How to Speak and Talk Better

2013-03-26 07:47

The other day I have been rooming through my old files and discovered the notes I have scribbled while I was in Europe - Netherlands to be precise. There  I was attending a 2 week course on speaking and talking. That was in 2004. I looked at the notes and found them still relavant even today. Here are the notes taken during the second day lecture of of week one:

Duration of the talk

The shorter the talk has to be; the more difficult it will be to do it well. Giving a brief talk requires proportionally more preparation time than longer talk. You have less time to search for the right words, less time to receive feedback from your audience, less time to work through theory and to give illustrations. If you want to be effective, do not underestimate the time it will take you to prepare yourself for a short five to twenty minutes) talk. The time allowed for the talk also determines the scope and the level of detail you can go into. A brief talk will necessarily be less complicated and will deal with fewer points.

A short talk of less than ten minutes can be given without the use of visual aids (though even then one simple visual aid may be helpful). Longer talks will definitely need the support of visual aids e.g. power point slides video or film. All visual aids you are going to use will eat your time.

Rehearsing

To be concise, talks must be carefully planned and rehearsed. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of rehearsing. No actor would walk onto a stage without having rehearsed; no athlete would play without having practiced. The more times you go over your talk, the more confident you will feel when you stand up in front of an audience, and the more convincing and informative you will sound. Rehearse for your colleagues, your room-mates or friends, your cat or dog, yourself. Rehearse until you are tired of the talk; the adrenaline that comes from standing up in front of a group will make you feel and sound animated when you actually come to deliver your talk, even if numerous repetitions have led you to feel bored by the talk before you actually begin to speak.

Avoid circulating materials around the audience while you are talking as people will be distracted and end up losing you and you losing them.

Finally, be aware that after the talk you may be required to wait for questions and discussions from the audience. This can take a considerable amount of your time.

Audience

You need to find out who your audience are and how much they know about the subject matter already.

The nature and interests of the audience determine for the greatest part the scope and content of the presentation. Your job as the speaker is to interest your audience. You need to know as much as possible or guess about the people who will form the audience. You need to think about their expectations, background knowledge and their attitudes.

The size of the audience determines your speaking strategy. Obviously a meeting with five people needs a different approach than a meeting with hundred people. In general a small audience (four or five people seated around a table) implies an informal, seemingly casual and conversational approach. This kind of talk will have more of the features of a meeting or discussion with frequent interruptions.

Make sure also that all the equipments are working and that you know how to operate them. You should arrive early enough on the day of the talk to organise the visuals.

Subject

Your own grasp of the subject determines whether or not the talk is likely to be a success. It is very difficult to give an effective talk, if you do not have a profound grasp of the subject – not just only at the theoretical level but also practically.

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