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Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” There are many purposes of public speaking. Among many other things, it is used to inform, convince, provide entertainment or honor. One of the best ways to create a positive and effective image is to master the art of public speaking. To achieve good results, the speaker has to capture, interest and convince the audience, in addition to building a unique trust with it. Nowadays, the art of presenting is needed in every part of life. Speech presentation is an integral part of all corporate settings, school and religious events. Since most people perceive public speaking as a necessary skill, successful speeches require extensive preparation to meet the high quality demand of the public.
I work at Intel Corporation, and speeches are part of my every day business life. My day consists of multiple meetings that always require public speaking on variable topics, depending on current projects. The main purpose of my speeches is to educate and inform my coworkers and clients. To create a cohesive working environment, I have to make sure that I provide laconic communication about project outlines, features, progress, milestones and impediments.
One of the most important preparatory steps in public speaking is audience analysis. Prior to presenting a range of services that my group provides, I must research my audience. From my experience, one of the best ways to find information about a company or department, which I will be presenting to, is to call them directly ahead of time to better understand their interests, ambitions, and business needs prior to writing my speech. Also, phone introduction prior to a meeting is often perceived as a good gesture. Including specific details and remarks about the clients and their company is always very helpful. To customers, this shows the speaker's professionalism, genuine interest in them as potential partners, and investment in successful outcome.
Also, it is very important to make sure that the level of detail is appropriate for the specific audience. I constantly interact with many people that hold different company positions, ranging from technical staff to vice presidents. Therefore, I have to carefully select an appropriate information set based on my audience. For example, technical information and low-level details are not suitable for program management, and marketing information should never be presented to technical staff.
Additionally, speaking to new customers can have its restraints, such as making sure to avoid project-related technical jargon and cumbersome details. Initially, I was struggling with using appropriate vocabulary, based on my listeners' level of knowledge. From my experience, I found that when there was a discrepancy between the terminology I used and my customer's level of understanding, I could easily lose the customer's attention and potentially put a business deal in jeopardy.
For a successful public speaker, ability to predict future audience's mood, understand its ambitions and tensions is very important. It is a common business practice to schedule overview meetings at the end or in the middle of a project. For the most part, these types of meetings are scheduled after the project's completion date, and their main purpose is to illuminate positive and negative sides that were discovered in the process. Unfortunately, not every project is flawless. Occasionally, I have to give a speech in which I have to admit process flaws, take responsibility for my team's actions, and present a process change that will allow my team to avoid future issues. For these types of speeches, it is crucial to research and determine the level of information the audience possesses regarding this issue, understand how much they were affected by it, and predict how they might react to it. Admitting and addressing a problem generally has a positive effect on the audience. Moreover, all issues should be presented as potential positives. This emphasizes the speaker's willingness to learn from past mistakes.
After audience analysis, to reach maximum effect and predetermined goals, the speaker has to work on gathering data and creating an outline of the speech. Depending on the type of speech and presentation, the methods of collecting data are different. In Information Technology industry, finding necessary information is easy, as Information Technology strives on centralizing data collection and providing complex tools for running highly customizable reports. In the modern world, many companies are transferring their documentation and records into electronic formats. Some companies store information in a secure environment, while others post it on the Internet for public availability and use. The World Wide Web is a great tool for research. Today, everything from published books and scientific journals, to booklets and essays are easily accessible. The sources used for speech preparation have to be reliable and available if any audience member chooses to verify them.
Prior to writing any speech, supporting material should be categorized so that it could be easily inserted into the body of the speech. Even though not every piece of the information is used in the speech, it is a good practice to keep the extra information handy, as it could be used to answer any questions that arise at the end of the presentation.
Creating an outline is also an integral preparatory step in writing a successful speech. Depending on time availability, the outline can be either very detailed, or extremely brief. Regardless of the level of detail, the outline should serve as a scaffold and guideline for the rest of the speech. Understanding the purpose of the speech and how it can be used to benefit the speaker is very important, as every piece of information can be fit to serve the main purpose. The rest of the information can be easily added if the outline is built around and emphasizes the speaker's thesis.
