Public Speaking [Essay]

Definition/Meaning of Public Speaking:


Public speaking [also called oratory or oration] is the process or act of performing a good speech to a live audience. In other words, it means speaking before the public. There are 3 general purposes in this type of speech:


to inform,

to persuade and

to entertain.


Public speaking is a part of the art of persuasion. It is a formal, face-to-face speaking of a single person to a group of listeners. There are different rules and structures in public speaking. The public speakers must have the ability to control vocal qualities to match with any speaking situation. It helps to achieve an effective public communication. They should also be careful about the physical setting, eye contact etc.


We can use public speaking to transmit information, tell a story, motivate people to act or some combination of those. It can be used in many different forms. The history of public speaking has changed and transformed through technology and history. It is important to know when public speaking is most effective and how to do it properly. Znormally, public speaking has 3 parts:


The Introduction

The Body

The Conclusion


The Introduction:


A public speaker uses the starting or introductory sentences to capture or draw the attention of the audiences. The listeners decide in the first 60 to 90 seconds whether the speaker is believable and whether his/her presentation is valuable or important or not. The audiences observe everything about the speaker. For example, his gestures, facial features, dress, voice qualities and the topic qualities. If the speaker has all these qualities, the listeners will hear his speech attentively. The introduction should be 10% of the total speaking time.


The Body:


The body of the speech presents the points in the introduction in detail. The speaker should give background information, particular evidence, examples, consequences or results etc. The speaker should keep his purposes, the nature of the material, and the needs of the audience in mind and present his messages or speech. He should not present too much information. He should speak about 2 or 5 main points. The speaker should not spend much time in introducing and finishing the speech. He should give much time to the main points.


The Conclusion:    


The conclusion of the speech is actually the summary of the total speech. It helps the listeners to understand what the speaker has said for the last few minutes. The speaker may make the conclusion or ending interesting. For example, he can tell a very short story, make a personal request or issue a challenge. But, the speaker should not end his speech with any quotation. The speaker should think that his audiences are going to remember his words and thoughts, not someone else’s opinion. In other words, the audiences will remember well what they hear last.

The Methods of Delivery in Public Speaking


A good speaker always thinks about the delivery method. Basically, there are 4 basic delivery methods in public speaking. They are:


Memorising [Memorised Speaking]

Reading [Speaking by Reading from the Manuscript]

Extemporaneous [Speaking by Looking at the Notes, List of Points or Cues]

Impromptu [Speaking Readily or without Any Earlier Practice]




Memorising means speaking from memory; the speaker memorises the sentences and speaks from his memory. But, memorising a long speech and speaking are not good. If the speaker forgets lines during his speech presentation, he will fail. Besides, the listeners feel bored if the speaker memorises his speech and speaks. There are no natural body gestures and movements in the memorised speeches. However, it is good to memorise a starting paragraph, a humorous story, a quotation or few last remarks or comments. It will make the speech remarkable. 




The speaker reads every word or sentence from papers or from ready notes. This kind of speaking is very common in academic environments. A Professor or researcher may read a paper or article at a professional conference or seminar. Reading from the ready text is helpful if the speaker has a very complex or technical topic. The teachers of the universities and colleges can use this speaking technique. But, the people from the business departments should not use this method because the speakers’ eyes and heads are buried most of the time to the paper or article. They do not have the chance to maintain enough eye contact with the listeners. If it is necessary to read the speech, then the speaker can distribute duplicate copies of the speech to the audience. They can read it at their leisure or free time. If a speaker presents his speech by reading, then he should maintain eye contact with the audiences as much as he can. It will be helpful and easy for the speaker if the sentences in the paper are triple-spaced, there is wide margin and the font is large type.




The ‘extemporaneous speaking’ means speaking from notes. It does not mean speaking from a manuscript or memory. Normally, the notes have the main phrases or words. There are no complete sentences. Possibly, the most effective speech presentation or delivery method is to make the presentation with the help of note cards, visual aids such as, PowerPoint slides etc. This method is very helpful because it looks like a dialogue. It helps the speaker to maintain eye contact with their listeners and to reply to feedback. The speaker should make his speaking notes large enough to read comfortably.




