Public speaking is an important communication skill. The thought of speaking in public gives shivers to many. However, we need not worry. Most of the well-known public speakers have been through this phobia and conquered it. Like any skill, public speaking can be mastered with a consistent effort. The essential thing is to follow the basics of communication.
The 4 W’s and 1 H of Public Speaking
WHO is this speech for?
Gather information about your audience. Who will be present to hear your speech, their socio-economic profile, interests etc. It is critical to find out their perceptions on the issue/topic you are going to speak on. This helps in deciding the contents of the speech.
WHAT am I going to tell the audience?
Keeping in mind the profile/interest/perceptions of the audience, you can decide the content of the speech. It is important to do the ground work properly, gather latest information on the subject, check your facts with the right sources, brainstorm for ideas that would appeal to your audience and then organize your contents. It is important to remember that communciaotn is art of simplification. So, present the technical facts in as simple a way as possible unless the audience includes all technical people.
It is also important not to keep too many ideas. If we try to include every thing, the main message is lost. Audience can never absorb/remember all the ideas. So, key is to prioritize and be focused
WHAT is the occasion/event where you are to speak?
A good sense of occasion is critical. The historical significance, if captured in an interesting way makes your speech different. In addition to knowing the audience, it is also equally important to know about the organizers. What is the event they have invited you to speak you in. Who are other speakers, if any and what are their topics. What is the agenda and what is your turn to speak? Nothing can be more boring for the audience to listen to different speakers on the same topic. It is useful to know the arrangements in the venue like the availability of audio-visual aids, public address system etc. on the venue.
HOW long is the speech expected to be?
Sense of timing is the key. Find out from the organizer about the time that is available for your speech. It is never a good idea to overshoot your time, and it is very embarrassing for someone to remind you to cut-it-short while you are speaking. Practice your speech and see if you can finish it in the allotted time. It is also important to be flexible and make last minute changes in your speech to adjust to the time available particularly if other spears have overshot their time.
… you are now ready to finalize your speech, but hang on. Do the last filter. Ask yourself.
WHY should the audience listen to me?
Is there something new/different/interesting in my speech that will catch the attention of the audience and they will remember me for. No speech should be finalized without this final filter. A bit of humour, an anecdote, a relevant example, a good beginning and a good end are the elements that are essential.
…Now you have the speech ready. The next, and most critical step is to practice public speaking. More follows.