesmerise the masses and enables you to convey a lasting message to them.
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