Speech Making (one to several)
Who are you?
You may be a celebrity
(actors/ journalists, politicians, sportspersons, artists–even here there are hierarchical
you may be a high official in an organization (public and private);
you may be an expert in your field of activity.
Whether an audience will be willing to listen to you or not will be depend on how popular you are. Where you are popular also matters—within or beyond your area of expertise. The larger the reach, the high the popularity, likewise the lesser the reach, the low the popularity.
Whether popular or not, you can’t get away with however or whatever you speak, you will still have certain responsibilities towards your audience.
1.1 The burden of speech-making
All of us know speaking to an audience requires effort and skill. To know how much,
read these quotes:
Why doesn't the fellow who says, "I'm no speechmaker," let it go at that instead of giving a demonstration?
There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.
It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
Be sincere; be brief; be seated.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
His speeches left the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea.
Making a speech is not as simple as ‘you speak, others listen’. The first quote refers to the problems audience can have when they listen to a speaker. The second talks about the huge difference between a speech that is planned and the one that is delivered. The third one highlights the fact that even an ‘impromptu’ speech requires preparation. The fourth one reminds us that long speeches are not welcome even when they are sincere in their purpose. The fifth quote cautions us that (despite excellent preparation) what we want to convey may be lost in a sea of words.
1.2 the process
Whether it’s a lecture, a talk, a paper presentation or an inaugural or valedictory address or making a speech in public, ‘one to several’ communication is generally non-interactive in the sense that we go on talking without punctuating our speech for audience participation and that the audience are not obliged to indicate they are listening; even when requested, more often than not, listeners would prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves, and this could be a very frustrating experience because we wouldn’t know what the audience are thinking about us or our speech. Even if there is a question hour, only very few may react. We may have to leave without learning, without knowing.
1.3 reasons for making speeches
Communicating to a large audience has increased in frequency in recent times. We are no longer chained to our desks and files, computers and mobiles; the circle of interaction has widened and we meet more number of people in a day. We are invited to give lectures or talks to educate, improve employees on matters affecting their growth as professionals or as human beings; we share our knowledge and expertise through paper presentations in conferences or workshops or we address the public during sales promotions or make speeches on special occasions.
1.4 the challenge
One of the biggest challenges for you as a speaker is getting the audience to listen. If you make a speech, people should remember it, should talk about it to others (of course, favourably!). Now how do you get your audience to listen? You should look at it from two angles: one what you should not do and two what you should do.
1. overloading your audience
[You may go on and on burdening your audience with too many thoughts.]
2. behaving with a ‘take it from me’ attitude
[You may be sending wrong signals through your tone and body language that you are
the expert and that they’d better listen to you!]
3. being ‘too technical’
[You may not stop to think whether or not your audience will be able to comprehend
what you are saying; you may think and behave ‘I am an expert and I’ll talk like an
4. using labyrinthine structures
[You may clothe your thoughts with sentence structures that are long and complex and
thus make listening an almost impossible task.]
5. speaking too fast or too slow
[You may not be adjusting your delivery speed to suit the audience comprehension
1.6 Do’s [steps and strategies]
You make speeches because you want your audience to let you share your thoughts with them. To be able to do this, you need to
· get ready for speech-making
· deliver the speech
reading · topic selection
· read for the topic
writing · take notes
· write outline
· make first draft
· edit [revise]
· prepare visuals (if necessary)
practicing · speak before a mirror/friends
· listen to reaction
· make necessary changes
2. delivery of speech
listening—tackling question hour
step one—topic selection
step two—source choice
step three—ideas collection
step four—ideas organization
step five—content development
step six—content sequencing
1.7 Topic selection
You need to know who your listeners are, their age, their interests, their expectations, their attitude [willingness], their knowledge/experience level in relation to the field from which you’re going to choose the topic.
1.8 Strategies for successful speech-making
1.8.1 Analyzing your audience
· Who are your audience? Are they students, professionals, specialists, parents,
women, lay persons, children, village folk, foreigners, general public?