The ‘impromptu speaking’ means speaking readily without any earlier preparation. The speaker may have to deliver impromptu speeches in two situations:


If the speaker agrees to speak but neglects to prepare the speech

If someone requests the speaker to speak unexpectedly


It is not good to present an impromptu speech if the speaker is not a good orator or if he has not spoken on the same topic for many times. The speaker should not speak too much in this kind of speaking. But, the speaker can politely decline the request of impromptu speaking. He can simply say, “Thank you so much for requesting me to speak something on this topic. Unfortunately, I would not be able to speak much on it because I need to make preparations before speaking about the particular topic. I do hope to give a speech on it sometime in the future!”

Delivering the Presentation of the Speech


Public speaking is an art. It is also a skill. The speaker can develop his speaking skill if he plans and practises regularly. The speech presentation has 3 parts:


Before the Presentation [Before Speaking to the Public]

During the Presentation [During the Speech]

After the Presentation [Question and Answer Session]



Before the Presentation [Before Speaking to the Public]


Most of the people feel nervous and fearful before speaking to the public. They can practise the following points to be free from the fear or nervousness:


Complete Preparation: The speaker must analyse his listeners. He should research his topic carefully, unite his thoughts, arrange visual aids, practise by speaking his beginning and ending sentences etc.

Repeated Rehearsals: The speaker must rehearse his presentation again and again. He should record the rehearsal on audio or video tapes. He can listen to them later to evaluate his own performance of speaking.

Managing the Time: The longer speeches make the listeners bored and restless. The speaker should always try to finish his speech within 20 minutes. He can keep a timer during rehearsal to measure his speaking time and regulate accordingly.

Requesting a High Desk or Lectern: A high desk helps the beginning speaker so much. He can keep his note on the desk to deliver his speech or presentations. He should not feel shy to request a lectern if there is no desk there.

Checking the Room: The speaker must check the room before starting his speech or presentation. He should be sure that all the necessary things are there in the room. For example, seats, sound system, projector etc.

Taking Light Meal: The speaker should take light meal if the time of his presentation is after a meal. He should avoid heavy sauces, alcoholic beverages etc.  

Practising Stress Reduction or Lessening: The speaker should breathe deeply and try to relax himself if he feels afraid and nervous.  


During the Presentation [During the Speech]


The speaker can easily impress the audience if he follows these techniques:


No Rush in the Beginning: When someone invites the speaker to deliver the speech, he should breathe deeply to clear his mind. He should walk slowly to the stage or speaker’s podium.

Beginning with a Pause: The speaker should take a moment when he first approaches the listeners. He should adjust his notes and make himself comfortable. He must stand up straight, look slowly around him, establish eye contact and adjust the microphone. After that the speaker should start his presentation. But, his voice should be loud and clear.

Starting from Memory: The speaker should present the first sentence from his memory. It will help him to maintain eye contact with the public. He will look confident and knowledgeable.

Maintaining Eye Contact: The speaker should maintain the eye contact after starting the speech. The eye contact helps the speaker to realise the impression of the audience.

Controlling the Voice: The speaker has to control his voice. His tone should be moderate. He should speak loudly so that everyone can hear him properly. He should also bring variations [ups and downs] in the pitch and speaking rate to give importance or to add emphasis.

Avoiding Some Speech Habits: If the speaker clears his throat or utters a soft cough again and again, then the attention of the audience will shift or move from the speech to the speaker. He should avoid these habits because they disturb the listeners. He should also try to avoid the fillers or filler words and phrases. For example, okay, well, um, you know etc.

Maintaining Phonation: Phonation means the production and variation of the voice tone of the speaker. The common parts of phonation are- ‘pitch’ [how high or low voice sounds], ‘intensity’ [how loud the tones] and ‘duration’ [how long the tones are held by the speaker]. The speaker can make his speech more interesting and impressive by bringing variations in his vocal tone.

