Write & Deliver Great Speeches!

I had recently written this article for a national publication and thought it might be of value to share it with all of you on this forum as well. So here is my article on How To Write & Deliver Great Speeches.

A great speech is one that solicits a range of emotions, feelings and responses from its listeners. It must amuse, tickle, inform, question, relate, opine, entertain, engage. While it isn’t easy to achieve all these seemingly incongruous reactions, it is very possible. All it needs is a planned approach that takes certain key aspects and factors into account.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

One of the most overlooked aspects of speech-writing is information about the occasion and the target audience. We tend to focus on writing a brilliant speech that is thoroughly researched and beautifully written while failing to take into account who our listeners are going to be. The more information we have about our listeners, the better informed we will be to make intelligent, strategic content choices. If for instance you know in advance that the audience will be made up of mostly middle-aged business people, your examples, your jokes, the context that you provide in your speech will be more appropriate and relatable to that audience. If on the other hand you know that the audience is going to comprise mostly of say, school children with a smattering of parents, your choice of humour, anecdotes and the language and style in which you speak will organically be one that finds favour and understanding among this relatively younger age group. In fact, the topic of one’s speech almost becomes secondary to the audience and the occasion, that is how important these two factors are. So do your homework, first and foremost, on these two aspects.

HUMOR

Speeches, no matter how serious one’s topic, must engage. One of the best ways of engaging a live audience is humour. Having said that, one must tread carefully while employing humour. First, it should never dilute the main topic. It shouldn’t be as though in a speech on gender equality for example, you are making sexist jokes. By that same token, if you are addressing a group where most people will be sought after individuals of a certain community, it would probably be unwise to poke fun at that community. So use humour, liberally even. But pay particular attention to what kind of humour. A good trick to avoid any controversy arising from jokes in public gatherings is to make the humour ‘self-deprecating’. Jokes at the expense of oneself rarely offend anyone. They are funny, engaging, yet inoffensive. Sharhrukh Khan’s now famous Ted Talk address is a great case in point where he pokes fun at himself being a self-obsessed ageing movie-star.

PERSONALIZE

We place a lot of importance of researching facts, figures and statistics while preparing our speeches. Of course, this is of paramount importance and must be done. However, it is often in lieu of a personal touch to our speeches. Understand this, when people come to listen to speeches, they are there not just to get factual information on the topic or subject. That, they can, themselves, just as easily get from the internet. They are there chiefly to listen to a unique and personal opinion of the speaker. This opinion can be communicated most effectively, if the hard-factual portions of our speeches, are generously peppered with the speaker’s own ‘experience’ of the topic. His or her own stories, anecdotes, and slices from their personal lives that reflect their engagement in that sphere. For instance, if the topic of the speech is School Uniforms, one must share one’s own experiences of that by way of a story that could be the one time the speaker had to play a cricket match in school uniform and it was terribly uncomfortable to play effectively (if of course, the speaker’s opinion is that uniforms are not a great idea). My recommendation would be to begin the speech with a personal incident that connects topic and speaker rather than starting by simply stating “the topic for my speech is x,y.z”. The latter is passe, amateurish, and uninteresting. Towards the middle too, continue to share more anecdotes, and again, at the end, before stating your final opinion, try and include yet another personal incident. The belief that sharing personal stories is somehow unprofessional is not the truth. Personal stories must be wholeheartedly and generously used.

CONNECT WITH AUDIENCE

Most of us have an inclination to memorizing our speeches and delivering them verbatim. Without realizing, what this does is that it calls for all our attention and focus during speech-making, on trying to recollect the content of the speech. This distracts from any real engagement with the audience. A live event thrives on a human connection. Therefore, it is a good idea to write one’s speeches, but then, divide the speech into cue-cards with only the main points written on them, and use the cue cards to make the speech in a less formal, more instinctive, natural way where your mind and body is free to establish a connection with the audience. This will take practise since the memorizing habit will take some doing to kick. Once it happens though, you will find that you are able to adhere to all the body-language basics that are recommended for speech-making, because you will have the head-space to pay attention to those vital elements. Eye contact, dividing your sight-line between all quadrants of the audience, smiling, walking and using the length and breadth of the stage, gesturing with your hands; all these little tricks that give the audience the feeling that you are there, present, and interacting individually with each audience member will start to come naturally to you.

