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Talking your way to success

Influencing people in business:

The Institute of Bankers of Sri Lanka recently organized a training of trainers program in micro-finance.

CENLEAD CEO Dr K. Kuhathasan made a presentation at the program on ‘Presentation Techniques’. Here are excerpts from his address.

As a business leader, you may have to be an effective speaker. You should be able to communicate your ideas in the most efficient manner at various meetings and conferences.

A good speech does not happen. It has to be planned. The skilful impromptu speech is seldom impromptu. Every good speaker consciously or unconsciously adheres to certain fundamental rules of arrangements in any kind of speech.

What are components of any speech? A speech consists of a beginning, a body and an ending.

The beginning is the point of contact. The body contains the real kernel of what the speaker wants to get across. The ending is the conclusion to which the speaker wishes to lead his audience.

Obviously, a speech is not a series of disconnected jerks, but an easy and gradual progression, not an aimless meandering, but a journey leading to a definite destination.

How to structure your talk

A good talk should have four parts:

* Introduction

* An indication of the structure (make points or divisions)

* The body of your talk (major points or arguments)

* Conclusion

Preparing a speech

Identify your purpose: To inform, to entertain or to persuade.

Gather information: Using such techniques as observing, questioning, interviewing and reading, take notes and gather information which you may want to use in your speech.

Organize the speech: Summarize in a few sentences the main thought you want to communicate.

* State your central idea concisely.

* Design an introduction that will draw the audience’s attention and interest.

* Develop the body of the speech by outlining in a logical form the main ideas to be included in the speech.

* Conclude by emphasizing or summarizing points already made in the speech.

* Create a title.

Practice: As you rehearse, talk from notes as you would if you were addressing an audience. Record your speech.

* Listen to your recording, and observe ways in which your speech may be improved. You might use the rating sheet as a guide for this.

* Make a second recording of your speech. Make improvements.

Present the speech to the audience for the purpose it was prepared. Ask at least one person to rate your speech objectively so that you may benefit by the suggestions of others.

By observing the speech of others, you can get ideas to improve your own speaking habits.

Essential steps for preparing talks effectively

Careful planning is essential for successful speeches, short or long.

The better you prepare in advance, the more confidence you will have on stage. Preparation usually requires the following seven steps. Most of them include important concepts similar to those for writing letters, memos and reports.

* Determine the purpose

* Analyse the audience and the situation

* Choose the main ideas for your message

* Research your topic thoroughly

* Organize the data and write your draft

* Plan visual aids if desirable

* Rehearse the talk and revise where necessary

Determine the purpose

Each speech can have a general and a specific purpose.

The most common general purpose - or ‘mega purpose’ - of business talks is one of these to inform or instruct to persuade, to entertain. The specific purpose - more narrow, or micro is to achieve a definite, specific result.

To inform or instruct: You may be asked to make an idea clear, explain the results of an investigation, demonstrate a process, give instructions to new employees, or report on surveys. Your purpose is to promote understanding.

To persuade: The goal of persuasive speaking is to get your listeners willingly to act or accept your ideas.

Introduction: Your opening statements should capture the listeners’ attention and help create confidence in you. An introduction is of special importance, for it assists in getting your listeners into the right frame of mind, gives some background to the topic and sets the direction for the rest of your talk.

Gaining audience interest and attention may be accomplished using some of the following.

* Purpose statement

* Quotation

* Question

* Starting statement

* Personal story

* Reference to the occasion

* Humorous story


The main part of your speech must present whatever material is necessary to achieve your specific purpose.


With a good conclusion, the speaker will underline his main points and will ensure that the audience will remember and think about what he has said.

Checklist for decreasing stage fright

* Know your subject well: Prepare with the attitude that ‘on that subject on that day you know more than anyone else.’

* Rehearse your talk several times: If possible, rehearse in the same room where you’ll speak. This can be done easily within your company. But if your speech is outside your company, try to arrive at the place early and take a look around. (Actors frequently have a short rehearsal in the hall where they will later appear).

