The Art of Public Speaking : Dr Ajai Kumar Agarwal




Chandigarh, January 13.2023:

When most people open their mouths, they fail. They fail to get their message across, motivate others, or make themselves credible. They fail to build confidence in their company. A poor performance in oral communications derails more business careers than all the scandals, mistakes and company politics put together. Show business is the name of the game, whether you are an international seminar leader or the keynote speaker of your company’s board of Directors. Without a good track record in Public speaking, you would not make it into the executive wing. No matter how talented, driven, or well-connected, you would be forever limited by your lack of skills in oral communications. A good speech or presentation or a lively conversation with the CEO can put you in a whole different tier in your organization.

Why does this happen? Because many people don’t realize that public speaking – be it a speech or a conversation on an airplane – is a discipline, just like athletics or the law. I meet plenty of people who are in their twenties or thirties and graduated from colleges that had abandoned public speaking requirements. So in their most formative years, no one forced them to get up on their feet.

In public speaking, you have to know what you are doing and why you are doing it. You will have to create strategies for reaching your goal, and practice, practice, practice. Basically there are three things necessary to prepare for any kind of speaking engagement. The first is to have a goal. You have to ask yourself why you are doing this. What message are you going to send? The second thing you have to do is decide how you are going to accomplish that goal. The third essential is practice. Practice puts the speaker in control. It’s a proactive thing. All speakers improve, some dramatically with practice.

Just about anyone who has worked with speeches, presentations, and videos knows that great scripts don’t necessarily translate into great deliveries. And the delivery is the thing. No one cares what’s on the paper; everyone cares what’s coming out of your mouth. Oral communications is a performance, and you’d better do well on whatever stage you are on. I have known many executives whose oral material looks awful on paper. You wonder how it could keep an audience awake. But when the executive gets up to deliver it, the script comes alive.

Oral communications is a performance. Through that performance, the speaker informs, enthralls and motivates. Good speakers understand this. They will throw themselves into the speech rather than trying to be cool and laid back. Stories are great if there is a connection between the story and the message. Incidentally, the reason the story strategy works so well is that we all have many stories within us. We have only to reach inside ourselves to get material for our conversation or our speech.

Charisma is real and it is the ability to convey thoughts and emotions without words. You know it when you see it. It electrifies the room. Top speakers usually have it at least when they are delivering a talk. Away from the stage they might be quite ordinary. When someone speaks, that person should talk with the idea that they are going to inform, enthrall, and motivate. As for expectations, you should not hope to be loved. If you get your message across in the way you want, you have accomplished your goal.

There might be the temptation to have a lot of visuals. Well, don’t do it. The audience usually recognizes that you are using these visuals as something to hide behind. Many speakers are overly dependent on graphics. Also, where do you want the audience’s eyes? Do you want them to be on you or on the visuals? You can’t have it both ways. Frequently, visuals detract from the speaker. You won’t need visuals. Your body language, gestures, facial expressions, and words will say it all. You can create your own atmosphere without props.

Speech & Print

Oral communications are very different from written communications. Therefore, people speak differently than they write. Remember speech and print is different. The skilled oral communicator will use techniques that appeal to the ear. The ancient Greek audience was listening, and repetition kept their minds on the subject. As soon as you decide or get a speech invitation, investigate who the audience is. It’s a task that has to get done. Next, research the topic, First, ask the organization if there is any background information you can read. You can explore the topic online on the internet also. Next, boil all that information down to one or two simple messages. And use those messages to organize your talk.

There are actually two openings of a speech. The first is the pseudo-opening. There are a minute or so of pleasant things to say. During this time the audience is settling down. It is mandatory that the speaker does not say anything of consequence during this first opening. Then comes the second opening. Here is where the speaker really begins. There are all kinds of ways to open. One is to simply state the problem. Another is to tell an anecdote. Some like to use quotations. If you are very skilled at oral communications, humor can work, but not everyone can pull it off. Remember that humor always involves risk. If it does not work out, the speaker will be off to a bad start. We all construct different images for each situation we enter. For example, we are different with our superiors than we are with our families. Many of us are also different people in different contexts. In becoming a seasoned speaker you may have to try out a number of identities too. As the times change and you become more successful, your persona will change.

