28 August, 2011

Public speaking continued............

This post is continued from my previous post. I dislike calling this part II and previous one as part I because every time I do that, I fail to write part II. Writing jinx.

In the book Linchpin, Seth Godin says the following :
It turns out that the three biological factors that drive job performance and innovation are social intelligence, fear response, and perception.  Public speaking brings all three together. Speaking to a group requires social intelligence. We need to be able to make an emotional connection with people, talk about what they are interested in, and persuade them. That's difficult, and we're not wired for this as well as we are wired to, say, eat fried foods.

Public speaking also triggers huge fear responses. We're surrounded by strangers or people of power, all of whom might harm us. Attention is focused on us, and attention (according to our biology) equals danger.

Last, and more subtly, speaking involves perception. It exposes how we see things, both the thing we are talking about and the response of the people in the room. Exposing that perception is frightening.
The above paragraph speaks for itself. I hope I don't have to elaborate. Seth Godin's simplicity in writing amazes me.

With the advent of internet, there is no dearth of content if one intends to speak. However, speaking of one's own experiences has more human touch to it than copying something point by point and puking it in front of the audience. Learning in depth is not enough, one has to experience it before speaking highly of it. To paraphrase Rahul Verma, "Don't follow your guru's ideas blindly. Make them your own or discard them as need be. Experience ideas before professing to others"

Speaking style
Everyone's speaking style differs. I speak very fast. I speak very loudly. I don't smile enough as I talk about stuff that I am damn serious about. Some people are slow. Few others maintain a balance between the good and bad aspects of their speaking skills. One can change the style by practice. Rehearsing talks, talking amidst friends or colleagues who provide feedback are some small steps that could .3help.

Thought process
We would have prepared with a certain thought process in mind. We would have a list of topics we want to deliver. One single question can doom this whole process. Your thoughts are no longer yours. Someone hijacks it and before you realize, your talk will be over. My friend Netra suggests I try meditation. I annoyed her by saying, "I'm too restless to meditate". Slowing down while talking helps. Being conscious of where we left the topic as we answer a question helps. Off late, I have seen this work for me as I deliver lectures.

Evoking serious thoughts through humor or satire helps convey serious messages in a funny way. I have a few speakers do this exceptionally well. This is where listening to more and more good speakers helps. One may start with imitating their favorite speakers, but eventually develop their own style.

Your style a.k.a Originality
If we have known the speaker closely, we can tell if he is original or not. By original, I mean being one's own true self. Seasoned speakers might appear to have their own style that works. However, they must have started from somewhere. By listening to some of the better speakers around and by working on their own style. It's hard to be original and still be a good speaker, I guess. Still thinking on these lines........

These are just a few highlights of what I think goes into good public speaking. It's a post written consciously to tell myself that I need to focus on these as I pursue serious speaking opportunities. If this helps any upcoming speakers, that will make me happy too.

Parimala Shankaraiah