Once I participated in a national poetry meet. Some of the celebrated guests conducting the proceedings were asked to read out the profiles of the participants. As the program went on I remembered a hero in a film. If I was right it was Amrutha (Kannathil Muthamittal in tamil). At one occasion in the film, he was requested by his fans in the audience to speak a few words. He told them not to take the risk of asking poets to speak, since they are not very good at it.
Talking of speaking to communicate well, it needs some practice. We hear the phrase, someone got a gift of the gab. In our vernacular, they say, ’as a child so and so person was given ‘vasa’ to drink with milk’ if one is found to be a good speaker. I knew not, what this ‘vasa’ means actually, lest I should have started a company doing business of exporting 'vasa' to the wannabe US Presidents; as such Indian leaders need not be great speakers except they should have deep pockets or huge assets here and there.
But learning to speak well is important to those who want to become corporate leaders. I was surprised when an executive of a company, who happened to be a poet on the side at the above poetry meet. I heard him say that it was easier giving presentations than speeches. But I didn’t find a great deal of difference between these two, in so far as their substance is concerned. I wanted to tell him that speech is also a presentation, more so at the conventions it needs to be gift wrapped.
Let me share a few brass-tacks with those choosing speaking as a career. The times are changing so fast when almost everyone needs to learn speaking in public what with the explosion of the visual media. Effective speaking is an art which has to be practiced on scientific lines as against day-to-day gabble among close friends. In business environment of the present days one has to hard sell oneself to a given audience, be it a purchase committee, interviewing body or clients (in person or through teleconferencing). Speech is an important form of communication through which the character of the person along with the product is delivered to the defined targets and the feedback is obtained simultaneously, or say in the shape of an imminent deal in near future.
Any practicing art has some basic as well as advanced steps. Once they are learnt the practitioner will be free to customize the speech using one’s creativity.
Step 1 is Body Language. It is essential to sound professional; the corporate speaker has to imagine himself/herself in a business suit if not present in one already.
Step 2 is rehearsing mentally the actionable headlines for each segment of the presentation. If one gets panicky, at least the headlines stay in the mind as per the agenda, and one can fill the details as one goes on.
Step-3 is nothing but cutting the internal noises that stop one from going beyond the headlines. Myriad fears erupt from the pit of the stomach at the inopportune moments as if is their wont. One has to make friends with these internal noises which are the result of too much adrenaline egging one on to the next item in the speech prematurely.
Now let me rush to those advanced tips. One should have an objective statement out in the open: what is the purpose of the presentation/ speech/talk-- like convincing the audience to part with their funds for a good cause. Next step is to put forth the proposition: why the money should be given in the first place, and to what ends, or how the mission is run to reach the expected results by giving due weight to the argument. Research findings or studies should be cited for a backup.
Even stories can help in speech but with some hard facts of course. The stories have to be told in an interesting way without veering from the main idea. Finally, the speech has to be summarized and closed with a question or assertion. Well, it is not the end for curtains to drop. The audience should be told by the speaker in a palatable way, that he/ she is an expert, and just not talking through the hat.
Coming to the body skills, one should remember that a speech starts right from the lifting of the receiver or even pulling back the chair when one's name is called on the podium.