02 May 2018

In Search of Eloquence – The BBC of Public Speaking

Intro: Over 90% of prominent persons from government officials to corporate executives are stuck with the paper – they are stuck with reading their speeches word for word. If you doubt this statistic wait till tonight’s evening news and you will discover for yourself how real this is. Ample research equally shows that over 60% of viewers of the late night news soon fall asleep barely 5 to 10 minutes watching the news…all because the key players in politics, business and entertainment who make the news end up reading word for word from their prepared speeches. What exactly happens when these people read their speeches? Let me show you…their heads go down to their paper and eye contact is lost; their voices follow suit in a lifeless monotone, droning and droning till you start snoozing only for you to wake up a few hours shocked and still having the TV remote in your hand. I’ve been there. Democracy becomes boring when the protagonists put up such boring performances. So does business, entertainment, religion and even education.

Thus, it is important for every speech to have good structure. The delivery of the speech must reflect a sensible procedure made up of Beginning, Body and Conclusion. By way of an acronym, I like to call this the “BBC” of public speaking. This should be the standard process to be followed and maintained during public speaking. The functionality of a speech is dependent on how the audience understands the structure of the speech. The following three steps are worth noting and should prove useful in this order.

1. Beginning

The function of the beginning is to grab the attention of the audience in an introductory fashion. In public speaking, ‘all is well that begins well’. Therefore, you must start strong; the introduction must grab the attention of people. A speech could be started with a quote, a story or a rhetorical question, anything that to a good extent arrests the interest or rouses the curiosity of your audience to engender a listening. Starting with a startling statistic is also a good way provided such is relevant and meaningful within the context of the speech. The goal of the speaker is to immediately seize the moment and awaken the hearts of the audience. The speaker must woo their audience with their powerful beginning.

2. Body

The body of the speech must illuminate minds. This means that it should shed light on issues. It must have additional information and provide substantive content indicative of richness of ideas and points to be made. What are the main points that you want to pass across to your audience? As a speaker, you must use your body to provide depth of understanding of the issue at hand for your audience. You must provide quality insight into the matter of discourse. You may choose to itemize the key points and discuss them in order while also fortifying those points with stories, statistics and other narratives. Seamless transitioning from point to point is key. The speaker must wow their audience with the body of their speech.

3. Conclusion

The conclusion or close affords the speaker the opportunity to seal the deal with their audience by seeking to ignite action or engender audience response based on the points made in the body of the speech. Your close must be powerful and resonating enough as to ensure that the speaker’s message is memorable. It must carry a sticking effect so as to encourage audience buy-in to your message. You could close by reinforcing the central theme of your message or a consistent sound bite within your message that summarizes your core idea; you could close with a question that leaves the audience thought-provoked or puzzled; you could close with a powerful quotation from a renowned personality or even a story that sums up your key arguments. The speaker must win their audience over with the conclusion of their speech.

So, remember this: anytime you’re speaking and you want to ensure your presentation follows a logical format that will enhance the understanding of your subject matter in the minds of your audience, just follow the ‘BBC’ Sequence.

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