Like every other habit, making or breaking them requires great amounts of discipline. These things don’t come by sheer chance. Breaking bad speech habits can guarantee you good business connections and earn you social recognition.
The first thing you should learn to do is to listen. You heard me right! In this case listen to yourself. Be your own audience. Put yourself in the position of the audience. By doing this, you will realise how many ‘ehm’, ‘uhs’ and the likes that you will notice yourself. It is always good to notice these errors yourself before your real audience notice them for you!
The second thing you have to do especially if you are giving a talk on business is to deeply think about your topic or what you are about to say. This looks very simple but it may turn out to be the hardest in public speaking. This was perhaps why the great Prussian general, Carl von Clausewitz noted that, ‘In war, everything is simple, but the simplest thing can turn out to be the most difficult.’ This applies to public speaking too. Thinking about what you will say may turn out to be the hardest part of the job when you do not adequately prepare for the talk.
In doing this, it is not that you must cram or script all you are about to say to your audience. This will always be counter-productive. You show your audience no respect with some of them thinking you lack authority and a proper grasp on the topic. All you need to do is to ensure that on the topic you intend to speak about, except it is an impromptu speech, you have a fair grasp of it. It is usually better if you do not accept the invitation to speak than go out to embarrass yourself. You may never recover from the shock!
I remember attending an event sometimes last year in a posh hotel in Lagos. The speaker, who is ordinarily supposed to make the guests laugh, a comedian, was introduced by the Master of Ceremonies (MC). Even before his appearance on the stage, the MC had boasted about this man to make us laugh and crack our ribs. Everyone waited in anticipation for this man. After all, he was the reason we all came. The man was unknown to most of us, but we all believed that he would make us laugh; the MC stirred up our belief also.
As this man mounted the stage, we laughed at the first joke, even though it was pedestrian. The second one received less applause and the jokes progressively received lesser applause as they were doled out.
Needless to say that this young comedian knew he was embarrassed, he had to bring his jokes to an abrupt end. A few applause followed and he left the stage. The organisers, scandalised, didn’t know what to do for the moment. What will happen to their next outing? What about the investment and the audience?
If this young comedian is sincere with himself he will admit he didn’t prepare for the occasion. His jokes lacked direction and focus. He probably crammed a few jokes before the event trusting that he would flow as he held the mic, but his sudden introduction by the tactless MC put a stop to all that.
I don’t know where this comedian is now, but I know that he may have hoped that event never took place in the first instance!