The first thing you must do is cultivate a good ethos—the reputation and character of a speaker or writer in an argument. Then come up with good pathos—the part of an argument that touches the emotions of the reader or listener. Finally, make sure that you have impeccable logos—the part of an argument consisting of evidence and the reasoning based directly on that evidence. Then, as did Mark Antony after Caesar’s death, you take control of the crowd by saying “Friends, Romans and countrymen. Lend me your ears.” And they do.
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One of the commonalties among so-called successful people is their seemingly innate ability to stand up in front of a crowd with no preparation and orate extemporaneously and comfortably for a period of time far longer than the audience would wish them to do. Also, successful people are comfortable delivering a technical paper at a seminar. They can argue their point of view persuasively at a staff meeting and affect the direction the company or department will take in the future. They are successful because they are either genuinely good at what they do or because they have everyone else buffaloed by how well they can talk.
Each of us is directly responsible for acting in our own best interest. Some people live to work. Others work to live. In either case, work is a common denominator. Since most of us have no choice about having to spend a minimum of 40 hours earning your daily bread, we might as well make the best of it. In fact, it might even be a bit of fun to see how far you can push your career or buffalo your peers.
Having fun with your career could take the form of being the champion that persuaded the gatekeepers to cut loose with some money and fund a great little project that is in the best interest of your company. The point I am trying to make is that being an effective public speaker is good for your career. So, let’s get started.
The College of Business and Administration, University of Colorado, has a Web page at http://bus.colorado.edu/Faculty/Lawrence/Documents/speaking.htm that can get you started to being a great orator. Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of the page. One link goes to the Web site of Lenny Laskowski, who claims a long list of credentials and is an international professional speaker. On his site, http://www.ljlseminars.com/monthtip.htm , he posts speaking tips on a range of public speaking topics. Most are one-page quick reads.
Virtual Presentation Assistant
There are many Web sites out there that give tips to prospective speakers. One example is the site the Communication Studies Department at the University of Kansas maintains—http://www.ukans.edu/cwis/units/coms2/vpa/vpa.htm . There are six basic steps in preparing to deliver a talk. These include determining your purpose, selecting and researching your topic, analyzing your audience, supporting and outlining your points, using visual aids and presenting the speech. This site gives you a good start on how to do these tasks.
An outfit called ChanneOne provides some reference links that might come in handy when you are going through the steps outlined in the presentation assistant. This site is aimed at high school students involved in competitive debate, but the information is universally applicable. Go to http://www.channelone.com/fasttrack/english/index.html and explore the sections on grammar, foreign languages, links to online dictionaries and thesaurus and more.
Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization. The first Toastmasters club was established on October 22, 1924, in Santa Ana, California, by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, who conceived and developed the idea of helping others to speak more effectively. Toastmasters members learn by speaking to groups and working with others in a supportive environment. After all, the entire purpose of Toastmasters is to improve your ability to get up and do what has got to be done. This venerable organization has chapters around the world and you can find the group closest to you by visiting http://www.toastmasters.org/find.htm .
Some of the local groups maintain their own Web sites where they post useful reference material. One example is the Parramatta Toastmasters Club in Sydney, Australia. The corresponding Web site is http://www.users.bigpond.com/parratm/resource.htm .
Nearly every one of the sites referenced in this article suggest that outlining the speech is a fundamental activity that needs to be done. Do you remember the proper way to outline anything? For years, we have all seen bullet-point outlines used for some business purpose and assume that they are technically correct. We have all seen specifications written in outline format and make the same assumption. Since this public speaking is going to affect our livelihood, I thought it might be useful to go back to school to learn how to do it.
Let’s start out simply. You can find an extremely brief overview of the format of an outline at http://homepage.dave-world.net/~harlo1/chs/study/outline.htm is extremely brief but gives a good overview of outlining from a text book. Another Web page that pretty much covers the same material is at http://ronjonpublishing.com/powerpoint/ch5/sld024.htm .
Saving the best for last, you should check out what Daniel Kies at the Department of English in the College of DuPage posts to the Web. He has a four-page article titled “Developing and Outline.” It delves into the purpose, process, theory and form that a good outline should exhibit. He shows how to develop an outline by using an example about preparing to write about computers and software. You can get his article at http://papyr.com/hypertextbooks/engl_101/outline.htm and you will find the final sample outline at http://papyr.com/hypertextbooks/engl_101/sampout.htm .
Various anecdotal reports indicate that most people find that having to do public speaking is a highly stressful activity. Yet, isn’t it curious that many of these same people can be the center of attention and the life of the party in other situations. How curious.
A concise listing of the causes of speaker’s anxiety are presented at http://www.ce.utexas.edu/prof/hart/course/causesplain.html . When you read the list, they don’t seem to be such a big deal, but people react differently to the idea of public speaking. There are a couple of relaxation pages you should review. The first two are related.
The idea of progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing groups of muscles. There is a three-part do-it-yourself course for learning how to do the technique. The first lesson is found at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/har/les1.htm and you can find links to the next from the end of the first. Don’t expect this form of relaxation technique to be something you can use in the ten-minute countdown before you must walk up to the front of the room and face the music. Rather, these exercises take about 20 minutes per day; this is a technique you should use to avoid getting stressed back in the real world. However, there is a related page—http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/har/journey.htm —that is a “stand alone” version of the technique and requires only about four minutes. That is something that should work during the countdown if you have been keeping up with the main program of progressive muscle relaxation.
Another Web page discusses mental imagery relaxation and physical relaxation. Go to http://www.health-center.com/brain/therapy/types/relaxation.htm and give both techniques a try.
In some venues, the speakers are expected to provide a bibliography for publishing in the proceedings of the conference. Since business documents rarely require a bibliography, most business professionals probably could use a bit of help in preparing this list of references for the paper being delivered. If the shoe fits, visit http://bvsd.k12.co.us/schools/chs/library/style.html to learn about citing books, periodicals, CD-ROMs, online databases and other sources.
Grammar and style
Speaking properly and using standard sentence structure will endear you to your audience. Think about it. Have you ever had to endure a speaker that butchered the language? Well, there is a writing reference portal at http://www.humberc.on.ca/~coleman/cw-ref.html. This Web site offers links to handbooks, guides and handouts; dictionaries; encyclopedias and more. It even has a link to the Strunk and White style guide.
Speaking of murdering the language, did you ever have to endure a speaker who mumbled or had difficulty with a smooth delivery? This will not be a problem for you when you hit the stage. You will do better because you got a little practice with enunciation a la Eliza Doolittle reviewing the tongue twisters at http://www.geocities.com/EnchantedForest/Glade/8874/tonguetwisters.htm .
Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. has the best writer’s Web portal I found during the research for this column. Although it is aimed at writers, the principles it presents are applicable to speakers. There is so much to be found at http://www.millikin.edu/wcenter/links1.shtml ] that I could not do it justice is the small space available here. I suggest you drop in and check it out for yourself.
More sans comment
Matthew Arnold Stern provides tips for speakers at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Thebes/5544/tips.html . Alisa Shubb is a professor of Speech at American River College in Sacramento, Calif. She has a Web site at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/7908/ , which was designed to help students learn to communicate effectively. You can find some powerful material covering the message, audience, visual aids and an archive of highly-focused articles on many facets of public speaking at http://www.presentersuniversity.com/Sitemap/default.cfm . Essential Training is a full service training company based in Singapore that offers a 30-point list of tips at http://web.singnet.com.sg/~kohsimon/21%20public_speaking_tips.htm .
Remember what your mother told you—Stand up straight and speak so we can hear you. Go break a leg, but be careful around the Ides of March.