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The art of speaking

PUBLIC speaking is defined as the act or process of making speeches in public and the art of effective oral communication with an audience.

But the process of making speeches in public goes far beyond the stage time. It involves a lot of background preparation work before those speeches can be delivered.

Likewise, defining public speaking as an art involves more than just oral communication.

It is the entire package of the speaker, the stage, the lighting, the layout, the sound system and a whole lot of other items.

This is where the conventional definitions of public speaking do not do justice to the act of delivering a great speech. Here are some of the common myths surrounding public speaking:

Myth 1: Public speaking is about talking to a large audience

It may not necessarily be. It could be a one-person audience or an audience of thousands. As long as you are communicating, it is considered public speaking.

“You cannot not communicate” is a saying I would like you to remember at this point.

Myth 2: Public speaking is an art

It is not just a delicate art - there are steps and methods in delivering a speech that make it into a science.

When you describe something as an art, people get the notion that it is a skill that you either have or don’t have, and that it is something innate and difficult to learn.

Myth 3: Public speaking involves just the oral presentation

The Mehrabian Rule states that in any presentation, 7 per cent is accorded to words, 38 per cent to tone of voice and 55 per cent to body language.

The rule was named after Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA, who is famous for his work on the relative importance of verbal and non-verbal messages.

Public speaking is not just about what you say, but more importantly, how you say it.

Myth 4: Public speaking is first and foremost about the content

Content is the skeleton of the speech. You still need to dress up the content with the skills to deliver it or else the effectiveness of the message may be lost.

That is why I always refer to a speech presentation as delivering a speech.

Myth 5: It is more difficult to prepare for a two-hour speech than a five-minute one

To quote a famous line from Mark Twain: “If you want me to talk for two hours, I can start now. If you want me to speak for five minutes, I am going to need a week …”

If you have all the time you need to deliver your speech, you have a lot of leeway and margin to deliver the main message of your speech. But if you have a limited time to make your point, then it becomes important to make your point effectively.

The saying, “we cannot not communicate” is absolutely true.

You are communicating every moment, whether you are conscious of it or not. You are presenting yourself to the world at every instance, moment and situation.

People around you judge you at every possible juncture. That is the reason you need to communicate to the outside world in a better way.

The bottom line is, learning public speaking skills sets you apart from your peers and the competition. Good communication skills get you noticed and remembered and give you influence.

As you embark on your public speaking journey, remember that to start, you don’t have to be good, but to be good, you have to start. - Source: ST/ANN

*Article by Lawrence Chan, a professional speaker and associate trainer with d’Oz International Singapore.

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