Mending Your Speaking Skills

“It is good to have an audience listening to you; and it is still better to have the audience fully following you,” this simple quote tells us the art of successful public speaking. 


Public speaking (also called oratory or oration), is the process or act of performing a speech to a live audience. Public speaking is commonly understood as formal, face-to-face, speaking of a single person to a group of listeners. However, due to the evolution of public speaking, it is modernly viewed as any form of speaking (formally and informally) between an audience and the speaker. Additionally, differing methods, structures, and rules can be utilized according to the speaking situation. Public speaking can serve the purpose of transmitting information, telling a story, motivating people to act, or encouraging people. This type of speech is deliberately structured with three general purposes: to inform, persuade, and to entertain.

Why Public Speaking?

Public speaking is a great way of building personal development on many levels, since improving communication skills is helpful in almost every area of life. Whether your goal is to engage in political debate, make a career as a motivational speaker, or gain confidence in front of an audience, public speaking can help you meet your goal. Advantages of public speaking include:

Tips to be successful in Public Speaking?

A careful planning and intelligent implementation of concepts helps one in becoming a successful public speaker.  A few useful tips in this direction can be summarized thus:

Planning strategy depends on whether one is delivering an impromptu speech or a pre- drafted one. In case of impromptu speech, as you have no time to research your topic, try to draw on personal experience or general knowledge. Your content may not be as interesting due to your lack of opportunity to research the topic. Your delivery is therefore very important. Pay extra attention to vocal variation and colour. Put rise and fall into your voice

In case of pre-drafted speeches, use notes effectively. Keep your notes small. Hold your notes in one hand at between waist and shoulder level where they can be easily moved to a comfortable reading distance and referred to without looking down. This will ensure audience contact and speaking volumes are not lost. Avoid reading word-for-word from your notes. Instead, make a list of important points on cue cards, or, as you get better at public speaking, try to memorize what you’re going to say – you can still refer back to your cue cards when you need them.

Planning strategy also differs based on the type of speech required to be delivered. For instance, a technical briefing or a sales pitch. Technical briefings should be presented in a way that allows an audience to understand and apply critical information. Avoid using too much industry jargon or material that is too technical for your colleagues to easily understand. A sales pitch or proposal seeks to persuade. The objective of the presentation is to sell a product, concept or idea. Use high-quality yet simple visual aids, such as charts or slides, to help clarify any sales pitch or proposal. This is just to demonstrate how the preparations has to be different in different contexts.

Practice makes one perfect. The saying holds true in case of public speaking as well.  Practice and rehearse a speech frequently prior to delivering it. Ask friends to be your audience, or practice in front of a mirror. Be sure to use a timer to help you pace your speech. You could also put yourself in situations that require public speaking, such as by cross-training a group from another department, or by volunteering to speak at team meetings. No tool is as powerful in allowing you to practice than the webcam.  Make it a habit to switch on the webcam for three minutes each day and practice expressing yourself.

Engage your audience when you speak. This makes you feel less isolated as a speaker and keeps everyone involved with your message. If appropriate, ask leading questions  targeted to individuals or groups, and encourage people to participate and ask questions. This also helps get out of monotony. 

Body Language: Body language makes or breaks. Any movement that is not significant, weakens. Facial expression is important. The movements of the facial muscles may mean a great deal more than the movements of the hand. Attention to strength, poise, flexibility, and grace of body are the foundations of good gesture, for they are expressions of vitality, and without vitality no speaker can enter the kingdom of power (The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnagey (AKA Dale Carnegie) and J. Berg Esenwein)

Positive thinking  can make a huge difference to the success of your communication, because it helps you feel more confident. Fear makes it all too easy to slip into a cycle of negative self-talk, especially right before you speak, while self-sabotaging  thoughts such as “I’ll never be good at this!” or “I’m going to fall flat on my face!” lower your confidence and increase the chances that you won’t achieve what you’re truly capable of.

Coping with the nerves: Many people cite speaking to an audience as their biggest fear, and a fear of failure  is often at the root of this. Do not be disheartened if at first you suffer from stage-fright. Daniel Webster failed in his first appearance and had to take his seat without finishing his speech because he was nervous. Gladstone was often troubled with self-consciousness in the beginning of an address. Beecher was always perturbed before talking in public. Know your subject better than your hearers know it, and you have nothing to fear. You can never attain freedom from stage-fright by reading a treatise. To plunge is the only way power (The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnagey (AKA Dale Carnegie) and J. Berg Esenwein)

Record your speeches, whenever possible.  You can improve your speaking skills dramatically by watching yourself later, and then working on improving in areas that didn’t go well. Pay attention to your gestures and voice. Our voices contribute something that mere information can’t. The meaning itself can be changed, and often is, by how we vocally express what we’ve written out beforehand. Vocal variety not only helps listeners pay attention to what you’re saying. It allows you to express the subtleties and emotions that are among the most important elements of your speech. (The One Habit that Will Make You a Better Speaker,  Gary Genard, Ph.D.)  

Speaking skills are important for career success, but certainly not limited to one’s professional aspirations. Speaking skills can enhance one’s personal life, and thereby, bring about the well-rounded growth that we should all seek.


K.V.Murali Mohan

Presently Senior Manager with ICFAI Group- Formerly Regional Commercial head, CEAT Tyres- Double postgraduate in journalism and mass communication- Passionate independent writer credited with 250 plus contributions in the national print media-Recipient of TKM Rao award and Kulapati Gold medal in writing pursuits.

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2 thought on “Mending Your Speaking Skills”

  1. Prof subrahmanyam says:

    Excellent article, quite useful for freshers and enhancing employability. An individual needs to practice , get it checked by elders and improve.

  2. BS Rao says:

    It was an exceptionally well-written article and created many interesting suggestions on the subject.

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