No one is born possessing public speaking skills. Even the most noted speakers in history had to learn how to deliver an effective speech. People become good public speakers by learning the skills of effective speech delivery. What’s more, these skills are not reserved for the select few. They are skills that anyone can learn. Conversational quality (in public speaking) refers to a manner of utterance that resembles the spontaneity and informality of relaxed personal conversation, or conversational tone in the delivery. Do not confuse a conversational quality with a conversation. They are not the same thing. A speech is more formal than a conversation. Nevertheless, a public speaker should try to make the listeners feel that he or she is talking with them, as in a conversation.
Verbal behaviour refers to the words we speak. It is very important, in public speaking, to pay attention to the words you speak. Think carefully about the words before you speak them. Ask yourself “Is there a better way of saying this?” Listen to words others use that explain an idea better than you could have. Study the following explanations of the figures of speech that can make you “Speak vividly”.
- Alliteration is repeating the first letter or sound of words that are close together. “John is cool, calm and collected”.
- Antithesis is putting contrasting ideas together. See these examples:
“Man proposes, God disposes”, “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice”,
“Many are called, but few are chosen”.
- Hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration used for effect, as in the example in the prescribed book – nobody is really bigger than a house!
- Personification is to give something non-human characteristics. The constitution is not alive, but saying that it will “live forever” vividly conveys the speaker’s idea of permanence.
- A rhetorical question is one to which no answer is required. It is used for effect – for example, to attract the audience’s attention in the introduction to a speech.
This refers to how you sound when you deliver your speech – rather than with the words you use. It explains how and why volume, rate, pauses, pitch, articulation and pronunciation are important factors in the way your speech comes across to your listeners.
This section is concerned with nonverbal communication – what the audience sees (rather than what they hear) from the time you get up to make your speech until you sit down again. Remember that all nonverbal behaviour must complement rather than contradict your verbal message. Note the following nonverbal elements of public speaking:
- personal appearance
- body movements
- facial expression
- eye contact.
Overcoming Speech Apprehension
Communication or Speech apprehension is the fear associated with communicating with another person. According to research, 31 percent of school students experience some level of communication apprehension. A feeling of fear or nervousness experienced before a speech can actually give a competitive edge when the speaker comes to understand this and tackle the fears associated with public speaking. It is important not to try to eliminate fears associated with speaking – rather, it is helpful to take action to manage and control the anxiety.
These factors influence whether or not communication anxiety is present, and to what degree: the degree of evaluation, that is, what the subject perceives to be at stake, whether or not the subject feels subordinate to their audience, how conspicuous the subject feels, the degree of unpredictability in the situation, the degree of dissimilarity between the speaker and the audience; memories of prior failures or successes, and the presence or lack of communication skills are all factors impacting the degree of communication anxiety suffered in a given situation; also known as “stage fright.”