Delivering a speech effectively



DID you hear some speeches in recent days?
Did you hear a talk that was presented by someone – or even a sermon being delivered recently?
How did the speaker go? Was s/he effective?
Well, in this article we will look at how you can effectively deliver your written speech. Speaking of which – did you notice a mistake in my article last week?
Yes, the word in the title should have been “speech” and not “speach”.
If we can make mistakes at our end, it is likely that you can also make mistakes at your end, as in you not being careful with your sentences and words used.
That is why I said in the previous article that you should give your written speech to a friend or relative to go through and correct any mistakes, grammar or even incorrectly writing a quote or idiom that you want to use.
(An idiom is part of figurative language where we say something in a way that is not literally true. Like: “He comes around once in a blue moon”, actually means “He hardly comes around” – or “She was over the moon” means “She was extremely happy”. Idioms, or any form of figurative language that we use in our speech adds colour to it – but be sure that the idioms you use are commonly known to your audience.)

Interesting speaker at a market
As I was working on these articles on making and delivering a speech (or talk), I noticed something very interesting when I passed through a local market a few weeks back.
It was a week day and as I was entering Kavieng Market, in New Ireland, when I saw a young preacher in action, a man delivering a sermon (which is in essence a talk).
I marvelled at his delivery – and took note of some of the skills that he showed, skills that are essential for people who want to be good speakers.
Firstly, he had a PA system with him.
That assisted him to further the reach of his delivery.
Secondly, he had his Bible with him, the text upon which he based his talk.
Thirdly, he spoke to the people, as in looking at them and not staring up into the sky or looking at the ground.
Fourthly, he delivered his sermon with a lot of quoting of Bible scriptures, which came from off the top of his head – he did not have to read the verses from notes.
I will return to some of these points when I discuss how to effectively deliver your talk later on.

Some best local speakers
Do you know who the best speech deliverers in our nation are?
(For convenience, I will leave out pastors and preachers who deliver sermons. Sermons are like speeches, but are more like teaching or giving a lecture.)
Over the years I have heard so many speeches – some were too long and usually lost the desired momentum along the way, while a few were very well delivered.
They included eulogies, which are speeches given during a funeral service in memory of someone who passed away.
In my view, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, Papua New Guinea’s first prime minister, is one of the best speakers in the nation. He is articulate and can deliver a talk effectively in both English and Tok Pisin without faltering.
I have heard him given talks on different occasions and, if my memory serves me right, he does not carry his speech notes with him when he speaks.
In that sense, he has a very good memory too, something that our traditional leaders and orators possessed.
(Oratory is another word for skill in public speaking and our traditional leaders were masters at this too.)
Sir Michael had the advantage of being a teacher and radio broadcaster before switching to politics, not to mention him being a traditional chief. The skills in talking to people and doing so effectively were carried over sufficiently from those roles.
However, in the modern art of speech making and delivery, I count Sir Arnold Amet, the former Madang Governor to have been a master at it.
During my student days at the University of PNG in the 1990s, I have heard many speeches during graduation days, and sadly almost all of the speakers and their skills have vanished from my memory.
However, one has remained.
During one of the graduation ceremonies, Sir Arnold was given a time to give a speech, and I was impressed with his delivery.
He walked up to the podium, stood behind the lectern with a small card in his left hand.
And when he spoke to the students and their guardians on that day, he spoke “to them”. He did not read his speech from a document that was five pages long, as was the case with other speakers on that day.
He looked at his small paper from time to time, but otherwise he had his eyes and face towards the crowd at all times as he was speaking.
It was one of the best speeches that I have ever heard from a local professional. (I have mentioned this to many people about how effective he was.)
Sir Arnold is a trained lawyer and former judge as well as lay-preacher and all those roles helped bring out the best in him in his delivery.
In my view, another notable speaker includes Dr Steven Winduo of UPNG, particularly on a presentation he made during a Book Week celebration. It must have been in 2004, I think – and his speech was heard over the radio.
I was on a bus travelling down 2-Mile Hill to Port Moresby for my French class, when I heard him speaking on NBC radio.
Winduo’s talk was vivid and his message was fitting for the occasion and he did a good job as an author and creative writing lecturer.
Finally, but not the least, is the late Sir John Guise, the first Governor-General of PNG.
His speech on Independence Day in 1975 is a masterpiece.
It was back in 2004, I think, when I was listening to NBC radio and heard him speak during that important day 44 years ago.
He was articulate and succinct.
The amazing thing was, Sir John delivered the speech in English and gave a version in Tok Pisin and lastly in Hiri Motu, yes in all three official languages of our nation. He was awesome.
I have mentioned to people that Sir John’s English sounded Australian, his Tok Pisin was more like that of someone from New Guinea Islands and his Motu would have been mistaken as from a local from a Motuan village around Port Moresby. He was a master speaker.
In my view, those four are the best speakers I have heard over the past decades – in two of those I was a member of the audience while the others were heard over the radio.