This will help decide the content and its focus and the language to be used.
· What is their relationship with you? Are they strangers or are they known to
Thos will determine the level of formality in language and tone.
· To what age group do they belong? What are their interests?
This will reveal interest differences and help fill any communication gap and help shape
· Why are they coming? Why will they listen to you? What are
Receive information/advice/suggestions/new interpretations, listen to an expert
talk, compare notes, have a debate, be persuaded/convinced, see to
professional treatment of the topic.
· Will they come of their own accord/by compulsion/due to circumstances/as a
This and the previous question will indicate audience attitude and level of mental
This and the previous question will indicate audience attitude and level of mental
· If a topic is already given to you, what and how much do they know about the
This will define the range and depth of your treatment of the topic.
· If no topic is suggested, what topic should you choose?
You’ll have to ask your host the area or the theme that your audience need or wish to
listen to. You may even ask for a topic of their choice.
· Will the audience listen to a topic they don’t know much about?
You need to ask the organizers.
· How relevant will your topic be to the audience?
Again your host should tell you about their mental readiness: will they switch off or
In addition to knowing your audience, you should know about yourself: who you are, what you are, what you know, how much you know, how tuned you are to the topic and the audience (your attitude and motivational level), and so on.
1.8.2 Analyzing yourself
· You are not only a person; you are also many people. What are you going to be to
your audience: a professional, a specialist, an elder, a foreigner, a parent, an
official, a superior, a philosopher?
Once you know who you should be, you can decide the level and the focus of the
· Are you a stranger or are you known to them?
The level of formality in your verbal and nonverbal beahviour depends on this.
· What is your age?
If there is a mismatch between yours and the aundience’s you’ll need to make
· Why should you speak?
You need to know your ‘why’ in order to adjust it to the ‘why’ of the audience.
· How good are you as a speaker?
What is the quality of content and expression? How inventive are you? How good are
your presentation skills? Can you draw and hold the attention of the audience? Do you
speak in monotone? Is your voice loud enough for everyone to hear in case there is no
Do you speak fast or slow? Can you keep to the time allotted? Do you keep distance
and stay at the lectern / podium and move in the midst of audience (of course
depending on the strength of the audience)
Both these analyses will tell you how close or distant you are to your audience and accordingly make necessary adjustments or improvements.
1.8.3 Analyzing external factors
· What’s the occasion for the presentation?
Is it a celebration, festival, inauguration/valedictory, educating, expert talk or
· At what time of the day is your speech: morning/afternoon, before or
after a meal, after a day’s hard work, towards the end of the day?
Your motivation level and that of the audience depend on this.
· How long are you going to speak?
The shorter and the neater your presentation is, the better the audience’s reaction.
Unless of course it is a technical conference where all or most members are highly
motivated and come from long distances to listen, to learn.
Analyzing the locale
· Where are you going to speak: open ground, closed a/c room, a large
auditorium, a long hall or a small room?
This will give you an idea about venue space versus audience size, acoustics,
· How are the seating arrangements: fixed or free, comfortable or not, number
of exits (for people to leave if necessary without disturbing others)?
This will affect listeners’ attitude, seeing you as you speak, your moving among the
audience when necessary.
· Is collar mike available?
This will enable you to move closer and away from the audience as necessary, to
reduce the eye contact distance.
· Do you have to take into account any noise factor in and around the speech
location: a/c noise, generator noise, construction work noise, traffic noise,
chats/gossip wafting through open windows or people being visible while
moving to and from in the corridor?
· Will there be a question session at the end?
Even if there isn’t, make sure you provide this if only to indicate to them that you want
These three analyses will help to decide the topic and make it specific enough [see ‘your specific purpose’ under ‘why do you make a presentation?’ on a previous page]
1.9 Step 2—Source Choice
The topic selection is over. Now, you need to gather information relevant to the topic before you organize it for the speech.
Where do you get the information from? The first source is yourself. Sources other than you are journals, books related to topic, even newspaper supplements, and of course the internet with its unbelievable wealth of information. Your friends, colleagues, superiors, experts can also help you.
