Wednesday, May 07, 2014

How to Talk Well In Public

The Kochi Toastmasters recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The organisation, which develops public speaking skills, is thriving

Photo by Melton Antony 

By Shevlin Sebastian

In 2000, businessman CM Daniel returned to Kochi after spending two decades in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. In both these countries, he had been a member of Toastmasters International. This is an institution which helps members to improve their speaking and leadership skills.

However, when Daniel made inquiries about joining a Toastmasters club he got a shock. There was not a single club in Kochi. It was at this time that he met his Toastmaster friends from Bahrain who had also returned. They included George Mathai, Joseph Lukose and the late Augustine Joseph. They, along with Daniel's friends, Paul Manjooran and AO Thomas, decided to start a Toastmasters club at Kochi.

The first meeting, which was held, at the YMCA, Palarivattom, on April 26, 2004, was inaugurated by a former resident editor of The New Indian Express. And now, for the tenth anniversary celebrations, held recently at Kochi, Resident Editor Vinod Mathew did the honours. “The New Indian Express is the only newspaper that has supported us through all these years,” says Daniel, who is the founder-president.

In his speech Vinod Mathew bemoaned the lack of English-speaking skills among students these days. “English is the universal language for communication,” he says. “I interview about 20 wannabe journalists every couple of months. What I have found is that there is no match between the written results and their communication skills. So, there is a need for a holistic development from the school level. The Toastmasters should take an initiative on this.”

Later, founder member George Mathai said that they would be following up on this idea. “One of the aims of the Toastmasters is to impart skills to the youth and uplift them,” he says.

In his speech, Daniel identified the different types of members. “The story goes that there were three stone cutters employed in a project,” he says. “The first one was asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ He said, ‘I am making a livelihood’. The second one said, ‘I am just raising a wall’. The third one said, ‘I am involved along with a team of people to complete this project, which is meant for serving society’.”

These three types are represented in every Toastmasters club. “We have people who have limited objectives,” says Daniel. “They will complete a few speeches and quit. Or they will reach a certain recognition level, and then leave. But, finally, there are people who are dedicated to spreading the message of Toastmasters.”

Thanks to the hard work of these members, there are 17 clubs today. Says Lal Xavier, the Divisional Governor of Kerala, “For the past ten years we have expanded through the length and breadth of Kerala. I am sure we will have a club in every district in the near future.”

Following the official function, a regular meeting of the Toastmasters took place. And what was striking was the emphasis that the club placed on timings. So, if a speaker is allotted five minutes to speak, a timekeeper sits at one side with a contraption in front of him. At the conclusion of two minutes, a green light is switched on. A yellow light will come on when one minute is left and a red light when the time is up.

Apart from speeches, there is a segment called table topics,” says Kochi Toastmasters Club President Dr. Neena Thomas. “A toastmaster will state a subject and the participant will have to answer it within two minutes. The idea is to think swiftly on your feet.”

And whatever speech you give, it is evaluated by members who will state the positive as well as the negative aspects. “This is very helpful in improving a member's performance,” says senior member, Monish V.T.

All the speakers spoke with verve and panache. It is clear that the Toastmasters have a very successful programme. Incidentally, the Toastmasters has a worldwide membership of 3 lakh people in 122 countries.

Tips for Public Speaking

Know your material: Pick a topic you are interested in. Use humour, personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.

Practice, Practice, Practice! Rehearse out loud. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.

Know the audience: Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It is easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.

Know the room: Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.

Relax: Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.

Realise that people want you to succeed: An audience wants you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They are rooting for you.

Don’t apologise for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.

Concentrate on the message: Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience. 


(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

No comments:

Post a Comment