Public speaking has taken root as a career progression tool with many employers using their employees’ ability to do an oral, well-researched presentation to a large audience to gauge their leadership abilities.
At the crux of public speaking is a speaker's ability to know and understand the needs of their audience and tap into them before taking the stage.
Hellen Maleche, a lecturer at the Strategic and Organisational Communication Department at Daystar University says that research on demographics and the content the speaker intends to share is pivotal.
“Whenever you communicate you want to send a message to your audience that carries the understanding of the intended message,” she says cautioning that lack of understanding of the audience can lead to insulting their intelligence.
So how do you structure your speech?
The rule of thumb is to have an introduction, body, and conclusion. Elements of public speaking draw from Aristotle's philosophy of logos, ethos, and pathos.
“Logos is equal to facts, information one has thoroughly researched upon and has mastery of the content that you would want to speak about,” she offers. A public speaker can infer the facts from credible sites such as government websites or sound organisations.
Mrs Maleche notes that in public speaking ethos captures sincerity which is crucial to giving the impression the speaker is believable and has integrity.
“Ethos puts the speaker’s character in the spotlight. One has to ensure they are not lying or manipulating their audience.”
The pathos proficiency in public speaking helps the speaker connect emotionally and have the right attitude with their audience.
While anxiety can sometimes kick in a few minutes before delivering a speech, not engaging in small talk, affirming oneself and taking deep breaths can help one calm down.
However, if the speech is scheduled for a few weeks or months, the speaker can actively prepare by reciting what they intend to say daily so that once the day comes, their speech is internalised.
Having the elements and content in check, Sylvia Mwichuli, the chief executive officer Public Relations Society of Kenya notes that a public speaker should actively maintain eye contact, pause where necessary and smile at the audience while making their presentation.
“Moving across the podium while in an upright posture, pausing and talking to the audience, shows authority,” she emphasises.
Although no one is born with perfect public speaking skills, Ms Mwichuli says that practice helps one know when to pause, ask rhetorical questions, and smile.
“The only way to get better at driving is by driving. The same goes for public speaking. Make a mistake today and tomorrow you will be in a better place,” she advises.
However, Ms Mwichuli says that time is of the essence when one is giving a speech . Timing oneself when reciting helps to adjust the content so that it fits the time allocated.
Although most people tend to not remember what the public speaker said it is important to have the utmost three key messages that one repeats using different examples for emphasis. The use of stories should come in handy.
“Do not repeat directly but keep paraphrasing on the go, giving the same message so that it sticks,” offers Ms Mwichuli.
A speaker, playing with their mastery of language and vocabulary while modulating their voice makes their audience thirst for their content.
Ms Mwichuli notes that the rule of thumb stipulates one to use the simplest language, assuming the audience is five-year-olds. Nonetheless, depending on the speaker’s audience, jargon can be used.
While some speakers tend to deliver their speech using PowerPoint, more visual aids are advisable than text as power points are a summary guide and should be at a maximum of five slides.
And for people who have a accent that hinders effective communication, it is advisable that they perfect their pronunciation by listening other public speakers.
“Even so, as much as a trying public speaker can imitate another speaker that they love, they should ensure they do not lose their authenticity by working on delivery,” says Mrs Maleche .
She believes that people who stammer or stutter can also get better at their public speaking by speaking for a very short time and also informing the audience prior so that they are accommodative. Focusing a lot on the message also deters them from majoring on their stammering or stuttering.
In a case where the speaker encounters a hostile audience, a request to the listeners to offer them some time so that they can share the message they intended is one of the ways of combating aggressiveness. “Negotiate with your audience to give you ears,” she stresses.
Whereas public speaking seats at the core of communication, speakers charge sheet ranges from Sh5,000 to Sh60,000 for most of them depending on factors such as the client's needs, their availability, time and whether it’s a group teaching or individual.