* First published in FORTELL May, 2011
Do you at times wonder why some people are always the centre of attraction wherever they go? Why are certain people successful in collecting a mammoth gathering of people to listen to them, when some others fail to get even a small number of people despite all strategic efforts on the part of their organizers? It happens because of their widely earned reputation as mesmerizing speakers. They succeed because they speak from their heart and express their thoughts and ideas in a unique and inimitable style.
After all, what is this ‘speech-effectiveness’ that enables them to conquer the world?
The following are some of the most distinctive traits that intimately go with what is considered ‘speech-effectiveness’:
- A commanding yet friendly voice of a speaker, giving a pleasant experience of listening to the listener(s) irrespective of the duration of speech..
- Content and the vocabulary used for the thoughts and ideas presented are as per the mental level and interest of the listener(s).
- There is a perfect clarity of thoughts and ideas expressed with the help of proper stress, appropriate pitch and right intonation as per the demand of the situation.
- An effective speech is very often packed with anecdotes and checkered with wit and humour.
- It always reflects the uniqueness of the speaker’s personality.
- To become a good speaker one has to learn how to create a rapport between himself/herself and the listener(s), which, as we know, is not automatic. It is created, and largely depends on the speaker’s quick reflex ions and ability to read the faces and minds of the listener(s). The speaker’s ability to mould his/her tone and shape the direction of the talk, according to the listeners’ mood, mental ability and interest, will go a long way to create the desired rapport.
- Since, with every word of a speaker his/her personality gets reflected, the pace at which a speaker communicates matters a lot to ensure speech- effectiveness.
- A speaker who tries to speak very fast indicates a lack of self-confidence. But when a person tries to speak with proper articulation of words and sounds, it indicates his/her vibrating self-confidence, and a firm grasp of the subject under discussion. Learning to speak effectively does not mean speaking like a native speaker or using RP (Received Pronunciation) only. It simply means utilizing fully one’s innate capacity to speak with confidence in a natural way.
Improving voice and Speech
It is worth recalling that voice and speech are not the same. They are two different things, though closely related. While voice is the raw sound, speech is the process of shaping the sound of the voice into words by means of speech organs. Although, by and large, we cannot much change the quality of our natural voice and speech, we can always improve them by taking a special care of their limitations, identified with the help of friends and well-wishers. The quality of human speech can be further improved by a well-planned speech therapy and regular speech practice in real life situations.
Using 4 Rs for speech-effectiveness
There are a number of factors which contribute to the speech- effectiveness of a person, but using 4Rs judiciously has been found to be highly efficacious. The following are the 4Rs to be included in the scheme of work to be devised for improving speech-effectiveness.:
1. Response ability:
For every stimulus there are two ways to respond to it: positive and negative. Choosing a positive response always gives the desired results whereas the negative response like doubting one’s ability to get what one wants drastically negates the chances of getting it. You must have seen some practitioners of martial arts like judo and karate breaking a stone with his/her hand only without getting the hand injured. This happens because the breaker just breaks it without ever doubting his/her ability to do so. Similarly, positive thinking on the part of a speaker always makes him/her stable, detached and emotionally balanced, leading to the desired results. But when he/she harbours any kind of doubt regarding the desired result, it makes him/her weak leading to frustrating results. Thus living with a positive bent of mind, is the first requisite for the attainment of speech-effectiveness. It is, however, very unfortunate that at no stage in the students’ life children are taught ‘how to think’ and convert their negative thinking into a positive one by substituting it with an optimistic thought. This characteristic needs to be inculcated in children at an early stage.
2. Role playing:
In real life, we are all actors essaying different roles at different stages in life. However, our status / position-conscious attitude makes it extremely difficult for us to be original and as a result; we simply go by the dialogues repeatedly used by others in similar situations. There is hardly any creativity in our communication. Naturally, such interactions are bound to be dull, monotonous and unnatural. But once we treat ourselves as only ‘actors’ playing different roles on this ‘world-stage’ as Shakespeare rightly puts it, it will impel us to create our own improvised dialogues as per the demands of a situation, which will go a long way to empower us to speak naturally, spontaneously and effectively, leaving a great impact on the listeners’ minds.
3. Relationship building:
Building strong relationship with the listener(s) during the interaction is yet another important trait of speech-effectiveness. This can only be achieved when there is sincerity of purpose and genuineness in the speaker’s thoughts and intentions. The fear of an unsatisfactory performance often makes one’s well-intentioned performance a fiasco especially at the negotiation table or while addressing people in public.
4. Resource exploiting:
The presentation of thoughts on the given subject is as important as the thoughts themselves and therefore tapping all possible sources imaginatively for collection of appropriate views/arguments on the subject concerned is very important. A speaker needs both ‘what to speak’ and ‘how to speak’ on a subject for a lasting impact on others.
To sum up, working towards speech-effectiveness is not a one-time activity. It is rather a continuous process, which begins with certain level of speech behaviour and goes on and on—, with only the sky as its limit. The following lines from Shakespeare’s King Lear are worth remembering to remain ever vigilant in the area of speech- effectiveness:
“Mend your speech a little
Lest you may mar your fortune”
* J K Gangal is an ELT Expert & Director at the Centre for Creativity & Human Resource Development, New Delhi.