Tips on how to deliver your speech
Now, here are tips on how to best deliver a speech to an audience.
For convenience, let us imagine that you will deliver your talk in a room full of people – and without using slides or PowerPoint notes.
Firstly, try to memorise your speech and speak to your audience – do not read the speech you wrote.
Remember the preacher at the market? He spoke to the people without sermon notes. He must have internalised the contents of his talk when studying the Bible and did not need his study notes.
Alternatively, you can do what Sir Arnold did. Summarise the contents of your speech on a small card that you can hold and refer to as you speak before your audience.
Yes, write the whole speech, but summarise it and you can refer to that summary as you deliver your speech.
Secondly, speak to your audience – face them, do not look at the floor in front of you, or up at the ceiling of the room. That is, make eye contact with your audience – but do not lock your eyes on one person in the crowd. Let your eyes move around the room, from the front to the back, to the left and then to the right. And move your body slightly in the same way as your eyes traverse the different corners of the room.
This skill will not be learned overnight, but if you work on it, you will master it.
Thirdly, use gestures appropriately.
Gestures are the signs we make with our hands, as in pointing to the audience to emphasise something or holding up a finger or two to show that you are on point one or two of your five-point speech.
Fourthly, appropriately use facial expressions to emphasise the theme of your speech. If you are making a speech to protest a decision by the government, your facial expression must be one of concern and being serious.
Do that appropriately also for other themes such as of sadness or jubilation.

Prepare for the speech
In order to effectively deliver the speech, these are other things you should do in your preparation:
1. Rehearse your speech
Practise giving the speech. You can do that on your own, or in front of a few people who can give you feedback.
2. Time your speech
If you are given 20 minutes for a talk, time your talk during your rehearsal and edit your speech accordingly to fit it within the allocated time.
3. Increase your volume
If you will not be using a PA system during speech day (or if the system fails), you may have to increase the volume of your voice. Even in a room setting without a PA system, some people speak too softly and that is not effective communication.
4. Be relaxed in your delivery
Try to be at ease when giving your speech. Be free to shift your weight from one foot to the other, as you turn from one side of the room to the other in your speech delivery.
Do not act as if your feet and body are manacled to the floor.
Other things to bear in mind
Here are other bits that you can consider when giving your speech. Try to vary the volume of your talk.
Not all lines would be said using the same volume. If you are telling a story, a shout made by a character in your anecdote would be louder than a whisper in a case where a rumour is spread by women in a village.
Another tip to use is ask questions (the rhetorical mode) to engage people to think, and then offering them the answers as you go along. And with asking questions comes the “pause” that you use to give them time to think through something you have said.
Additionally, learn to confidently give a speech standing behind a lectern or without one. A lectern enables a speaker to rest his or her speech notes. Without a lectern, a small card with your summary notes will be the best way to deliver your speech, more like how our outdoor preachers do at market places.
Lastly but not the least, have a good night’s rest before speech day and set your clothes to be worn beside your bed before you sleep.
Dress appropriately for speech day – do not dress in such a way that people are distracted by your clothes and not taking in your speech, which is vital in effective speech delivery.
If you are going to use any form of figurative language, like an idiom, or even a phrase in a local dialect, ensure that you have researched and will be using the correct one.
With that, I end this article.
Remember, as with many skills, you become better in writing and effectively delivering a speech when you spend more hours practising and making speeches.

  • Next week: Analysing Obama’s speech. Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer.