Public Speaking: 2 Notes and 5 Principles

1. PERSUASION. Public speaking or rhetoric is an art of persuasion. One must keep in mind that it is more important to win a person than to win the argument; therefore, humility, gentleness, and meekness count a lot. Jesus, when giving the call to discipleship, said “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). He made the learning situation easy and bereft of all egotistic tensions. How we treat the audience determines how they take us. An Indian maxim avers “Do not cut someone’s nose [i.e. insult him/her] and then give a rose to smell.” The speaker’s attitude speaks louder than his words.

2. IMPACT. “There are three kinds of speakers,” says Indian Christian Leader and International Speaker Dr. Matthew Thomas, “the first are those who speak from their intellect – they reach the intellect, the second are those who speak from their heart – they touch the heart, the third are those who speak from their life – they touch and impact lives.” There must be a consistency between what we profess and what we possess, what we preach and what we practice, what we say and what we are – this builds respect and respect is the backbone of authority and credibility. The doom of Hitlerian philosophy is witnessed by history: Hitler said, “Speak a lie, speak it loud, repeat it often, and the majority will believe you.” The fact is that when lie leaks, the container is promptly thrown away. If your conclusions are not livable (or say, applicable), then don’t preach them. You have no right to waste your audience’ time.

1. CONFIDENCE. Confidence in the speaker is a clear sign that he/she knows and believes what he/she is speaking. It also demonstrates the conviction regarding the truth that the speaker wishes to share. Be positive in outlook and reaction. Negativity, cynicism, despair, and hopelessness are not the virtues of rhetoric.
2. CLARITY. Be clear in your thought, speech, purpose, focus, and motive. Clarity also means simplicity or understandability. You will need illustrations at times to clarify the points that you make. Analogical reasoning makes understanding quite easier by helping people understand something new on the basis of what they already know very well. We beat in air when we speak over the heads of people.
3. COGENCY. Cogency is the quality of sound argument. Speak facts, relate them properly, be logical, and drive a consistent conclusion. The pieces of information in a speech must be neatly tied together in the form of a sound argument. There can never be cogency without proper content. You give what you have, or else it is all an aerobic exercise.
4. CONTROL. Bear control over yourself, your voice, pace or speed, gestures, emotions, mannerisms, posture, eye control, and attention. They must be consistent with the essence and spirit of your message.
5. CONCLUSION. The fact is that the conclusion begins before the speech, though it is only stated at the end. It is the focal point and end of the speech. The conclusion must be able to prove the thesis of the speech. It must also have an application that answers the question: “So what is the bearing of all this talk for me, or what must I do now to benefit from this truth?” In other words, the conclusion must possess applicability, relevance, and significance.

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2010.

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