Public speaking is one of my interests and I like to observe and study the speakers’ style. Based on my experiences, I have noted some pertinent points that constitute a good performance.
- Clarity: Some feel that using corporate jargon creates a strong impression. But words like “innovation”, “transformation”, “management” etc have been done to death and no longer register an impact. Use of simple words helps people concentrate directly on your point instead of waving through the jargon to understand your point. Language is a tool to communicate your thoughts – it is not the end-product by itself. In writing, the reader can go through the content over and again till he gets the point. In speech you have no such luxury; you must reach your audience right in the first time. And if a listener fails to grasp you more than twice or thrice, you have positively lost his attention for the rest of speech.
- Brevity: Blame it on our school education where we were given to understand that writing more generally begets more marks. But a lengthy note can weigh down even an otherwise good speech. Content obesity should be avoided in this era of shorter attention spans. Convoluted speech is a product of convoluted thinking. Think out loud, straighten your thought & tighten your logic. Speak the crystallized ideas borne out of thoroughly digested concepts. Sometimes, complex speech is indicative of non-digestion of concepts which are reflected as-they-are without processing them.
- Intellectuality: Respect your listeners’ intellect. Some people talk with the air of self-importance that’s revolting. You would have researched well and may have points you think are truly original and interesting. Yet, the audience may not share your enthusiasm. Do not focus much on what is too well known and is fairly commonsensical. There must be atleast one takeaway point from your speech that lingers in listeners’ mind long after you’ve finished. Nothing is new under sun. They just appear in different trappings.
- Unity: Please do not make your speech like a mass-entertaining movie that contains every conceivable element. Instead dovetail your entire speech on one idea that manifests itself in various ways. Link your sub-ideas to that one idea. This subtle repetition greatly enhances the impact of your content and creates a powerful impression in audience minds. But there exist situations where this is not possible. (eg. A presentation on improving business efficiency may contain multiple ideas not necessarily linked to one-another). However it pays to keep the root ideas as few as possible and make other concepts evolve from those basic ones.
- Humanity: Business is done ultimately by humans, not machines. Sharing related personal experiences (either spice up some incident to desired effect, or simply imagine a believable one) enlivens the atmosphere. A good sense of humor is most essential to hold the attention and drive home your point. It freshens the mind in a boring environment. The human touch can provide access to listeners’ heart and business decisions are based as much on intangible emotions as they are on rational scrutiny. Without striking a chord with the human side of your audience, you’re likely to inform, not reach them.
PS: I was inspired to write this after a seminar I attended last evening. I’ll return to this subject later with more observations and perhaps a more comprehensive treatment on this subject.