Many speakers, even mature, well-educated people come on to the dais but fail to make an interesting presentation of their ideas on the given topic. Such poor speakers bore the audience so much that the audience yawns and struggles to stay awake. Quite sadly in some presentations the audience cannot recall at the end of a lecture what they have learned though the speaker has delivered copious amounts of information and given its analysis. Usually the purpose of a presentation is either to inform or convince or entertain, but an unskilled, ill-informed speaker can achieve none of these. An analysis of the factors responsible for the failure of a presentation of a hypothetical speaker is made in the following paragraphs. It is needless to say that the rectification of those factors leads to success.
Assertion of the speaker’s authority and a proper body language: Some speakers don’t give the impression that they are the right people to talk on the given topic, either by their nervous behavior or their failure to inform the audience of their credentials on the topic. Quite strangely, some speakers all through their talk either rivet their attention on a single listener or don’t look at the audience at all, giving their full attention to the notes they have brought. Some stare absently at the objects or look around the room for no reason or play nervously with objects like pen or note book which not only annoys the audience but elicits their distrust also.
Voice Modulation: Another important reason for the failure of a speech is a voice which is terribly monotonous, lacking in the modulations and reflects neither the feelings attached to each piece of information nor the inferences made from such information. (Fast 108) Such presentations make it difficult for the audience to understand; similarly in some presentations, the voice of the speaker and his point are mutually contradictory. A clear, modulating voice is a tool to make meaning clearer, but an improper use of it leads to confusion and irritation. (Jehan 105)
Introduction to the given topic: The audience has to be walked into a context. Listeners who have taken the pains to come to a venue are definitely interested in a speech. But the first and foremost factor defining the success of a lecture is the way the topic is introduced: its importance has to be explained, its relevance to the life or career of each member of the audience has to be properly connected, and the basic concepts related to the topic have to be explained. Many speakers are not aware of this essential requirement of a lecture and hence focus more on the quantity of information - a lot of statistics, numerous references and scores of examples- while failing to lay a foundation for the audience to understand those reams of information.
Fewer Perspectives rather than many: Many speakers deliver their speech with a false notion that many perspectives and many ideas make it a success. But the listeners can neither remember nor refer to all the contents of speech some time later like one does with the written material; meaning of a speech has to made on the spot; they can not postpone it just because there is a lot of information; A speech where its meaning is postponed is definitely the one whose purpose is ruined. The hallmark of a good speech is that the audience understands it on the spot as they listen. For this to happen, the entire speech no matter how big it is should center on very few principal ideas-three or four. Too many ideas leave the audience wondering where they are being led.
Preparation: A speaker who is comfortable in his presentation and having adequate control over what he is going to talk about can deliver his message effectively. That he is comfortable in his job is reflected in his voice, which is well-modulated and exactly tuned to the level of the audience – neither loud nor low-and in an appropriate facial expression. A ‘comfortable’ speaker makes the audience comfortable. A ‘comfortable’ audience receives the message correctly and nothing can stop them from rating the lecture highly. A comfortable audience of the lecture forgets all of their other concerns and is lost in the lecture only. At the end, it carries home a pleasant experience as well as an insightful learning. But the key to such a level of success is preparation. A presentation can be successful only as much as its preparation is. During preparation, a speaker chooses everything that he has to deliver: information, experiences, stories, examples, visual aids, order of points, jokes, and even words too!
To sum up, many experienced, educated people are poor speakers; the success of a speech depends primarily on the preparation, introduction, voice, and body language. It is a false notion that a successful speech requires many perspectives and several ideas; three or four principal ideas are enough.
Fast, Julius. Body Language, New York: Pocket Books, 1970.
Jehan, Gorge W. Persuasive Speaking. Surrey, U. K: Elliot Right Way Books Limited, 1972.
Prof. Appalayya M is a professor of management in Osmania University affiliated college, Hyderabad, India. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org