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:
* An indication of the structure (make points or divisions)
* The body of your talk (major points or arguments)
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
* 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
* Create a title.
Practice: As you rehearse,
talk from notes as you would if you were addressing an audience. Record
* 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,
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
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
* 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
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
* Precheck any equipment you’ll need - projector, screen, extension
* 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,
* 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
* 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
* 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
* 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.
* 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
* 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
* 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
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.