A Guide to Becoming a Better Speaker

Copy of Samadhi Poornima

Words by: Dr. Samadhi Poornima

Compiled by: Udesh Dangalla

A single voice has the power to create a massive impact, it just needs the right opportunity. Speech Olympiad is a stage where revolutionary leaders and revolutionary speakers are discovered. To help you embark on this sensational journey of discovery, we got into conversation with a prestigious and eloquent past champion of Speech Olympiad, who shared some invaluable tips with us.

Dr. Samadhi Poornima, the Champion of Speech Olympiad IX generously joined us for an interview despite her busy schedule working as a Computer Vision Algorithm Researcher at Zebra Technologies. As the crowned champion in 2015 along with the public speaking experience she has accumulated over the years, we are most certain that up-and-coming speakers will definitely have a lot to take home from the answers of Dr. Poornima.

  1. What are the key points to focus on when crafting a speech?
  • Take home message

The message that the speaker is trying to convey is a crucial aspect of a speech. It adds value to the words you speak and the effort you put in.

  • Structure of the speech

You can structure your speech in several different ways and be creative with it. You can break down your speech into parts and use the stage appropriately for each part. But the most important thing is that your speech is clear and concise. A well-structured speech is easy to follow for the audience and makes it easier to deliver for the speaker.

  • Stage movements

Copy of Technical tips - Stage Movement

Stage movements keep your speech alive. For example, if you are talking about two friends you divide the stage into two, left and right for each one.

  • Humour

Copy of technical tips - Humor

Humour is what keeps your audience entertained and engaged. It is one of the best things to include in a speech. To bring out some humour does not mean you need to make your audience roll on the floor laughing. A simple smile is enough to make a difference.

  • Gestures and vocal variations

These make your speech livelier. It shows the speaker is confident and adds some colour to your speech. One of the easiest ways to bring out some natural variations is by adding some dialogues to your speech.

  1. How should one decide on what he/she is going to speak on?

One of the best ways to come up with a good speech is to speak about your own experiences. Especially if you learnt something out of it, it certainly is worth sharing. This has three advantages 

You will never forget what you are going to say.

You can say it the best. After all, it is your story!

You are the only one in the whole world who has gone through it. And it is worth sharing.

Another classic approach to a good speech is to talk about something relatable, something universal. The audience would find this quite interesting and feel more connected to you. You don’t need extraordinary facts or stories to make an interesting story. Simplicity itself can be quite attractive

  1. How important is it to use stories in our speeches?

Stories can be interesting to add to a speech. We all love to hear stories. But it does not mean that you need to narrate lengthy tales. Something you saw on your way to university when put into the right words can be an interesting story.

  1. Can you give some tips on impromptu speaking?

Impromptu speaking requires a lot of practice and experience. You need to have 3 qualities mastered when doing an impromptu speech.

  • Time management

Practise how to deliver some message within the given time. Time management is something you can achieve with enough practice. A well-practised speaker will have an idea of what 1-minute feels like.

  • Confidence

Copy of Technical tips - Confidence

Impromptu speakers require a lot of confidence. If you are nervous you might not be able to bring out the best speech you can. And through practice, you build up meaningful confidence. In this practice, you need to put yourself into a real situation instead of being flexible and relaxed.

  • Thinking on the stage

Practically, you might not be able to work out all the details of your speech before going on to the stage. So it is likely that you might have to figure out certain things while you are speaking. Figure out a few things you can do to buy some thinking time on the stage. A couple of things I did was purposeful repetition and asking a question from the audience. Meaningful repetition can be used at any point in your speech. For example, if you are talking about how your parents wanted you to be a doctor you can say something like

‘The girl next door was a doctor’

‘The girl next next door was a doctor’

‘The girl next next next door was a doctor’

‘So my mama wanted me to be a doctor’

Instead of simply saying ‘my mama wanted me to be a doctor’, when you use a simple phrase and repeat it, it gives you time to think without making the audience feel you are struggling. And when you ask a question, the general practice is you give a few seconds for the audience to react. When you ask a rhetorical question, you don’t need to respond to their reaction. Instead, you can take this time to think and focus on what you are going to say next.

  1. Do you have any tips on practising a speech?

Practice is key for both prepared speeches and impromptu speeches. You need to practise until you feel at home on a stage. Practice is what brings you confidence. For prepared speeches, it is good if you first have a basic structure of the speech organised and then practise with words that come to you naturally. In this way, you would be more comfortable with the language you use for your speech.

A couple of things you can do to fine-tune a prepared speech are,

  • Remove repetitions

Think carefully of each sentence, and each phrase. Think what value it would add to the speech. And think if the same thing is being repeated (not purposeful repetition) somewhere else in the speech unintentionally.

  • Balance your speech

Add a balance to your speech with a bit of humour and a bit of seriousness. Even if the speech is about a sad story, it is good to have some appropriate humour at least once. And even if the speech is a humorous speech, it is great if there is an important take-home message.

  • Make it simple, clear and concise

In a prepared speech it is very important to have a clear structure to your speech. It should be easy-to-follow and meaningful to what you say. Something I personally followed for practising a prepared speech was to watch some world championship speeches. When I say watch it, I mean ‘watch it watch it’ where you notice the structure, notice the way they start, take transitions and bring out the message.

Practising an impromptu speech can be a bit tricky. Because even if you practise 1000 speeches, the next one could be an entirely different experience. These are some ways of practising impromptu speeches that I personally followed.

  • Have some generic stories ready. These could be targeted for some common impromptu topics such as never giving up, little things matter in life and being true to yourself etc.
  • Have some facts ready. It is good to have some general knowledge facts ready when you are practising for an impromptu speech. You don’t need to memorise a whole list but 5 key facts from different areas can be helpful if you can’t think of a story related to the topic you got. This could be about areas like economy, education or some great sayings etc.
  • Be ready to think of something entirely new then and there. This is an example I heard from someone when I was practising. So this guy has got the topic ‘Michael Jordan’ as the title for his impromptu speech. He started the speech with “I don’t know who Michael Jordan is but I know a guy named Michael and another guy named Jordan” and went on to deliver a very interesting speech which was completely unexpected.
  • Practise coming up with an impromptu speech response within 2 minutes. And if you could not, just deliver whatever that you manage to come up with then and there.

Experience how you work under pressure. With each practice, you will improve. And once you feel confident, try lowering this time, now try to come up with an impromptu speech in 1 and half minutes. And next, try 1 minute. When you practice like this, even if nothing comes to your mind in the first minute, you would still be able to remain calm and think clearly because you know you can come up with something successful even in the last few seconds.

  • It is okay to practise on the same topic several times. No need to have a new topic each time you practise. But practise facing completely unheard of topics as well, just to broaden your thinking.
  • No need to practise for long hours. So do not exhaust yourself. You might get tired and lose interest.

From deciding on what to speak, crafting your speech, practising your speech, to finally delivering your speech, each and every aspect needed for a good public speaker was insightfully addressed in detail by Dr. Poornima Take in and practise what you have learnt. Showcase your progress at Speech Olympiad. Get onto that stage and speak your heart out, because the speech you deliver today can be the reason for a changed world tomorrow.

Visit our Speech Olympiad XV website through https://speecholympiadxv.live/