1.9.3 Step 3—Ideas Collection
Sit down at your reading table, take a note pad, think about the topic, jot down the thoughts as they occur to you; after a few hours or days, you are likely to feel that what you’ve written down may not be enough material. Besides, knowledge is getting added every moment to every branch of knowledge or activity. This knowledge you can get only from other sources.
You’ll need to do a lot of reading; you may need to visit libraries or borrow books from the internet.
Now you’ll read for content—ideas, concepts, philosophies, samples, examples, statistics, graphics, charts. As you read, you need to skim, scan, study, evaluate [accept/reject] in order to note down the essence of your reading sources. You may also decide to use an author’s statements as quotes. In which case, you need to write down name(s) of author(s), title, publication date, publisher’s name.
Now you can put your ideas on paper. You can do this in a structured manner or in a free patterning. In the first one, you decide how you wish to treat the topic and put this treatment in titles and subtitles. Or you allow your mind to wander freely and to write down thoughts as they occur.
1.9.4 Step four—idea organization
Preparing an outline
You’ve selected your topic and the sources. You’ve done your reading and compiled enough information and data. Now is the time to give your collection a shape. You need to classify and categorize. From among the thoughts gathered, you have to take out
· main ideas and use them as topic sentences for paragraphs
· elaborations, explanations, samples etc. as major and minor details as part
of each paragraph.
It’s also good to think of titles, subtitles appropriate to the divisions of the topic.
1.9.5 Step five—Content Development (organizing the content)
This is the next step in writing a full speech. This includes developing/organizing the content in the form of paragraphs into three divisions:
[i] introduction [ii] body [iii] conclusion.
Without an attractive ‘introduction’ and a suitable ‘conclusion’, the speech would be like a body without a head and feet. It needs an introduction because the body will be lifeless without it. It also needs a closing because there can be no landing, no arriving without them. You couldn’t let the audience float around, could you?
This is not only essential but also desirable for various purposes. It should be infectious enough for the audience to catch your enthusiasm, honesty, sincerity and vitality. It should arouse the curiosity of the listeners, it could even excite them. It should also provide an immediate mental atmosphere congenial to further audience involvement and activity.
The opening words are the most important. They can unlock closed minds and they also lock mind into listening posture.
· Involving audience
You can begin informally: “Only the other day Mr Bhaskar—he’s there among you—and I were engaged in a heated discussion on the problem of future governance of India. This speech is only an extension of it.” The audience are likely to realize the significance of the speech.
· An engaging question
“Can you name someone who is a champion today and an embodiment of concentration, determination and skill?” A question to which members of the audience are very likely to respond with names. A nod, smile, uh-huh could be your feedback. But before long, you may say, “I have in mind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Now friends, both of them have shown steel in moments of stress and made a name for themselves in today’s professional tennis world. Stress is your master only if you allow it. This is what I’m going to speak about for another twenty minutes. Hopefully, we’ll have an engaging question-hour session.”
· A mind-reading technique
You can use mind-reading technique by beginning with a statement that might reflect the audience’s preconceived notions on your topic: If I were a member of the audience this afternoon, I might be expecting the topic treatment with the sole reference to minorities. However, with your permission, I propose to look at the topic from a different angle which I hope you’ll consider seriously moving along with me, if not agree with it.”
I’m sure your audience will unlock their minds and become receptive.
· A rhetorical question
· Shocking the audience
It’s a question for which an answer is neither expected nor given because it is implied in the question: “Can we get rid of politicians?” [I can bet you’ll see some amused, some with raised brows, some mouthing the answer.] “But what would you say if I were to say: “We could”? You may think me crazy but hear me out, will you?” Now you’ve used another strategy: shocking the audience.
· Doing the unexpected
Your opening words: “Let me begin with the conclusion…..” will make most members sit up.
· Current News
You can quote a front-page headline relevant to your topic. Those of the audience who have read the news would like to hear your line of thinking. Those who didn’t might like to hear it and how you interpret it.
