Public Speaking

Public Speaking: Dance of Language textbook While most people speak in public, they not only do not consider themselves public speakers, they are also terrified of the experience of public speaking. As in everything in life, fear connected with speaking in public diminishes with knowledge and experience. I didn’t say it goes away completely, because it doesn’t, but the fear that remains can be employed to work for you, not against you in a debilitating way.

Three key concepts can direct you to greater confidence in speaking in front of an audience, whether the occasion be speaking to your boss, giving a toast at a wedding, or delivering a speech or presentation to a large audience: the preparation of the speech that includes knowledge of audience, familiarity with what you are going to say, and an understanding of techniques of delivery: poise, eye contact, voice and volume.

Preparation of the Speech

The rhetorical devices and appeals, introduced by Socrates and the Greek philosophers who taught and spoke to audiences, can help you to accomplish your goal, communicating with an audience with a specific purpose in mind. Specific techniques in the writing of the speech can help your listeners to understand your meaning more clearly:

  1. Allusion: a reference to a specific person, place, thing, or idea that many people would recognize
  2. Anaphora: a repetition of a phrase or sentence that adds emphasis
  3. Antithesis: opposites juxtaposed to show the strength of one against the other
  4. Parallelism: two or more ideas that are stated in a way that shows their similarities
  5. Irony: situations or words that express an idea that seems opposite of what is expected
  6. Metaphor: an indirect comparison of two very different things that usually states or implies that they are one and the same

Three appeals can persuade your audience to listen to you:

  1. Ethos: appeal to one’s character or credibility regarding expertise
  2. Pathos: emotion, feelings
  3. Logos: logic and reasoning

All of these techniques must be chosen for your speech with the audience and purpose in mind. Find out as much as possible about who your audience is and why they will be present before you write your speech.

Familiarity with the Speech

Familiarity with the Speech

Memorizing a written draft and practicing the delivery of it are, of course, the ideal solution to public speaking success. On the other hand, having a draft resting in front of you on the podium or speaker’s stand is acceptable as long as you make frequent eye contact with your audience. When I work with students on this portion of the speech, I tell them to memorize one paragraph at a time and have a note card with key words that can prompt the beginning of a new paragraph.

Techniques of Delivery

Poise: Stand up straight, feet planted firmly on the floor, hands resting at your side or on the speaker’s stand where your notes are. Use gestures only to emphasize a point, if necessary. Avoid playing with hair or clothes, which could be a distraction. You want your audience to listen to you, not watch you attending to your body or your clothing.

Eye contact: Your audience will listen more intently if they believe you are speaking directly to them. Looking at them, spanning the audience as you speak, will help convince them you are talking to them with a sincere desire of communicating with them. Good eye contact is possible only if you are familiar enough with your speech to take your eyes off your notes.

Voice: The varied inflections—rise and fall—of your voice show you are interested in what you have to say; therefore, your audience is more likely to be interested in what you have to say as well. A monotone voice instantly puts off the people you expect to listen. Another aid to voice is pacing. Speaking at an even pace with appropriate pauses will enable your listener to digest what you are saying and actually consider your points.

Volume: If your listener can’t hear you, communication comes to a halt and the resulting impression is weakness. Your audience will have a much more positive impression of you and your message if they can hear you. The solution: fill your lungs and speak from your diaphragm. Speaking from your chest will result in running out of breath, which will make your speech sound choppy. Shallow breathing will make you sound nervous, as if you have been running a race.

Public Speaking Few things in life are as instantly gratifying as the successful delivery of a well written speech, and the results will come quickly in the form of compliments and perhaps even being rewarded with the very thing you were requesting. With a myriad of public speaking activities that most people will encounter at every stage of life, an investment in becoming more skillful with this art form will pay big dividends that you cannot afford to miss.