TONALITY & PACE

Finally, remember that you are there to make an impact with your speech. The first requirement in order to do this, is to have your speeches heard and understood. Rather than shoot like a bullet train and rush through your speech-delivery, a direct consequence of wanting to get the memorized speech delivered and done with; it is recommended that speeches be delivered in a moderate tempo. This helps the audience get the necessary time they need in order to really process and understand each point you are making. Pausing, increasing pace and volume, decreasing pace and volume, at crucial junctures throughout the speech also makes speeches more interesting, and make them seem like a dialogue or a conversation, rather than a boring lecture. So identify the most emphatic points in your content and at those places, pause, so that the focus of the audience in firmly on that extremely critical point you made.

A great way of improving one’s speech writing and delivery is to watch and listen to good speeches. On the internet, one can find a host of videos of great speeches. Similarly, there are any number of books that one can refer to and read the greatest speeches ever delivered. It really boils down to simple, yet personal content, that makes for the most memorable and compelling speeches.

Two Years On…

When my daughter Krisha was born, I was nervous, yet overjoyed. At the time, I had written extensively about becoming a father. Many of you read those posts, even reached out to me. It was an exciting time, a new phase, uncharted territory, an unknown path. Now, nearly two years on, I thought I should write an update-piece. Share what the past two years of brining up and interacting with my daughter have been like. So here goes!

With some trepidation life began with Pishu (as Krisha is fondly known at home). Not for any other reason except not wanting to make a misstep. Things soon settled down though. And it has been the most delightful time since. To watch your own flesh and blood, in many ways, an extension of yourself, grow, develop, evolve, is an indescribable feeling. It is an emotional rollercoaster. On the one hand, your heart swells with pride when the first-step is taken, at the same time, the mind fears that some harm might come to the child. While you want your child to engage, interact, and socialise with others, you are vary of her being mistreated, protective, paranoid even! And from the minute she is up to the second she FINALLY falls asleep, she is ACTIVE. Her increasing understanding of things, concepts, language, emotions is scary and fascinating in equal measure.  Her irreverence and abject lack of obedience are both attractive and annoying.

Most of all though, you have, as a parent, an opportunity to be a child once again. With your child, you rediscover the world through their eyes and innocent little hearts and minds, full of genuine surprise and wonder. They are amazed at the simplest facts, lured by the mundane, captivated by the ordinary, enchanted by the elementary. It is enviable, wonderfully refreshing, and always entertaining. Then you see reflections of yourself – physically, habitually, in their personalities, in their likes & dislikes, and in their several inherited traits. When Pishu dances to pallo latke by Asha Bhosle with gay abandon, I can’t help but notice her inherent sense of rhythm, and the fact that she instinctively prefers the ‘original’ to the modern version of the song. Just one example of the infinite list of adorable eccentricities!

Having said all of this, I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to a certain amount of very real and palpable frustration. Of having to give up time, people, places, and pursuits. Time with my wife Anuja, for instance, is something that was crucially important to me – that has almost vanished, and it has caused me much anguish. Similarly, the pets have been, to some extent, deprioritised. Such is the crude reality where time and places are usurped by a new baby in the home.

In the larger scheme of things however, the overwhelming sense is that of immense joy and fulfilment. What a child brings to you isn’t selflessness. I dare say, it is terribly selfish. And that kind of love and joy, can not be replaced, traded, or compensated for, by anything else in the entire world. Two years on, I am proud as a potato and pleased as punch, that Pishu is in my life 🙂

PERSONA – Speaking & Writing Workshop

Jaipur, I’m delighted to share my upcoming Workshop for Public Speaking & Creative Writing for students above age 10 during the upcoming Holi Break.

These 7 sessions will be a highly interactive, fun, engaging time wherein I hope to instil some of the fundamental skills of Confident & Convincing Public Speaking & Written Communication in kids. These are invaluable, lifelong skills that will separate your ward from others and make him or her communicate like a winner!

Check out all the details of the Workshop in the poster below. For more information about me, you can log into my website kartikbajoria.com

Hope to see you @Wonder Years Jaipur