· An appropriate quotation
You’ll be indicating your width of reading. So some members might decide to listen to you.
Unless these are appropriate to your topic or unless they make the audience smile, you’re treading dangerous ground. But if you are clever, you might manage with something like this: “ Well, friends, this anecdote has nothing to do with the topic, but I thought I needed a breather—I wanted to see if I could hear my voice, and of course you were engaged in seeing the link. Thank you for that and let us be together for a few more minutes.”
After any of these or other openings you may think of, you should next ensure your listeners traveling with you by telling them where and how you’re leading them and where you want them to arrive. In other words, you should provide an overview of the presentation which can include general or background information; you can also indicate how you’ve organized your presentation.
This is where you develop your main thoughts into sentences and paragraphs. You deal with each main thought in one paragraph developing each with major and minor thoughts that emerge from the main thought.
You’ll need to pattern the overall sequencing of thoughts. The sequence can be
¨ cause and effect
¨ other patterns
from specific to the general
general to the specific
¨ principles and practice
This is what your audience is most likely to remember. This should contain the final message you’ll want to leave with your audience. Without it, your listeners will not know what to make of your speech. You should be able to tell them what you want them to do as post-listening activity: contemplate, argue, discuss, act.
Use of visual aids depends on the size of the audience. If it’s a large audience (a hundred or more), visual aids may be a deterrent rather than a help to the speaker for they may distract the audience from listening; moreover the distance may be an obstacle, the size of the visual may make reading difficult.
Here are two instances of the problems created by the speakers for the audience and to himself!
In a national conference on American literature, an invitee speaker
began reading his speech, had photocopies of Dreiser’s two poems
distributed, and he said he wanted us to read them as we listened to
his comments on Dreiser in relation to them. The Professor was
obviously an eminent scholar for he was invitee speaker. He
evidently felt it’d be to his advantage and his audience’s to have
the poems so that his listeners could see the relevance of his
comments on the poet as he interpreted the writer in the light of
But did he achieve the aim? Or for that matter did he allow us to
what he wanted us to do?
The distribution definitely disturbed us. The invitee speaker’s words were lost to us for those few minutes when the distribution went on. We didn’t listen for further few minutes as most of us could hardly resist the temptation of seeing what poems he’d chosen and contemplating on how he was going to use them. Suddenly he was upon us without warning, discussing the poems. Only half way through did we realize what was happening. Or rather what was not happening! Could it be that the speaker was unaware of the adverse impact of the handout distribution? He could very well have been!
In an annual gathering of members of a professional body, an invitee speaker was on the stage in a large hall, addressing well over 500 delegates from all over the country. He used
OHP transparencies. In fact he’d handwritten the whole speech on them and he was simply reading them out. Not for a moment could he look at us. (how could he?!)
Another invitee speaker also used transparencies with a difference. He also had matter covering the whole of each transparency but neatly printed. He was speaking (reading!) at breakneck speed with the transparencies appearing as if on cue. He had a lot to say and the time was too short. It appeared that either the original time allotted was shortened or he was simply using a readymade speech he may have prepared and used for another occasion.
Both were eminent professionals in their respective field of activity. And both were invitee speakers which implied that this was not their speech. Neither speakers respected the transparencies as visual aid. They probably thought that using a visual aid was a sign of professionalism. One didn’t face the audience at all. The other was a shade better with his occasional eye contact with the audience. Neither seemed to bother whether they were reaching the audience. Both were very I-oriented.
Visuals will be visible and hence useful with a small audience but they impede transaction with a large audience for they will not be visible because of the distance. A face to face interaction with the speaker’s eyes sweeping the audience to and fro and right to left is definitely a most proper choice when the audience is large.
Please refer to the post on Presentation Skills for more information on visual aids for a small audience. __________________________________________________________________________
1.10 Step six—Editing
No one can write a full paper/speech in one go. There are bound to be errors at the thought level and/or at the expression level. There could be flaws in our thinking, gaps in our thinking sequence, weak or insufficient support to beliefs/claims/arguments; there could also be problems in the choice of words and sentence structures.
