Public-speaking is a skill that everyone one wishes to master. While that is testing in itself, oration poses as a bigger challenge as it is the formal cousin of public-speaking. Every skill that you need, to be good at public-speaking, needs to be finely tuned for a good oration because your audience will expect a certain level of sophistication from you. Here are some tips to help you achieve that.
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Before attempting to get a message across, it is necessary to know that message to its depths. Sound knowledge of the topic you wish to speak about is an absolute must. This improves fluency, and your listeners will only understand you if your speech is eloquent. Knowing what you’re talking about is the easiest way to improve your confidence because even if you happen to lose your train of thought, you can improvise on the spot. Be a Devil’s advocate and attack your own speech. This is a great way to recognise gaps in your understanding and improve on it. What Sir Francis Bacon said almost 500 years ago holds true to this day – “Knowledge is power.”
You may have come across many individuals who seem like natural orators, been envious of them even. The truth is that the world may have good communicators, but natural orators are mythical creatures. Even good communication has room for improvement, and this can be achieved only by preparation.
Once you have all the information on your topic, organise it, structure it and give it form. Prepare cue cards if you must. This is the framework for your speech. Don’t memorise it, as a rule, even if you’re terrified of drawing a blank. In fact, it’s only when you memorise that you give yourself a chance to forget. Read your speech out loud to as many people as possible, to the mirror, and even to the air. Every blunder in your practice session is one less in your final oration.
Your audience’s attention is precious. In those few minutes that you’re on centre-stage, their attention is up for grabs, and you need to realise that day-dreams are serious competitors.
Make your speech precise. See how you can say all that needs to be said without digressing too much. If your speech is precise, it will be short, and if it is short, you can rest assured your audience will remain with you.
Use stories as a medium to get a point across, wherever relevant. It’s a great way to keep your audience engaged. Stories provide your audience a way to stay connected with you and your message.
Keep it light and humorous. Although humour works best for public-speaking in general, it wouldn’t hurt a more sophisticated oration. A joke at your own expense goes a step further from stories in claiming your audience’s attention.
Pauses are very important while delivering a speech because it gives your audience the time to understand what is being said. When you talk slowly and deliberately, you will also automatically enunciate well. A trick that many orators use is the repetition of certain words or sentences. This not only asserts an importance but also re-anchors drifting attention. A control over the pace of your speech also keeps you calm and focused.
Research has shown that a voice with varying volume and tone has a stronger impact on the audience. If you think about it, all the lectures and speeches that put you to sleep in the past did so because they were probably flat-lined. An interesting speech will be completely lost on your audience if you don’t present your voice as interestingly. Vocal variety reflects your involvement in your speech, and the passion you have for your subject. These are cues that your audience will pick up subconsciously, helping them to decide if you are worth their attention or not.
No matter how formal your speech is, it always helps to lighten the mood and directly engage with your audience. Talk to them and ask them questions as if you’re merely discussing with a peer. Orations are essentially a one way conversation and interactions help break this monotony.
You can implement all these tips and still not have an impact on your audience if you forget to be humble. Confidence usually tends to morph into a sense of superiority which can really harm your purpose. Being amicable and respecting your audience will make sure your other efforts in oration will not go waste.