* Request - in advance - a lectern: It helps to hold not only your notes but also, occasionally, a trembling hand. But avoid leaning on the lectern excessively.

* Precheck any equipment you’ll need - projector, screen, extension cord etc.

* Take an object with you - a pen, your notes, a marking pencil. Of course one should not play with the object, but use it as a pointer and as something to touch has helped calm some speakers.

* Breathe deeply and slowly before speaking. Try moving a little in your chair; cross and uncross your legs. Even a slight movement decreases some muscle tenseness.

* Move during the speech: Some movement holds the audience attention and releases nervous energy. Even behind a lectern one can move sightly or use a lavarliere mike and, thereby, increase the possible range of movement. If you’re seated, shift positions in your chair or gesture a bit more with your arms.

* Approach the lectern with assurance and enthusiasm.

Know your audience

* The audience are your listeners. They are ‘us’ not ‘them’

* Treat them with respect

* Talk to them as equals

* Relate your speech to their experience

* Assess their mood and outlook

Never fail to see in your audience, whether

* The audience is disinterested

* The audience is confused

* The audience is prejudiced

* The audience is indifferent

* The audience is having a different experience.

You must know your audience and feel the pulse. You should reinforce these experiences and values, among your audience. You should therefore, organize your speech to suit your audience. One of the ways of organizing your speech could be.

* Tell them what you are going to say.

* Tell them what you want to say

* Tell them what you have told them

* Tell them what you want them to do

Give power to your words

Your spoken communication can be effective only if the words you choose are powerful and are used selectively in a systematic method. Your word can have the power according to the strength you add to it. Here are some hints:

* Be articulate

* Pronounce the words in the right way

* Use the right language suitable to your audience

* Use short sentences

* Use the language which your audience can understand, can relate to their experience and has a feeling for

* Modulate your voice for effect

* Change the pace of speaking according to need. Use pauses and silence for dramatic effect (pitch, pace, pause).

* Vary your voice according to the need. If you wish to be serious, humorous, sympathetic, sarcastic, strong, get the required quality in your tone.

* Change pitch and pace of your speech according to the need.

If you want the effect of swaying away your audience, angering them, frightening them or pacifying them, use the appropriate technique.

To help those who are listening to you

* Slow the speed of delivery of your speech

* Maintain eye contact with all sections of the audience.

* Build pauses in your speech

* Use repetition where necessary

* Vary level of voice and speed

* Provide emphasis to points when necessary

Some tips

* Master your subject

* Be really interested and enthusiastic about your subject.

* Speak slowly, clearly, crisply.

* Do not drag-on in the same tone. Vary your tone. Use high pitch and low pitch skills. Give emphasis to your words.

* Have eye contact with the entire audience and establish rapport.

* Know the need and level of the audience. Audiences are not alike.

* Prepare well. In the beginning write out your complete speech.

* Do your homework. Practise, practise and practise.

* Listen to others’ speeches

* Build a good command over the language.

* Do not be offensive. Do not get angry. Maintain self-control.

* After gaining some experience, use jokes and anecdotes, to break the monotony and keep the audience interested.

Also remember

* When a speaker has a real message in his head and heart, he is almost sure to deliver it. A well prepared speech is already nine-10th delivered.

* Think of success in your public speaking. You will then develop the confidence and determination.

* The opening of a talk is difficult. It is also highly important, for the minds of our listeners who are fresh then.

* The speaker may be able to win the immediate attention of his audience by:

* Arousing curiosity

* Relating an important and interesting business incident.

* Beginning with a specific illustration

* Asking vital questions.

* Opening with a striking quotation.

* Opening with shocking facts.

The close of a speech is really its most strategic element. What is said last is likely to be remembered for long.

Plan your ending carefully. Do not end with ‘that, is all I have to say’.

Seven suggested ways of closing.

* Summarize the important points

* Appeal for action

* Pay compliments to the audience

* Close with a joke

* Quote the experience of other institutions.

* Build a climax.

* Quote from a successful business leader.


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