On Wednesday night, Michelle Obama's speech with regards to President Obama's nomination for the presidential elections, was tear-jerking. I felt overwhelmed by her overall presentation, just as the audience members were. She spoke persuasively about how she met her husband, loved him to this day and watched him grow into his true self via the presidency. She and her husband had a lot in common, coming from financially-deprived backgrounds; she spoke about motherhood and having to make sure the limelight of the presidency did not change her, her husband or her children. Many can relate.
I am not here to talk about the elections or politics; rather, to discuss the importance and technique of public speaking. Since I was 12-years-old, I entered speech competitions, poetry-reading contests, and acted for National History Day. I remember the importance my teachers placed on public-speaking and presentation. It helped as the career world, often does require one to do public presentations.
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I remember having to memorize 10 minutes word of my presentations. If not memorized, then eye-contact is key. The audience needs to know that you are speaking to THEM about topics that THEY care about. They need to know that they matter.
Talk about your personal experiences; people can relate. For example, the First Lady spoke about her experiences as daughter, wife, mother and First Lady.
When we type, italicized words/phrases means emphasis. But, when we speak, emphasis is known through our tone of voice; how much 'umph' we place on a word or phrase is a call for attention: 'hey, listen to this' is what you're saying via emphasis.
Michelle Obama raised her eyebrows, wrinkled them with concern, smiled and in the end, cried, unwavering from her speech. Facial expressions are not only a form of emphasis on words, but also entertaining. She also gracefully gestures with her hands, letting them hover and dance around as she speaks, allowing the audience member's eyes to follow her at all times and keep busy. If someone is to speak robotically, not moving an inch, speaking in monotone, looking at the wall behind the audience, it is very difficult to hold onto the listeners' attentions. They get bored easily. Ex-President Bill Clinton spoke last night, using the Apprentice's 'You're Fired' finger. It was entertaining and people listened.
CALM THE NERVES
Last, but not least, we all get nervous before throwing ourselves onto the stage and speaking to a large number of people. You might have your own personal technique to overcoming this fear. The President, himself, must get nervous before going up on-stage; it's human nature, but I remember as soon as I went on stage and said my first sentence, I felt immediately at ease. I reminded myself that 'nobody in the audience will know if you've made a mistake, but YOU.' It is your speech and as long as you do not stutter and replace your forgotten words with similar ones that still give the audience a gist of the topic-at-hand, everything will be okay. Maintain a passion for what you are speaking about. Believe in your own words and the world will believe in you.
Watch famous leaders' speeches. Read your speech over and over again.
TEACHER, take every opportunity in your classroom to ask your students to read-out-loud, to do group or individual performances, or to debate.
STUDENTS, believe me when I say this will help you in the future when you are in the career world. Public speaking teaches communication and leadership skills.