Jakub Chodounský

Introduction to Public Speaking

Being a great programmer just doesn’t mean to be good at programming. The most important part of the job is the communication with others. Good skill of public speaking gives you an edge in your life and can help you in various situations.

Introduction to public speaking

Speaking Situations

Do you have to present an interesting idea? Do you have to persuade your audience about your point? Do you have to argue with your audience? Do you present .NET technology on the JAVA ground? Is your audience falling asleep? Are they listening to you from their free will or because they have to? Isn’t there too hot in the room?

Every speech is different. There isn’t one correct way to give a good presentation. The key to give a good public speech is to be flexible. You have to adapt to different constraints. These rhetorical conditions are

  • topic,
  • audience expectations,
  • occasion,
  • settings
  • and speaker’s credibility.

You should think carefully about these conditions. Your goal is to design a clear presentation and deliver it in an engaging way to your audience. Good public speaking skills can help you adapt and gain better confidence.

Rhetoric

Rhetoric is an art of delivering a persuasive speech to your audience. It is something that happens when someone deliver a very good speech.

Amphitheatre

Like any kind of art to be better in rhetoric there are three steps you should follow

  • instruction,
  • imitation,
  • practice.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just find someone that is a good public speaker and follow his advices. Read a book about public speaking or join an online class about it. This is the meaning of instruction.

Imitation is about finding a good public speaker. Study his presentations. Look at his gestures. Examine articulation and pausing in sentences. Take a closer look at his intonation. Try take all the engaging parts of his behavior and imitate it. Really, it’s ok. When you reach a certain level you find your own way but imitation is going to help you in the beginning.

The final step is to practice. You have to practice, practice and practice. Nobody happens to be a great speaker over night. Polish your speaking skills, consciously train and follow the advices. You will see improvements.

There are five canons of rhetoric

  • invention,
  • arrangement,
  • style,
  • memory
  • and delivery.

Invention is about coming with a good ideas for your speech.

Putting the ideas in order that is easy to follow for your audience is called arrangement. If your audience would take notes from your speech they should look similar to your ones.

Style is about the vocabulary you are using, metaphors and phrases. It is very dependant on your audience. You would use a different language for your non-technical clients and a different one for your fellow programmers.

Remembering the arrangement comes with a practice. It is better to give a presentation from your memory than to rely on slides or notes. You can adapt much better.

The delivery of the speech is the final product of your effort. You can see that it is not just about the delivery and there is a lot of work behind a successful speech.

Performance and Communication Orientation

First of all, let’s talk about the difference about writing and speaking. If you read your speech it sounds more artificial. People generally use longer sentences.

Performance oriented speeches have a full manuscript. Basically it is acting and acting is hard. You have sound like the written words are coming from your mouth.

The good example of artificial performance oriented speech is a flight attendant reciting safety procedures during a flight. Writing for the ear is very hard and politicians have whole teams with great skills to prepare the presentations for them.

Performance orientation is speaking at the audience. The audience is not active and it is not considered.

On the other hand the communication orientation has a minimal outline. It is also practiced (see - every speech needs practise) but when delivered it is flexible and interactive.

When you are giving a communication oriented speech you speak with the audience. You have to adapt and be spontaneous.

Practice

How should you practice your speeches? Follow these rules.

  • Don’t restart.
  • Replicate mobility.
  • Speak at volume.

When you are giving a presentation you won’t have an opportunity to start from the beginning. It’s all about being more flexible and the ability to improvise. When you practice you should do it without restarting when something goes wrong.

You will feel more confident on a stage when you practiced your gestures and motion. This is another thing you don’t have to worry when going ‘live’ and you can focus on a better delivery.

You shouldn’t practice silently or just by mumbling. Speak at full range voice. It is also a skill that you have to acquire.

This article is based on Introduction to Public Speaking - a great online course from University of Washington by Matt McGarrity. If you are interested in the topic I strongly recommend you to sign up for the classes.