Speech structure is essential and should reflect the speaker's understanding of systematic use of an effective opener, authoritative speech body, and focused and concise conclusion. Organization of the speech should take into account that, usually, the audience is more open and attentive at the beginning of the speech. Therefore, the speaker has to effectively open the speech and establish a connection with the audience within the first few sentences. If an opening is interesting and captures listeners' attention, they will be more perceptive to speaker's ideas and will pay closer attention to the rest of the speech. On the contrary, if the first few sentences are not well thought-out, there is a huge risk that the audience will not care for the rest of the speech.
The body of the speech usually consists of the detailed information that the speaker is trying to provide for the audience. This is the most informative and the largest part of the speech. Every effective public speaker knows how to capture the audience and keep its interest throughout the entire speech, regardless of its length. Because audience's attention span is not infinite every presentation should be limited to the most salient features the speaker is trying to convey. In the closing stages of every speech, the presenter has to effectively and clearly summarize the whole speech in a few sentences, with specific emphasis on the most significant details. I found that my most successful speeches were the ones that I concluded immediately following the most important and interesting part. Therefore, every time I present, I try to end the speech once I feel that the audience's interest has peaked.
Not only the content of the speech is extremely important, but also the way it is presented. Creating stereotypes is a part of the human nature. Audience's impression of the speaker is directly dependent on his or her ability to articulate, project and animate when presenting. Based on the tempo, dynamics, and tone of someone's voice, the audience can easily open up to the presenter's message or completely reject and ignore it. A speech presentation that is too fast and jumpy might come across as being unrehearsed and irrelevant. Also, monotonous voice may decrease the audience's interest and prevent the message from being effectively conveyed.
Clear articulation is essential in every public speaking setting. Depending on the speech context and timing, articulation and tone dynamics have to be modified. For example, if a speech is being presented at the end of a long conference, the speaker must take into account the audience's attention span and decreased receptiveness. Therefore, the presenter has to be even more articulate and dynamic in his or her presentation. Moreover, the speaker's tone and dynamics have to reflect his or her passion and enthusiasm for a given subject to have a successful presentation.
Other than verbal, there are many ways through which the speaker can communicate with the audience. Every speech has to be reinforced by nonverbal variables. Gesticulation, body language, and mimics are very important public speech elements.
University of San Francisco in Organizational Communication OB321 course outlines eight ways through which information can be shared with the audience. They include ambulation, touch, eye caontact, posture, tics, sub vocals, distancing, gesturing, and vocalism.
All of these elements help the speaker succeed, since they are sending subconscious messages reinforcing and emphasizing key points to the audience. Regarding gesturing, Laurie Schloff writes, “The best thing hands can do is to convey naturally, without much orchestration, the conviction and enthusiasm of your message. To discover exactly what your hands should be doing in front of an audience, take a look at how you use them when you think no one is watching - in one-to-one conversation, at dinner, or on the telephone.”(20) Every speaker has to be aware of body language at all points of the presentation. Gesturing can reveal nervousness, anxiety, stage fright, deception, and lying. However, if used correctly, it can convey the speaker's enthusiasm, preparedness, honesty, and topic knowledge. Just like sharing appropriate information, the speaker has to take into consideration appropriate wardrobe selection. For example, for a formal dinner speech, casual jeans would not be appropriate. On the contrary, an every-day meeting does not require a tuxedo and bow tie.
In addition to the speaker's verbal and non-verbal variables, use of visual supplements enhances the quality of every speech. Depending on the kind of presentation, different visual modalities, such as charts, graphs, videos, handouts, and sample items, may be used. If the presentation room is equipped with a computer and a projector, the speaker may easily use software, such as PowerPoint to display presentation slides, or show a video. However, if the technology is not available, the speaker must find other ways to present supplemental visual information. Handouts, booklets, and sample items would be good choices in such situations.
Regardless of available resources, visual supplements allow the speaker to present information that could be otherwise difficult to put into words. Therefore, graphs, charts, and other techniques should be employed as often as possible, without overwhelming the audience.
Successful speech presentation should incorporate all of the preparatory, structural, verbal, and non-verbal elements. Mark Twain said, “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” This quotation reflects the importance of proper speech preparation. Often the more time one spends preparing for a speech, the more flawless and natural it seems to the audience.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. ThinkExist Web. 19 Mar. 2010
Schloff, Laurie, Speaking For Success:Best Practices In Presenting.The Speech improvement Company, 2007. Print. Twain, Mark
Verbal and Nonverbal Communication. Organizational Communication - OB 321. Supplemental Materials. University of San Francisco, Web. 19 Mar. 2010