Module 4 “How do I make myself heard?” – Communication
Unit 2: Skills for high impact speech
Improving speaker skills
Anyone has the possibility to acquire and develop communication skills. In addition to the acquisition of basic theoretical knowledge, it is essential to put into practice everything learned. Communication skills are the result of training and experience. Standing in front of the mirror and repeating the speech over and over again helps not only to memorize the content but to gain self-confidence and security.
However, it is the experience that teaches through the experience what is better to do or not to do in a live intervention. Improving speaker skills is a matter of motivation, preparation and, above all, practice.
A) PERFORMANCE IN DIFFERENT SCENARIOS
There are different contexts and environments in which a person has to present a speech. Taking into account the particularities of each situation is essential to achieve our objective; communicate effectively.
The speech can be developed in different physical settings:
- A classroom. Although traditionally it is a place where formal unidirectional presentations have been developed (where the speaker speaks), actually it is a more flexible setting in which all kinds of speeches are presented with greater interaction between the speaker and the public. The distribution of the classroom is also usually variable. Many of the presentations made in classrooms seek greater interaction among the people participating in the presentation, so all of them are placed in a U or semicircle shape. The rapporteur occupies the open space. This distribution favors a more relaxed and trustworthy climate since both the physical and psychological distance are significantly reduced. In this case, the microphone is not necessary.
On other occasions, the presentation can take place around a round or oval table in which the speaker occupies one side. This provision is especially recommended for business meetings.
- An auditorium. It is a theater-like setting and its layout is formal. As it is more spacious, it allows a large capacity and the distances between speaker and audience is greater. Therefore, a microphone is required. At the beginning, this space can “impose” but only at the beginning, once the intervention has started, is it a space that avoids burdens and a charged environment.
- Amphitheater. Also called a forum. The physical layout is very similar to that of the auditorium except that the public is arranged in the form of a semicircle. In short, they are placed as the Roman amphitheater.
B) PRACTICE OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF INTERVENTIONS
There are different types of interventions or speeches. Each intervention has its own characteristics and requires a different language and technique.
An initial first classification helps us differentiate between formal and informal presentations. Each presentation can have its formal and informal (mixed) part. Thus, the formal presentation has a structured and controlled script over time. In general, it is generally aimed at a broader audience and the degree of participation is less than in informal interventions. For its part, the informal presentation is usually carried out by expert speakers, has greater participation and feedback.
Depending on the format used, the following interventions stand out:
- Conference; a speaker makes a formal presentation of a series of content.
- Social gathering; several people talk spontaneously about a topic (usually current).
- Talk-colloquium; a speaker presents a series of contents and, generally at the end of the presentation, the audience participates.
- Round table; Several speakers present their arguments and ideas and dialogue with each other. It is a very dynamic and plural intervention because several perspectives on the same subject are presented in a relaxed way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6C7sm8LcPU. In this video you will see the development of a “creative” round table.
- Debate; two or more speakers discuss a topic. All the parties present their points of view looking for a consensus in the positions or a defeat for the rival party. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb0FQXBguZs&t=28s. Watch this video. Obama is a good speaker and knows how to debate. In this case, what is Obama’s counter argument?
Depending on the objective of the intervention, the speaker will use various techniques to explain (seeks to teach), persuade (seeks a change in attitude and behavior of the audience), entertain (seeks to distract, amuse) or celebrate events (seeks to commemorate or thank)
C) GO TO A LARGE AUDITORIUM
Being able to give a speech or make a presentation in a large auditorium is a great opportunity. What is the difference with the rest of the scenarios? The audience is larger, and obviously, if there is a larger audience, the physical space is also more extensive
All this has its repercussion in aspects such as:
- The speaker: Speaking before a large audience can increase the degree of nervousness of the speaker. When preparing the intervention, it is important to keep in mind that the recipient is a large audience, but without forgetting that the fact that more people are listening to us is an opportunity to reach more people. Once you have taken on the challenge of speaking before an audience, of having prepared a good speech and of having practiced with discipline, the more people who know our know-how.
- The beginning of the exhibition: In the first moments when the first contact in the auditorium takes place, the first sentences can help to create a more relaxed atmosphere that reduces the degree of tension on the part of the speaker. Maintaining eye contact with the audience is important.
- The resources available for the good performance of the intervention. Considering that the space and structure of the building is different, the speaker needs a microphone to make himself heard. In addition, the rest of the audiovisual media become more important.
- Before the final presentation, the speaker must practice on the stage of the auditorium. It must be comfortable and move freely in space. This will generate self-confidence and security to focus on the message and the audience.
Before the intervention it is essential to check that the technical and audiovisual equipment works correctly.
D) MANAGEMENT SENSITIVE SCENARIO
In any situation of these characteristics the key word is CALM. Nerves are never good travel companions. Focusing on our goal is a good strategy to avoid getting emotionally out of control. Whatever happens, how do I want to end this intervention?
Focusing on the objective helps us distract ourselves and give more importance to obstacles than we should.
Another key word for delicate moments is humour. A sense of humour helps to take tension away from the moment, relax and relax the environment. Of course, it is important to know how to recognize the moments that allow humour so as not to screw up or make the situation even more delicate.
In the face of complicated situations generated in interaction with the public, it is advisable to act as follows:
- If the person makes a correction and is right, we must sincerely apologize and seek the listener’s agreement. All this in clear and concise language. “You are right, the figure I have given you is incorrect. I apologize, I have confused the data.”
- If the person is not right in his argument, we will answer in an assertive way, describing and arguing without personal evaluations and expressing empathy towards the other. “I understand that the strategy that I propose may seem preposterous, but there are thousands of investigations whose results guarantee the effectiveness of these actions in the entrepreneurial field. I put at your disposal the links and documentation that prove my argument”.
In this link you can find 15 typical errors or difficult situations for a speaker. The objective is to prevent many of these situations from being generated, but if they occur the best alternative is to learn from them https://highspark.co/15-bad-speeches-avoid-in-presentations/
E) IMPROVISATION. PROMOTE CREATIVITY.
An exhibition can be done using different presentation methods or options:
- A speech can be given based on the memorization of a text. It is an alternative that, if used as the only option, is very limited. The advantage that it presents is that it allows having the exact contents elaborated. In any case, what value does a speaker bring who repeats a text like a parrot? What do you think?
- Another alternative similar to the previous one is based on the mere reading of a text. Although in some cases it may be necessary to read the content of technical reports, presentations, etc. It is important to keep in mind that this is a very rigid formula that does not generate credibility or connection with the audience.
- The “improvisation” prepared is based on making a presentation based on a previously structured outline or script that will be developed spontaneously. It would be something like a “cutlet” that facilitates a good exposure. We must not forget that the more we prepare an intervention, the better improvisations we will make, curious, right? This is one of the most used alternatives.
- Total improvisation is carried out without prior preparation. Better not to opt for it unless we are expert speakers. The reliability and efficiency percentage is really low; sure you have ever checked it. As you can imagine, it is a little used alternative.
Having said all of the above, it is important to keep in mind that a good speaker must know how to improvise. You can choose one option or another of presentation but in all there is a need and margin for improvisation. Why?
- Because any unexpected event can happen, technical failures, delays, etc.
- Because a speaker will not generate any kind of credibility if he or she is not able to deal decisively with any challenge or problem that may arise before and with the public.
- Because improvisation generates value for the content, for the responses issued, for the intervention itself.