Essentials of Effective Speaking


Nobody is a born speaker – it is a skill that can be learnt.

“All great speakers were bad speakers first” – Emerson

  1. Listening: The First Step to Speaking

To be effective speaker you need to understand how people listen. If you don’t you could be broadcasting on the wrong frequency and you wouldn’t realize it. You may speak well but it is not sticking.

How do people listen? The human mind processes words at a rate of approximately 500 minutes but we speak at about 150 words a minute, so the difference between the two is ‘350’. When listeners switch off the chances are they are on Route 350.

  1. Preparation and Planning

Fail to prepare; prepare to fail.

Setting an Objective: Before you start you need to know where you are going. Ask why am I speaking? What do I want to achieve?

  • To inform/ teach/ train
  • To stimulate/ motivate/ inspire
  • To persuade/ convince/ sell
  • To explore/ debate/ negotiate
  • To amuse/ entertain

Research your Audience: Why are they here? What do they expect? What do they want or need?

How many will be present? What is their position/ occupation/ title? What is their background/ education/ culture/ race? What is their sex/ male/ female? What is their age?

Who? Where? When? How? Duration? Other speakers?

How to Prepare?

  • Why are you speaking? Identify and write out your objectives?
  • Who is going to listen? Find out about audience
  • Draw an Idea map. Don’t be judgmental, be creative
  • Select ideas; choose a few key points to achieve your objective
  1. Building an Impressive Body

Selecting a structure: Problem/ Solution – common structure used in business presentations

Topical structure: also known as qualitative structure, you list your point in order of significance with most important in the beginning.

Spatial structure: you can begin with the particular and move to the general or alternatively examine the big picture first and then show how it applies to the audience

Theory/ practice: you outline the theory and then show how it works in practice

  1. Develop Key Ideas

What should your opening words say? You must grab their attention and suspend their questioning? Your opening words must be imaginative, stimulating and above all attention gaining. As simple as A B C D; Attention capturing, Benefits what they will gain from listening, Credentials what is your credentials for speaking, Direction and destination – tell them your structure.

End on a High note: Summarize – use phrases like ‘in conclusion’, ‘to sum up’, or ‘finally’ to indicate that you are about to finish. ‘Having heard what I’ve said, I think you will agree…’. Ask a question ‘the question is not whether we can afford to increase the budget but whether we can afford not to?’  The decision is with you, what do you think?

End with an Anecdote: it must emphasize the main theme; ‘Women are in a stronger position than ever before – even my young nephew has recognized this. He came home recently and told his father that he was second in class. First place was held by a girl. “Surely you’re not going to be beaten by a mere girl,” asked his father. “Well you see,” said my nephew, “girls are not as mere as they used to be.”

Minions Despicable

  1. Delivery Method and Systems

Speeches are like babies – easy to conceive, hard to deliver. Reading: you lose eye contact of the audience. Memorizing: avoid because all your energy will be directed inwards instead of outwards to your audience, will lack enthusiasm and vitality.

Ideas map as safety net: use confidence cards with 4” x 6” index cards with single words to help you. Cards are less distracting than paper, besides paper shake in case you are nervous.

  1. Body Language

Enthusiasm, vitality and sincerity. Smile: it tells the audience I am happy to be here and I am glad you are here too. How to make an entrance: I am happy expression.

Why your body language is important: it reflects I am in control, relaxed.

Eye communication: looking at them demonstrates that you are interested in them. Use their eyes to express disinterest. Eye contact denotes authority. We express our emotions through our eyes. Look at the audience.

Why is it difficult to look at the audience? You do not want the audience to see your nervousness; therefore you avoid eye contact.

If you don’t pay attention to your audience they will not pay attention to you.

7. Humour and Wit

Once you get people laughing they are listening and you can tell them almost anything.

Humour at the beginning relaxes the audience and also eases the tension for you. Smiling and laughter unites an audience and creates an atmosphere in which they will listen together.  The safest target for your humour is yourself. Show them your weakness and admit your failings.


  1. Aera Alickson says

    Very true. When presenting essential training, I still find participants dosing off to sleep. I now see that I am the cause to the problem.


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