Public Speaking: A Few Tips from my List


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Do you fear public speaking? It’s a helpful skill to have, but requires practise. Here are a few helpful tips I have written down over the years

Just last weekend I had a busy time during which it fell upon me to speak to large audiences. Saturday was a wedding with 1300 guests; Sunday was a wedding with 600; Monday was a funeral with 120. The first two lasted two hours each, and the last one hour. All of them required public speaking of considerable duration.

Like everyone else, I used to be afraid of public speaking. Terrified of failure. Over the years I have become accustomed to it; now sometimes people ask me how I manage to do it. I have a list that I’ve compiled and I thought I would share it with you in this blog. I hope it helps you…

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Firstly, understand your audience, who they are, and what are their needs, values, concerns, and expectations. Try to learn beforehand how much appetite they have for listening. Do they have any prejudices regarding listening to someone dressed in a particular way?

Use initial humour to disarm any prejudices and to establish a rapport. Show that you know how they are thinking.

Be sympathetic to the emotional level in the room. Know whether you are speaking as chief guest, honoured guest, master of ceremonies, or as a priest.

Establish why you are there, why they are there, and what the event is about.

Choose three things you’d like to say that expand the meaning of the main spiritual idea you want to get across. It could be the foundational idea underpinning the event, or a class you are giving. Substantiate those three things with other evidence you’ve read elsewhere.

Bring up a few arguments that others might have against these points. Then defeat those arguments with sound logic and scriptural reference.

Speak about some practical applications these philosophical points might have in solving problems in modern society

Present something of what might happen if society does not put these spiritual principles into practise.

Tell a story that helps to illustrate your philosophical point. But be clear and brief.

Employ illustrative analogies and metaphors. Create pictures with your words.

Use topical references. Something to do with the city you’re in or some recent news. But be cautious of being viewed as having a politically divisive opinion.

Try to use humour. But if you cannot use it appropriately, better not to use it at all.

Alter the pitch and tone of your voice. Alter the speed and/or force of the delivery

When dealing with large audiences, move around so they’ll know you’re talking to them. Use your arms. Point to someone in the audience to establish greater contact.

Use eye contact and smile.

Make sure the acoustics of the room are sufficient for good communication. Check the microphone beforehand.

Rehearse your talk before you give it, imagining your audience in the environment they will be in.

Understand that you are merely a servant, helping the audience understand something; and that you are an instrument in the hands of the person who sent you who, if he were there, would be doing a much better job.

Pray for divine help. As always, you will need it.

Write out and keep a ‘script’ of your best classes or presentations. Use it on the next occasion to aid your memory.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Public Speaking: A Few Tips from my List

  1. Hare Krishna Prabhu.

    The picture you used for this post actually caught my eye. I had recently used it at a presentation I had to give on public speaking at Toastmasters, an organization which helps people improve their public speaking and leadership skills. These tips are really good… One thing is for sure, by Srila Prabhupad’s mercy, the content is so powerful that if we are sincere in our method of preaching, its almost as if He convinces Krishna to help us say the right things at the right time! Its very powerful! I think for any devotee who wants to become a good orator, along with the tips you’ve mentioned, the biggest thing to do would be to chant better and read more!

    Hari Bol!
    In your service,
    Madhavi

  2. Martin

    Ahaa. All of your secrets revealed!
    Thank you Prabhu.
    I can see that you do all of these things so successfully.
    Many of your points would seem to apply equally well to talking to very small groups, or even one person.
    Lastly, although this would not be a problem for you, one needs to know one’s subject thoroughly before opening one’s mouth!

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