Understanding Public Speaking

Why verbal communication is so important and how to get better at it.
Why verbal communication is so important and how to get better at it.

The business world has always functioned on effective communication. Technical skills can only take you so far up the corporate pyramid. In fact, most management positions rarely use technical skills. What becomes more prevalent are conceptual and communication skills. Being able to effectively convey your ideas, your point of view to another person without any misconception is what will take you farther in your career, regardless of what field it is.

In today’s world, effective communication is more important than ever before. In the days before wide-spread telecommunications, business leaders communicated via word of the mouth or writing. In those days, penmanship was highly valued.  Those who could write eloquently and with sophistication were able to create better relationships with remotely-located partners.  Today, with our advanced technology in telecommunications (telephones, video calls, etc), verbal communication has established itself as the most essential medium for the transfer of ideas and thoughts.

Why, you may ask, do we give verbal speaking such importance? Well, for starters, verbal communication is often found in the business world in the form of public speaking. Public speaking (as with letters) is a one-way communication. You have to get your point to your audience and avoid any misconceptions. You must also address any counter-points that listeners may have. Most importantly, when you speak to  a crowd of people, you make an impression. This impression of you may be a first for some people – so it has to be positive, for your sake.  Your posture, poise, fluency, and overall composure can tell your audience much about you. For example, nervousness tends to manifest with excessive sweating, mumbling, slouching, stiff back, and ,of course, the “uhs” and “ums”.

Keep this all in mind for conferences as you want to come out as strong and confidence. Be relaxed and speak loud and clear. Don’t stress before speaking or worry about fitting in everything you planned to say. Remember this- it’s better to say some of what you planned well, then to rush and mumble everything into one long incomprehensible sentence.

The best way to improve your speaking skills is to remember this one tip – “give it a rest”.  After every sentence you say, stop and pause. Now I know at first this may seem a little strange, but trust me – it helps.  When you for a few seconds break after every sentence (but not too much otherwise it would be awkward),  both yourself and your audience some time. You get a few seconds to catch your breath and also evaluate your performance and change it if need be. In these pauses, you can evaluate for yourself to see if you are talking too fast or too slow and adjust accordingly. You can recollect your thoughts and plan on what to say next. However, more crucially, you can evaluate the audience and see how they are reacting to you. You can see if they are understanding your dialogue or if you need to clarify, whether they agree or disagree with you, and much more. By giving yourself a break, you can improve yourself and address any doubts or misconceptions that the audience might have so that your speech comes out, overall, favorable to the people.

Pauses are helpful for the audience too!  Listener need some time to process what they hear. If you say everything that you prepared in one fell swoop, chances are your listens won’t remember most of your speech. Pausing for a few seconds gives enough time to process a single sentence. For this, it is strongly advised that in our conference, you do the same.

Of the greatest speakers in history (or at least America’s history), who comes to mind? Chances are that they are political leaders. America’s  greatest speakers include America’s greatest presidents. John F Kennedy is remembered as one of America’s favorite and most charismatic presidents. JFK always used pauses in his speech, often several times in a single sentence. For example, here’s how Kennedy said one of his most famous statements: “[…] and so fellow Americans (PAUSE), ask not what your country can do for you (PAUSE), ask what you can do for your country.” Remember, it is statements like this that resonate in people’s minds and through history.

More recently, take President William “Bill” Clinton for example. Clinton is hailed as a master of speech pause. His public speaking skills are so widely known for its effective, that many people vie just to have him speak to them for a few minute. Still not convinced? Watch a TED Talk and take note on the speaker. He/She also pauses after every sentence and never fails to inspire the viewer.

To sum up, note that the best way you can make yourself a better communicator is to speak confidently and pause. As the Dalai Lama once said, “Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.” So let us do both and create a outstanding impression with stellar content and fluent pauses in our presentations.

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