Public-Speaking Skills and
The keys to becoming a good public speaker are: thorough preparation, careful planning and frequent practice. Start by speaking to small groups of friends on a topic you know well and care deeply about; the more you practice this, the easier it will become. Work on improving your memory so that you can speak naturally and in a conversational tone without having to refer to notes. Realize, too, that persistence is essential.
The Secrets of Good Delivery
i. Stress important words
In conversation, we naturally stress one syllable in a word and skip over the rest fairly quickly. We do almost the same thing in uttering a sentence, placing emphasis on the major, important words: I have SUCCEEDED because I have been DETERMINED.
Different speakers or topics may call for a different emphasis; the key is to stress the important words in your sentences.
ii. Vary your pitch
When we’re having a conversation, the pitch of our voices naturally flows up and down. If you deliver a talk in a monotone, you will sound wooden, rather than natural and human. You can make any word or phrase stand out in your talk by raising or lowering your pitch.
iii. Vary your speed
This is another example of how we speak in ordinary conversation—we constantly, and un-consciously, vary our rate of speech. If you want to emphasize a word or idea, isolate it from the rest of your speech by drawing it out, saying it slowly and with feeling.
If you say the phrase “thirty million dollars” quickly, it sounds trivial; if you say it slowly, your audience will be impressed by what a big number this is.
iv. Pause before and after important ideas
This is a trick that President Abraham Lincoln often used in his most effective speeches. He would stop and stand silent for a moment, gaze out at his audience, and then make his point. Invariably, the audience would be rapt with attention, waiting to hear what he had to say.
Similarly, he would pause after the phrases he wanted to emphasize, letting the meaning sink in for a moment and so adding force to his words.
Practice this natural way of speaking in your everyday conversations, and then carry this style over into your speeches.
v. Improve your vocabulary
The final step in learning how to be an effective public speaker is to improve your vocabulary and diction. We are all judged and evaluated by what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it. The best prepared speech will not be a success if the speaker makes no attempt to polish his/her phrases or to speak spotless sentences.
The secret to boosting your vocabulary and improving your diction is simple: read books! Read voraciously and widely; soak your mind in a constant flow of literature. Read Shakespeare aloud to improve your style. Copy written passages that exemplify good phraseology. Above all, cut back on reading newspapers and substitute the great works of literature. Be sure to read Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, one of the most beautiful tales ever written, and make the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson a part of your daily diet.
The well-known writer Mark Twain developed his famous facility with words by carrying a dictionary with him on his travels, and studying that regularly. In this way, you can learn not just the meaning of words, but also their history and derivation. For example, the word salary comes from the Roman word for salt; Roman soldiers were given an allowance for salt, which became known as the solarium, a piece of Roman slang that became the modern word.
Breadth of vocabulary will also bring richness and interest to your speeches. A speaker who repeatedly uses the adjective “beautiful” will come across as dull and uninteresting. There are plenty of synonyms that could be used instead: handsome, comely, radiant, pretty, lovely, graceful, elegant and many others. Roget’s Thesaurus is an excellent source to use for expanding your vocabulary.
Finally, beware of using worn-out phrases that lack originality. Everyone says, “Cool as cucumber,” a commonplace phrase. Try saying something like “cold as clay” or “cool as the rain in fall” instead.