Edit your writing bearing in mind the following tips:
1. Construct sentences that are direct, simple, short, vigorous, lucid.
2. Use concrete, simple, short words that the reader can understand without referring to a
dictionary. Avoid ‘cliches’, Latin or Greek words.
3. Achieve clarity by breaking down a longer sentence, if necessary, into two or more
4. Though long sentences with a main idea and several sub-thoughts are a common
feature in any good writing, see that the linking does not confuse the reader.
5. Use specific words [blue/red], not vague ones [brightly-coloured].
Use concrete words [rain/fog], not abstract ones [bad weather].
Use plain words[began, said, end], not [commenced, stated, terminated].
Make positive statements [he was poor] instead of negative [he was not rich]
Use active voice [the police took no action]; use the passive voice only when it can
express a thought better or is essential to convey a thought with or without the ‘by-
phrase [no action was taken].
6. Avoid using more words as a group when they don’t add to the meaning:
‘the fact is that….’ is better than ‘but for the fact that….’, ‘the question is ….’ Is crisper
than ‘the question as to whether…..’ etc.
7. Avoid the common error of using expressions to indicate ‘scope’ [quantifiers] with
absolutes: quite impossible, glaringly obvious, most essential
adjectives: true facts, active/serious consideration, definite decision,
unfilled vacancy, integral part
The underlined expressions are superfluous and hence meaningless.
8. Use one main clause in one sentence.
9. Vary the length of sentences, avoid repetition of the same subject.
10.Take care of ‘concord’ and don’t mix up tenses.
11. Avoid dangling modifiers [that cannot sensibly modify any word in a sentence]:
After studying for two days, the test was easy.
After studying for two days, I found the test easy. [or]
Because I studied for two days, I found the test easy.
Being very tired, the alarm was not heard.
Being very tired, I slept through the alarm.
Being a vegetarian, the options were not many.
Being a vegetarian, I didn’t have many options.
12. Avoid misplaced adverbial:
Floating peacefully near the oil rig, we saw two whales.
This sentence actually means that ‘we’ were ‘floating’, which is meaningless.
But it should have been written as:
We saw two whales, floating peacefully near the oil rig.
Turning crimson red, we enjoyed the setting sun.
We enjoyed the setting sun, turning crimson red.
13. Use parallel listings and headings:
The ‘list’ in the improved version has all nouns, and this is called ‘parallel’ listing, whereas the first one has a verb, an adjective and nouns.
Note: The tips are adapted from www.scantlanta.org/handouts/keller.ppt
1.11 Step seven Practice
If you’re new to speech making, it’s better to practice your speech until you’re certain you remember all your ideas, you’ve got them in sequence, you’re using appropriate body language. You can practice in front of a mirror and video your practice speech and play the video so you can see and hear yourself perform and improve your delivery.
1.12 Delivery of speech [the actual moment]
Language and body language
So as you speak, as you introduce the topic, as you develop the topic and as you come to the closing, you’re constantly in touch with your audience through
· the use of appropriate vocabulary, sentence structure,
and visual aids to enable your audience to listen, follow
and comprehend your thoughts, explanations
· eye contact, your voice volume, rise and fall of your
tone, smile, use of the arms supporting your verbal
messages, moving now and then [not constantly, please]
from the audience to the visual and from the visual to the audience,
moving as close to the audience as possible, asking or
inviting questions, seeking feedback, adjusting your content
and presentation to suit the feedback you’re getting from
the verbal or nonverbal messages from your audience.
Your presentation can be a success if you use these strategies:
1. Use technical jargon if your audience comprises technical people;
if lay persons, use as few of them as possible; explain in simple terms
but make sure they understand what you’re saying.
2. Make the presentation conversational. Use short, simple sentences as they facilitate quick
comprehension. Of course, do use complex and compound sentences but sparingly.