Maintaining Articulation: Articulation means the clearness and uniqueness of the sounds. The speaker should be an articulate person. That means he should speak, fluently, pleasantly and smoothly. For example, if the speaker says, dat, wid and thanc to mean that, with and dance, then it will be an articulation mistake.

Maintaining Pronunciation: The speaker should pronounce the words properly. The audiences will not feel interest in listening to the speech if the speaker does not pronounce the words correctly. He should always take help from both the online and print dictionaries to develop his pronunciation.

Speaking Slowly: The speaker should slow down his voice during his speech. If he talks quickly, then the audience will not understand his speech properly.

Using Effective Gestures and Facial Expressions: The speaker can use gestures or he can move his arms, legs etc. to make the messages clear and understandable. He can use his hands to emphasise or give importance to any comments. He should also bring variations in his facial expressions. But, he should not unnecessarily move his hands and arms so much.

Using Visual Aids: The speaker can use visual aids to maintain and revive the interest of the audience. He can also use a pointer if it is needed.

Using the Posture Properly: The posture of the speaker helps to project the right image. He should stand tall and try to avoid gripping the dais.

Watching the Audience: The speaker should watch the audience when he delivers his speech. If the listeners move so much, if they look bored, then the speaker should make his speech short. He should be attentive about the negative feedback. For example, talking, moving chairs, laughing etc.

Dressing Comfortably: The speaker should dress carefully, comfortably and tastefully in a professional way.

Using Appropriate Jokes and Humour: Normally, the listeners do not like to hear a long speech. The speaker should use jokes and humours to make the audience attentive. The jokes or humours should also be related to the content of the speech.

Summarising the Main Points: The last comments of the speaker are very important. The speaker should repeat the main points in his final remarks and emphasise what the audience should think or do. If the speaker announces the conclusion, he should not irritate the listeners by talking for extra 5 or more minutes.


After the Presentation [Question and Answer Session]


Sometimes, there are interactions with the audience at the end of the speech. The speaker should announce at the beginning that he would be glad to answer any questions at the end of his speech. The techniques to handle important section of the presentation are:


Distributing Handouts: The speaker should distribute the handouts to the audience after finishing the presentation.

Encouraging Questions: The speaker should ask the listeners for questions if there is time. He should fix up a time limit for the question and answer session.

Repeating Questions: The speaker should hear the question from a person in the audience. He should repeat it loudly to confirm that he has understood the question. He should ensure that all the listeners have heard it.

Asking for Clarification: The speaker should ask the questioner for clarification if the question is not clear or confusing.    

Answering the Question: The speaker should look at all the audiences when he answers the question. His answer should be simple and direct. The answer should be short but to the point. If time is limited and the question needs more time to explain, then the speaker should politely say, “I am sorry that time is very limited. So, I cannot speak about the issue much. But, I can explain the issue more if you please meet me after the session.”

Admitting If the Answer is Not Known: The speaker should not pretend that he knows the answer. If he does not know the answer or if he is not sure about it, then he should tell the audience directly.

Handling Politely: The speaker should treat every questioner politely. Sometimes, the questioners may ask antagonistic or odd questions, but the speaker should always be fair, firm and polite.

Keeping Control: The speaker should control the situation smartly and skillfully. He should give the chance to most of the audiences to ask questions. It does not look good if only 2 or 3 particular persons ask the questions. If the same person wants to ask many questions, then the speaker should politely say, “I will get back to you if time allows.”  

Preparing the Listeners for the Conclusion: The speaker should prepare his audience for the conclusion by saying, “Our time is almost finished. This is time for the last question.”  

Closing the Session: The speaker should summarise the main points of the presentation and thank the listeners after answering the final question. He should finish the session by looking at the audience and making eye contact. At last, he should gather his notes and leave the stage.

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