Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tips for a better speech, from the point of view of a listener

What makes a speech a very good one —in South Asian studies? No reading, of course, good time-planning (vs. "I now have to skip to the conclusions…" while frantically looking for the right sheet) and being prepared by pronouncing it aloud, but what else?

During and after the last Coffee Break Conference, I collected some good advices from friends and colleagues:
  1. 1. If you are supposed to deliver a paper in a language which is not your mother-tongue, do not fill it words you would not normally use. The effort of remembering them (or, worse!, reading them) will make you nervous and unnatural. Just write your speech in a plain, colloquial way, using the same sort of language you would use for explaining it to a friend.
  2. 2. Focus on conveying an idea.
  3. 3. Examine your audience. Many papers have been enhanced just be the fact that the speakers had had enough time to adjust to the audience.
  4. 4. Less is more. Do not aim at re-shaping the history of South Asian studies, no one will follow you. Instead, convey one core point.

What would readers suggest? What sort of papers do you like more?


Jayarava said...


1. tell the audience what you are about to tell them
2. tell what you want to tell them
3. tell that what you told them.

I always aim to speak for less time than I am given, especially if there will be questions.

And yes, speak to your audience. Don't just stand up and talk to yourself in public, which is a sign of madness! And keep it simple. provides some excellent role models. Jill Bolte Taylor, Dan Pink, Daniel Dennett...

elisa freschi said...

Yes, I completely agree. I always try to use your 3-steps structure and aim at speaking less than expected and have more spare time for questions (which are the part I usually like more). The tips I added here are just "from the point of view" of a listener (i.e., me, while listening to the CBC). From the point of view of the speaker I would also add that the "Übung macht den Meister", the more you practice, the better. Did you improve in a substantial way through practice of public speaking?

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