3. Use signal expressions like “the next step is…”, “another consequence
of this is…..”, “another way to look at this is…”, “so far, we’ve looked
at only…….”, “ What I’m going to tell you now is significant from….”
“I’ll now summarize briefly before moving on to…”, “let me repeat this….”
“The next logical step is….”,
4. Use link expressions
[See ‘linking sentences’ under Step Five of “Preparation” stage.]
5. Listening is more difficult than reading. Listeners cannot go back like readers to
recapture information. Repetition is a strategy that helps recall and remembrance.
6. Use rhetorical questions.
7. Use active voice.
8. If you have a small audience, encourage ‘interruptions’. Ask questions to get response.
Invite them to ask questions, to seek clarifications. Ask audience for a show of hands.
9. Your audience can’t read and listen at the same time. So do one thing at a time. If you do
have to show a visual and speak on a point, mask the rest and explain the point.
10. eye contact
“When you don’t look at the audience, they feel (probably unconsciously)
that you are not interested in them, or in their reaction to your talk….”
“A speaker who never looks at his listeners may be conveying messages
like ‘I am not sure about what I am saying…’ ” [Stanton, N.]
This is the best way to build rapport with your audience. Touch as many members of the
audience as possible so that they feel their presence is recognized. Your eyes are the only
part of your body that can recognize audience reaction and that can tell the audience your
reaction to their feedback.
Your voice carries to the audience messages other than the content of your
presentation. It carries your friendliness, confidence, vitality, sincerity,
honesty, enthusiasm which should touch them and make them respond.
Be audible to the last row.
Raise or drop your voice. Any change in volume, tone, pace [speed] indicates a
change or shift in your presentation.
If your natural voice is monotone [that doesn’t rise and fall],
repeat key points
give verbal cues [see 3 above]
stress key words.
12. pause [a quick short stop]
Use pauses in between sentences, after questions, before key points.
Stand up straight, feet slightly apart.
Use them to go with the messages of your sentences.
A step or two away or towards the audience indicate change in the messages.
However, too much movement can be distracting, so try not to pace.
A mannerism is a particular habit or way of speaking or behaving that you and I have but are not aware of.
Most of us suffer from some mannerism or the other. But we would not be ready to accept even if we were told of them. This is where live audience in mock session, speaking in front of a full mirror or videoing the presentation will help.
A few of the mannerisms are:
1. hopping from one foot to another
2. taking two steps forward and two steps back
3. standing on one leg
4. crossing the legs in the ‘I want to go to toilet’ stance
5. rocking to and fro
6. swaying from side to side
7. rising up on toes every, say, third or fourth word
8. going on little undirected walkabouts
9. walking up and down like a caged animal
10. playing with pens or other objects
11. jingling money in pockets
12. fiddling with hair
13. avoiding eye contact.
14. repeating certain words
15. twitching of the eyes, lips or the nose
These and other mannerisms can easily distract members of the audience who otherwise might halfheartedly listen.
Use any of these:
In summary, So, to sum up, to summarize, to recapitulate, Let me now sum up
In conclusion, let me end by saying, In conclusion I’d like to say, Finally, may I say
So I would suggest, So I would recommend that
Thank you, thank you very much, thank you for listening,
thank you for your attention/time
If you have any questions or comments, I’ll be happy to answer them
I’ll be happy to answer questions
If there are questions, I’ll do my best to answer them
If the question asked is vague, instead of asking the individual to rephrase [which may be embarrassing to both of you], you could restate or paraphrase it before you answer it.
“If I’m not mistaken, you mean what I meant by……….”
“ I’m sure you’re, aren’t you, talking about the point I made about……..”
Express appreciation for questions, even hostile ones.
“I’m happy you asked that question”
“That’s a good question”
1.13 Reading a speech
There are occasions when speakers simply read their texts or prepared speeches. Presidents and Prime Ministers, Heads of State usually read prepared speeches when they address their nations through TV and radio. Politicians read their scripts when addressing an important gathering. Spokespersons of organizations also read out policy statements to public or media persons. Probably because they’d like to be careful to see no key point is omitted and also to avoid being misquoted.
