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The Speech Bender: 5 Tips on Public Speaking

One thing Nigerians have been blessed with is the zest and willpower to talk- and talk- and talk. Everyone has something to say about everything; especially when they converge at recreational centers, buses and most of all, newspaper stands. What is interesting to note is the transformation that occurs when you set up a podium and ask these same persons to address a group of people- or simply ask a question in a gathering. Lions immediately become kittens. But is this fear unfounded? Maybe not. Nobody wants to goof- especially not in public. Here are a few tips that might help us feel better about facing an audience.

1. Espionage

Knowing your topic. This can be more tasking than it sounds. Researching a topic you will be speaking on is as wise as learning how to swim before going on a boat ride. You never know when the extra info could save you from drowning. What’s more, your listeners would feel better if they learned something new- so would you.  If you find yourself in a situation where there is no room for research, stick to what you know. Reeling out fake statistics is a ‘no-no’. A listener challenging you with the truth can be inglorious, to say the least.

2. The Power of Grey Matter

There is a common saying, “think before you talk”. This is no less pertinent when it comes to speaking to a crowd. Thinking about what you are about to say before opening your mouth enables you to assess your thoughts before someone else hears them. Most times, you would find better ways to couch what you would have initially said. In case you don’t have much time to think, your best bet would be to… THINK! Do not let anyone or anything compel you to speak before you have collated your thoughts. A few seconds of clear thought could save you an everlasting embarrassment.  As the local saying goes, “Words are like eggs; once they break, there’s no taking them back.

 3. The ‘DIY’ Lens

I used to think that confidence stems naturally from how well you know your topic. But to my amazement, I have witnessed some knowledgeable people rattle with fear while some others have terrorized their listeners with their arrogant ignorance. My humble conclusion is that confidence or anxiety does not originate from how much you know- or think you know. It comes from how you see yourself. That’s the only lens that the optometrist can’t help you with- it’s a DIY challenge. You have to solve it your own way. Talking yourself out of it or taking a deep breath before mounting the stage can be helpful.

4. Scanner Activated

I think you would generally agree that the way you speak to your mother is not the way you would speak to your mother in law. The reason is simple; knowing your listener matters. An opening line such as “Hey guys!” could win the hearts of a youthful crowd. However, attempting that with a group of veterans could be suicidal. As much as possible, know the dos and don’ts that are involved- acceptable dressing, mannerisms, etc. You go in blind at your own peril.

5. Tick Says The Clock

Believe it or not, everyone is busy. Even toddlers have important appointments to keep such as eating, playing and sleeping. The fact that you have the microphone in your hand or the ‘floor’ does not give you the right to test what I would call people’s ‘politeness-meter’. Some will fail unrepentantly. Stick to the time allotted to you or better still use less of it. Having a timer can be very helpful. But whether you were given a time frame or not, you have your best indicator -your audience. Wrap up at the slightest whiff of boredom or exhaustion. But what will be great would be to end before boredom starts. Remember, you’re only as good as your last performance.

Public speaking doesn’t have to be a nightmare for you. In fact, with proper practice and training, you could actually make a hobby out of it- and some cool cash too. *wink.

Inspired by teachings of Niyi Adesanya.

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Chioma Diru

Chioma Diru is a prolific writer, agricultural entrepreneur and life coach with a heart for children. Chioma works freelance for the BBC Media Action. Her work titled “The Twin Logs” was nominated for the Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize, 2016. She is Creative Director and Co-founder, Canuli Media which specializes in children’s entertainment. She is the author of “Sodality”, a children’s novel which you can buy here.Email her: chiomadiru@gmail.com.

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