How can you best communicate your message? There are about a dozen basic ways to organize a speech. First is the “Problem- solution” model. You present the problem, and then you present the solution.

Then comes the reverse of the “Problem- solution” model. You present the solution and then describe the problem. You can approach your speech in tree ways – the Personal Story Approach, the String of Anecdotes and the third is Mix and Match. It means you can mix and match several of these. There is no longer one set way to do a speech.

Must Do list :

1. Oral communications are often quoted out of context. That’s why you must go over every sequence of words and see if they can be misconstrued. If they can, reword that sequence. The best way to keep the message unambiguous and avoid being misquoted is to talk in simple, declarative sentences. Avoid subordinate clause that begin with the word although.

2. Keep the subject matter relatively simple because oral communications is meant for the ear and the ear can take in just so much at one time. The simpler your subject matter, the easier it will be to communicate.

3. Keep focused on the message. You have to be very clear what your message is and make sure that everything in the talk, whether it’s a joke you tell or an example you cite, supports that message. People have a limited attention span when they listen. You don’t want to burden them with too many messages.


4. Provide all the necessary data in an easy to process way.

5. You must open your mouth in public to show who you are and briefly express a point of view. You don’t speak in order to demonstrate how much research you have done or to show off.

6. Keep it short because if you give too long a speech, you immediately acquire the image of someone who is out of touch. There is no longer a hard and fast rule about that, but the human mind and ear are equipped to take in only so much information or new perspectives in one sitting.

7. The speech is not 100 percent done until it’s delivered. Many things can change.

8. When it comes to a speech, the stakes are high. What you do will be seen by many people. Giving a speech is the ultimate networking opportunity. If you do well, this could be the big break you were waiting for.

9. In the body of the speech your job is to persuade the audience to adopt your point of view. The techniques you use depend on what you are comfortable with.

10. One of the biggest barriers to connecting with an audience and convincing them of your point of view is unresolved hostility. It almost always pays to bring the hostility into the open.

11. Statistics can be helpful. They support your argument. But you have to be careful about the source.

12. You can tell an audience any type of negative information as long as you can point to what good might come out of it.

13. Remember, you were invited to speak because someone believed you had something to say based on your own experience. You are doing a disservice to your expertise if you don’t use anecdotes, express your opinions, and speculate about the future. Tell moving anecdotes and create a sense of urgency.

14. Position what you have to offer as a scarce commodity, whether its jobs or advice, increase the value of what you are offering.

15. Add a dash of humor, especially if it’s at your expense, can provide some comic relief to a very serious talk. The audience will be grateful that you gave them a chance to lighten up.

16. Involve the audience as it always helps to get the audience out of its passive role and participate in your talk.

17. A speech is supposed to be conversational. That is, it’s supposed to sound like someone is talking to someone else. But there are all kinds of conversations. You might talk in a formal way, like a statesman. Or you might have an informal style. In order to be conversational, your speech patterns should be very close to actual conversation. A good speaker uses a variety of techniques – humor, provocative anecdotes, and contrarian thinking to keep his audience mesmerized. In that way the speaker is adding value to a discussion that might otherwise be dull.

18. The number one crime in Public speaking today is boring the audience, or the person sitting next to you on the plane. If you are going to open your mouth you have to obey the First Commandment; Thou halt not bore the audience.

19. One big pitfall in public speaking is speaking too long. Your speech is too long if the audience gets restless.

20. Separation is the mortal sin of speaking. It means the speaker is unable to connect with the audience. Any connection can be lost if the speaker goes on too long. The rule of thumb for a speech is about twenty minutes.


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