I have been with Toastmasters International for 30 years and would like to share why some speakers are so great.
Why is it that some speakers are so dynamic? So watchable and listenable? They emerge on the stage and immediately, you feel electrified by them. They seem to have something worthy to listen to and you are going to enjoy their presentations.
A speaker first engages the attention of the audience by his or her first impression starting with his gait when he appears on the stage, his dressing, his facial expression and then his voice. Public speaking has so many aspects to it for a successful presentation that they are worth analyzing and putting them into practice for us to become better speakers.
According to Toastmasters International Speech contest Judges guide which the judges would use to assess the performance of the contestants’ speeches to determine the champion, the criteria are as follows:
Delivery is 30% Content 50% Language 20%
Delivery is further divided into
10% for physical delivery (appearance, body language and use of speaking area)
10% to use of voice (vocal variety)
10% to manner ( directness, assurance and enthusiasm)
Let’s focus on the delivery of the speech.
Beginning with the appearance, the speaker should dress appropriately. If the presentation is about sports, it is best that he is attired in smart sports attire so as to appear credible. There have been instances where the presenters appeared in casual wear even to the extent of wearing flip-flops to an event. This is not only out of sync with the rest of the speakers and the occasion, it also a sign of disrespect for the listeners.It is a quick way to trend online and advertise your event though it is not encouraged.
Body language refer to gestures and postures. If the speaker gesticulates or expresses wildly with his hands, this can pose as a distraction to his message. Gestures are best kept to a minimum. On the other hand, placing hands in front in the so called ‘fig position’ or behind one’s back is very unnatural in appearance. Appropriate gestures in tandem with the message is ideal. Postures are positions or stature adopted by the speaker. He or she should stand straight in a confident manner, feet slightly apart for a more stable pose.
A good speaker makes full use of the speaking arena. This is the designated area where he can move about decisively and steadily to engage the wider audience as he speaks. Facing only a certain group of audience would result in the neglect of others , losing them in the process. Being rooted to one spot spells anxiety and non-movement of the speaker is not only stiff in appearance but may cause the listeners to drift off to sleep.
Use of Voice
The speaker’s voice is an important factor in making the audience stay engaged. Listening to effective communicators, you observe and hear that there is vocal variety which includes volume, pitch, tone, emphasis, rate of speaking. This ensures that the speech do not sound monotonous. Significantly, the words must be crisp and clear. Being fluid and fluent is possible to achieve with adequate regular practice of reading aloud privately and taking up frequent speaking opportunities.
A good speaker comes across as confident, an authority on the content of his presentation. His every move is assuring and decisive. He is also enthusiastic and passionate about what he is talking about so that the audience can sense his sincerity in sharing his information. Smile does wonders. Everyone loves a happy person. But when conveying a serious message, the facial expressions and the body language will have to be congruent to make the speaker more believable.
Next, we look at the speech content
Content 50% is further divided into:
Development 20% (structure, organization and supporting evidence)
Effectiveness 15% (interest aroused, audience response, attainment of purpose)
Value 15% ( ideas, originality and logic)
Once you have launched into the opening speech and grabbed the attention of the audience, it is necessary to maintain the momentum of their interest by what you say.
Effective speakers structure their speech very well by organizing it into an introduction, body and conclusion. The whole speech must serve the purpose of imparting your main message in the end. The choice of the topic should be the speaker’s forte as this lends more credibility and authority to him.
In the opening of the speech, there are many techniques involved such as a question, a rhetorical one, a quotational opening, showing of a prop, a short story to provide background setting for the listeners, etc. This opening must be memorized cold so as to embark on your presentation with confidence. Faltering at this stage can be a stumbling block! If the prop is to be shown later, put it away within reach but out of sight from the audience so that it would not be a distraction.
In the body of the speech, the presenter would talk about at least three key points. Each point would be fully described with supporting evidence if needed so as to prove your case. Real life examples may be narrated to give the speech more ground to convince the listeners. Quotes by renowned figures are often used to deliver more punch in the message.
There should be smooth transition when moving from one point to the other. We call it goal posts as every idea is fully explored before proceeding to the next. According to experts, 3 or at most 4 points are ideal for a short speech but if it is a long presentation, the use of power points with the ideas in bullet format and relevant images may prove useful for better assimilation by the audience.
Some speakers are very discerning. Just as they are aware of their own body language, they are also mindful of the audiences’ body language so that what they have been talking about is relevant and piquing the latter’s interest at the same time. Where necessary, speaking off the cuff to inject a humourous remark or so may be helpful.
Good speakers make it pertinent to talk about their own experiences to make the speech sound more authentic. Only he has that unique situation that can apply to the speech and that makes it original. It must also be logical so as not to go out of point.
An important element employed by speakers is the use of humor. Humor always scores. Some speakers have the knack of looking at situations from an amusing perspective and able to share that joke or funny anecdote with the audience. This will certainly breaks the monotony of a long presentation and wake some people up from their slumber!
Ideas are bountiful. With the internet, library, newspapers, social media and the like, speakers have to delve into wider reading to source for ideas. From there, they can develop their own concept and give it the relevant spin that is useful and applicable.
Speakers would especially spend great effort and time on their content to make sure that they give their audience what they deserve for taking the time to listen to them.
In the conclusion of the speech, an effective speaker always summarizes what have been said. The important aspects are reiterated and finally the appeal for acceptance or action is definitely on the cards. Do not forget to thank the audience for their kind attention!
Language use –score of 20% is no less important.
The speaker would do very well if the speech centre around the correct use of grammar, good choice of words and pronunciation. Grammar involving tenses, pronouns, conjunctions, etc are not insignificant as wrong use may put off audiences. The good choice of words also makes the script more refreshing to listen to. With the help of thesaurus, some speakers ensure that they do not repeat the same verb or noun which is an annoyance and shows the lack of vocabulary. Finally, with the words especially if foreign words are quoted, the speaker has to be certain that they are accurately articulated.
There seem to be many challenges involved in crafting a good speech and delivering it well to the audience but they are not insurmountable. Like acquiring any skills, one needs constant practice and exposure and with sincere feedback from more experienced speakers, we can fine tune each speech and performance until we become effective communicators and welcome speakers.