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TheArtofPublicSpeaking

The Art Of Public Speaking

TheArtofPublicSpeakingWhat do the words ‘public speaking’ make you think of?  Perhaps the very words spoken aloud strike terror into your heart. Or – like many – maybe they conjure up images of articulate and persuasive characters, like politicians. Certainly, if asked to think of the best speeches ever made, you may think of famous ones such as Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream…’ or Winston Churchill’s ‘We shall fight on the beaches…’ or – more recently – Mary Fisher’s ‘ A whisper of Aids’. Such speeches are famous for rallying support and creating momentum in a public sphere. The question is: What made these speeches so inspiring? Some may argue that it is simply down to the fact that these speeches were written with the utmost care and thought for how language could be used convincingly.

Winston Churchill: Greatest Speaker Of All Time?

Winston Churchill is perhaps regarded as one of the greatest speakers in the English Language.  It may therefore come as a surprise to know that he actually suffered from a stammer and had a slight lisp. Churchill also felt somewhat let down by a lack of University education to prepare him better for public speaking. Only through careful construction and preparation was he able to deliver such motivational speeches that would go down in history as some of the best speeches ever given. Rated first place by the Guardian in the ‘Greatest speeches of the 20th Century’, Winston Churchill’s ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ is undoubtedly a perfect example of what makes great public speaking.

What Makes His Speeches So Inspiring?

As well as being delivered with passion and enthusiasm, there is no doubt that the speeches themselves used language creatively and persuasively.  For example, in his famous speech ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ the personal pronoun ‘we’ was used throughout the speech to create a sense of unity and agreement. Likewise the repetition of ‘We shall…’ is used to convey a feeling of determination and strength. The construction of a new world is personified to emphasize the colossal positive change that Churchill believed was to take place as a result of this unity. Thus, in this speech language was used cleverly to invoke feelings of unity and support. This was a huge factor in the success of the speech.

The Nerves That Come With Public Speaking

For many, however, nerves are the biggest adversary when it comes to public speaking.  Although having a good, convincing speech prepared can help to alleviate these feelings somewhat, many find it impossible to stand up in front of so many people. This is where practice and preparation come in. Essentially, public speaking is acting and putting on a show. Actors and actresses have to practice their lines and how they are going to deliver them, so if you are one of those people who gets nervous easily, having practiced your speech and the delivery of it will undoubtedly give you confidence. You should have practiced enough to know which words you will pause at and which words you will stress.  The ability to speak publicly does come naturally to some, but if it doesn’t, it is something that can be learnt and practiced. For those who tremble at the thought of speaking aloud to an audience, there are voice training and public speaking courses available provided by the The American University. There are also many books available that can help you gain an understanding on why it is that nerves can hold us back. They also provide tips on how to calm nerves and feel confident when delivering a speech.

Reading A Story Aloud

It can be hard to focus on reading a story aloud when you are uncomfortable, and anxious. As with any form of presenting, it is important to ensure that you know what you are reading.  Familiarity brings ease, so it is important that the story teller has read the story before. The words should be read slowly enough for listeners to hear, and you should ensure that intonation is altered as appropriate. There is nothing more tedious than listening to something being read aloud in a monotone voice. Inflection can make or break your success when reading aloud. Remember to put the appropriate emphasis in the right places. Use the punctuation to direct you on how a piece should be read aloud. You will find yourself pausing for effect and emphasis; this will engage your listeners.  Whenever you take pauses to catch your breath, look ahead so you can see what words you will have to read. A common problem when reading aloud is mumbling or reading too rapidly, thus disengaging the listener. Every now and then the presenter or story teller should make eye contact with the audience to demonstrate clarity and confidence. Eye contact establishes a connection between speaker and listener. If you stumble over a word or struggle to pronounce one, smile and keep going! Try not to let it take your cool; expect to make some mistakes and take them in your stride.

Benefits Of Being Able To Speak Publicly

There are many benefits to being able to stand up in front of an audience and speak articulately and clearly.  According to a study undertaken by Sociologist Andrew Zekeri, oral communication skills were the number one skill that college graduates found of use in the world of business.  Being able to deliver a speech publicly will undoubtedly boost your confidence and self-image. It will allow you to get across your ideas and beliefs. The most successful people are often those who are unafraid to do this. Perhaps you could start by developing your ability to write convincingly so that you can construct material for a compelling speech and then consider how you will deliver. Remember, practice makes perfect.

1 Comment

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  • Just!ne

    Public speaking is definitely something that is feared and admired, I’d like to think. Fear for stepping into a role as a public speaker (if you’re sort of forced into it), and admiring those who make it look like a walk in the park.

    I remember having to do a public speaking project as a part of a class assignment a few years ago, and I dreaded it. Luckily, I wasn’t too bad, once my opening line got a laugh, as I was hoping for.

    Though I have become a little more comfortable speaking publicly, I wouldn’t do it voluntarily.

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