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Delivering an Effective Speech
Mar 26, 2006 08:46 PM 6502 Views
(Updated Mar 26, 2006 08:48 PM)

Delivering an effective speech consists of a few basics -

1. Ideally, you are talking on a subject the audience wants to hear.

I was asked to address a group of potential entrepreneurs on tax and finance.  I was raw at speaking to groups but got a great response just by covering important basics.  The critical factor was that this was water to a parched earth - information on an important area which they had little initial knowledge about; but they knew they lacked it and wanted it.

On the other hand, introducing a speaker at a forum or seminar is something hardly anybody wants to know about. At most professional conferences, the speaker's bio-data is circulated in writing along with the seminar material and some hapless person is asked to'introduce' the speaker; which he does by standing up and reading out the printed material.  How many want to hear it?  At a rough guess, none!

2. Brief vs. Cryptic vs.Unrelated

A lot of times, the topic of your speech is not in your hands.  You have to take a call whether you want to stick to the topic or simply use it as an excuse to string a few anecdotes or jokes together to get it over with.  Whichever you choose, be brief.  People will be thankful at least for the brevity even if you are irrelevant.  On the other hand, there's no point being cryptic.  Example: In talking to the potential entrepreneurs referred to above, 'Section xxx is restricted to CBDT approved bodies.' is cryptic and will convey little or no meaning, as opposed to'There is a provision in the Income-tax Act for extra deduction of expenditure on scientific research.  However, for this purpose, the institution doing the research has to be approved by the Central Government.'  The first statement would have been fine to, say, Chartered Accountancy students.

3. Keep it simple

At all costs, talk about the subject as simply and as straight forward as possible.  It is very easy to use high flown language, professional jargon and use obfuscating syntax [see? that simply means confusing talk].  It makes your speech dull or, worse, not understandable.

4. Use jokes only if you can deliver them correctly

No doubt a joke can lighten the atmosphere and get the audience in a better frame of mind but . . . if you can't deliver the joke correctly, it will react against you.  Leave it out altogether.

If the audience has come to get knowledge on a specific subject from you, the last thing they need to feel is that you're someone who can't even tell a joke, let alone enlighten them about a subject on which, most likely, they already think they know something.  Remember, nobody comes to a talk if they're 100% ignorant on a subject.  They may come if they're expert on it, 1% ignorant or even 99% ignorant.  On the other hand, if they think they know more than you, then they tune you out - you've lost them totally.

If needed, ask someone beforehand to rate your ability to deliver a joke and take a decision based on that.  A friend of mine was a regular speaker at professional meetings and was very knowledgeable but was horrible at jokes - I was forced to tell him so - not very good for our friendship though very good for his subsequent audiences since he accepted the criticism and stopped including jokes in his talks.

5. Address one person

One of the best methods to effectively deliver a speech is to imagine you're talking to a particular person - whether he / she is there or not.  Imagine you're talking to your favourite relative.

Keep the audience intended in mind.  Remember you're talking to ALL of them, not the cleverest, not the smartest, not the most beautiful, not even the average attendee [whatever that average is].  And one of the best ways I know of to do this is to pretend you're talking to some one person - a familiar person so that you're relaxed about it.

6. Keep it informal

By this, I mean you should use anecdotes and / or personal experiences to highlight / explain / bring out details about your topic.  I was told that to be'professional' about something is to be objective about it - like Boman Irani in Munnabhai MBBS.  However, in my experience, this is not the best way to deliver speeches - no matter how many times you have to do it.  I say, be subjective, include personal views and acknowledge them as such.

7. Prepare

The best speaker is the one who appears to just be talking off the top of his head.  Confused?  Well, the best speaker is one who knows his subject and can talk about it without constantly referring to notes - it interrupts his flow.  Prepare by outlining what you intend to talk about, in what order, why, and the linkages from one point to the next.  However, a fully written out speech read out can be the most boring thing on earth and any deviation will make you panic.  Take a sheet of paper with vital points and the order of tackling them to the podium - and don't worry if you deviate from your intended path.  If  you got only an outline, you can always swing back or switch back to your original path or even go in a different direction altogether.

The reason why deviations happen is because, with the best speakers, interjections, interruptions or questions will happen - they should be welcomed since it means that your audience is listening and not sleeping.  At the same time, don't worry if they don't come.

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