THIS is examination time. For some strange reason, everybody believes this is the time to give students examination tips and how to manage examination-phobia.
I used to think the same too until lately. Now I think, ‘well, the same tips have been repeated too many times and the issue is now mere recycling of the same. Second, examination time is not the best time to teach these swimmers to swim. It’s too late, is it not? We must learn not to make too much noise for candidates during examinations save just to encourage them to go into that exam room, write what they know and make the best out of it; not to continue pushing and shoving them. Remember the adage about making hay while the sun shines!
Well, you may agree or not agree. This is only an observation and an opinion. But I strongly believe it is food for thought.
So for now let us talk about Public Speaking.
I observe many schools including Primary schools have taken to Public Speaking in a serious way. Many tournaments, are they called competitions? are now common, and schools busily train or prepare pupils to take to stage and speak in front of judges and audiences for marks. This is very important I must hasten to say. Public speaking has created jobs for many worldwide and it is real that speaking can be a career.
However, I wish to share the following thoughts and ideas about this important skill called Public Speaking:
1.It is important to have benchmarks, rules and regulations that professionally bind the best practices into a uniform set of known standards. What is happening is that there are several rulers and judges who sing from different hymn books in their ruling and judgment of speakers.
2.Trainers of speakers need to understand the difference between speaking and reciting rot-learnt material. What teachers evidently do is write glowing speeches for their student speakers and ask them to cram the contents. They ask them to recite these on the competition day and this is what they call Public Speaking. When teachers do this to their children, what skills are they developing? Speaking or parrot learning? If a child learns the teacher’s text well and reproduces it perfectly to the judges and audience, how does this come anywhere near public speaking? Of course it is beautiful recitation. We all used to recite poems and verses when we were young and no one called that public speaking.
3. It is important to know the fundamental difference between use of effective body language (gesticulation) and stand-up comedy. You use your arms and legs and what-have-you in a funny exaggerated way and you appear ridiculous-that is the word. You know what a clown is? More like that! Some teachers encourage uncontrolled and overdone gestures in the mistaken belief that is what brings humour into the speech. It doesn’t. It only makes you ridiculous.
4.Do not underestimate your audience. Some in that audience are experts in public speaking and their ears can instantly tell when a ‘speech’ is faked; meaning it is a teacher’s prepared speech cut and pasted onto the pupil’s memory ‘card’-the brain. Here are the symptoms of a ‘faked’ speech:
Ridiculous speed in presentation-showing it is learnt by heart, hence a recitation. If you cram and reproduce, inevitably you speak at supersonic speed.
A face that is struggling to remember what is printed on the brain shows.
In a written speech, recited in this case, speech tags are completely absent; that is use of umm, you know, by the way, as a matter of fact, I want you to consider this, supposing we take it this way etc.
A natural speech oozes rhetorical questions and question tags: isn’t it? aren’t you?, isn’t that right? etc
If a ‘speaker’ who is reciting misses a word or line, the disaster is panic followed by nervousness and more disaster. We see this very often when school heads or teachers write speeches for pupils to give votes of thanks.
Apologies in a speech show that you know you have missed a line or word and you want to correct it. “I ‘m sorry” Who are you apologizing to? And why are you apologizing in the first place? A natural way of correcting a mistake in a natural speech is, “I mean so and so really” then you correct it. Or if you have forgotten something, ‘I mean this….what-you-call chakutichakuti…” then correction! You never apologize!
A memorized ‘speech’ takes away even the necessary movement and body language. You are concentrating on remembering your lines. It happens even in on-stage drama.
A supersonic speed monotone (voice pitched at one level) is a sign of memorized public speaking.
Teach or train your public speakers to use voice as a tool for effectiveness (voice projection). A good speaker manages his or her audience. If you need the judges to silence listeners for you, you have failed. Audiences talk because you are boring and there is nothing to listen to. You don’t survive on the mercy of judges. Speak so that no one wants to laugh forever like an idiot; no one has something else to say in the midst of your speech.
Everyone must be sitting on edge and not wanting to miss a word of what you are saying. An audience will support you; not disturb you if you are spot-on! Audience reading, control and understanding are skills in public speaking.
There is a whole lot to learn about real public speaking. Seek consultancy from experts. Genuine public speaking is an intellectual sport and art. It can be a lot of fun and serious utilization of talent.
It is a necessary tool of communication in many offices and workplaces today where we live in a communication-driven world.
We can step up these public speaking jokes and games going on in many schools into real serious and fascinating public speaking business if we seek correct consultancy from expert resource persons.
It is not every classroom practitioner who can teach effective public speaking. A lot of great teachers are not great speakers themselves.