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The ability to communicate is the most crucial skill we have.
In Ancient Greece, where educators and philosophers invented language theory, public speaking was a teachable and learnable skill. They didn’t diagnose a shy person suffering from ‘speech anxiety’ to be a bad fit for learning public speaking, but simply a student who needs to learn the larger discipline of rhetoric and speech training. The Greeks had a comprehensive, practical and critical approach towards knowledge, psychology and social interaction, which is sadly missing in this modern age.
For most of us, education has been a 15 to a 20-year experience reading, writing and solving problems on paper, due to our society increasingly becoming information and knowledge oriented.
We are unprepared to speak publicly, something which is a central activity in our lives. We need to re-educate ourselves about how vital speaking clearly and effectively is.
Most of us feel anxious while speaking publicly due to the fear of seeming like an idiot to so many people. In this case, our focus is on ourselves, not on the audience.
As Aristotle’s masterpiece Art Of Rhetoric proves, the Greeks had their entire focus on the audience, which according to them is the beginning and end of public speaking.
Before speaking, take into account the following:
Shifting your focus towards the needs, expectations and issues of the audience, rather than your own, is key to a speech that connects with the listeners.
We need to find our purpose before we start to write our speech, deciding if we want to entertain, inform, inspire or persuade the audience.
Our talk has to be relevant, engaging and purposeful, and we may find that some of the interesting, funny or even meaningful stuff can be discarded without losing out on the main message.
People listen for their own wellbeing, not for others. They are focussed on their own happiness, most of the time. In his celebrated book Art Of Rhetoric, Aristotle lists out a few things that the audience cares about, regardless of what your topic is: their own health, family, happiness, status or wealth.
We need to speak for the audience’s benefit, even if our topic is global warming, tax policies, or rocket science.
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