Even though academicians, scientists, technologists have none of these problems, they still follow the tradition of reading a speech in conferences, conventions or seminars.
If you read a speech instead of speaking it, especially when it is not a tradition, you’ll be sending negative signals to your audience, like
I want to give my speech, and if people don’t want to listen to me, I can’t help it.
It may not be a punishment to you but to your audience it definitely is, for no fault of theirs. So please avoid reading a speech.
1.14 confidence building (for beginners)
You may have great thoughts. You may have convincing arguments. You may speak with ease and grace. You may have the ability to choose the right vocabulary and your control over sentence structures and patterns may be exceptional. Your paragraphing sense, your ability to indicate this with appropriate paragraph linkers may be great excellent. You may accompany your speech with appropriate body language.
Yet all these will be of no avail if you lack confidence in yourself and in your abilities to deliver what an audience expects of you and from you.
If this is true, how do you go about it?
Confidence is a feeling you have about yourself, confidence is a belief in your abilities.
Let’s say you’d studied in an English medium school where English is the communication medium, then your confidence level is likely to be high, so you’ll find it easy to communicate, to make friends, to speak to lecturers.
But let’s say you’d studied in a regional medium school, where English is only one of the subjects you learnt, then your confidence level will be low to use English as communication medium in college, so you’ll find it difficult to communicate, to make friends, to speak to lecturers.
You must have begun to feel low in confidence already because you hear some classmates using English very well and you find that you’re unable to join them and speak like them.
This is only a temporary problem. Because there’s a permanent solution.
Do you learn cycling in a few minutes? Can you dribble the ball towards the goal in your first attempt at football? Will you hit the cricket ball for a six when you hold the bat for the first time? Obviously the answer is ‘no’. When can you ride a cycle well on a busy road? When can you score a goal after getting past the defence of your opponents? When can you hit the ball for a six? Again the answer is obvious. Only after a lot of practice. So is the case with your using English.
Your English-speaking friends are only a few steps ahead of you. But don’t worry. Start speaking in English. You shouldn’t worry you’ll make mistakes; to remove this fear, you must believe you’ll be able to speak English soon like the others, you’ll have to start speaking in English. Speak, make mistakes, that is the only way to learn English, listen to your friends, listen to your lecturers when they speak English, learn from this listening, remember the corrections your friends will make (you need to ask you friends to point out the errors and teach you good English, don’t consider it a shame to ask friends to help you). You must take the first step, ask for help, surely you’ll receive help.
To learn a language you must listen and speak. Also develop the habit of listening to English TV channels like the BBC, NDTV, CNN-IBN every day in the evenings for at least half an hour; you pick up information and English. Watch English films during weekends; you’ll find it extremely difficult to follow the dialogue but keep watching, keep listening, and after two or three months of watching and listening, you’ll understand it’s not so difficult as it was in the beginning.
To learn a language you must read and speak. Read magazines like India Today, The Week, Time; these may be available in your college library. Read story books, novels.
This doesn’t mean you cannot use the regional language at ll. But use English more, the regional language less.
The formula for developing and improving your confidence: speak, listen, listen, speak, speak, listen, listen, speak, read and speak, speak, read, read, speak.
I used my lecture hours to get students to make short speeches facing their batch mates. I began the practice with introducing themselves to the class. Then I got them to speak on topics of their choice, initially for three minutes and later five to seven minutes.
Let me mention here about two students of mine at Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering, Tamil Nadu, India where I taught English to first students of engineering courses.
The first one is the best example of success in getting students to face the class and speak. It was the biggest success of mine because the boy was a stammerer even while using his mother tongue. A day or two before his turn came to speak, I called him to my room and asked if he was ready to introduce himself. He said yes but was nervous about his stammering and poor English. I said speaking was important, not grammaticality and stammering was only something that happened to him in his childhood as a result of some incident causing fear and it could be got over with effort. I told the class, with him not knowing about it, to clap and cheer him before and after he spoke. This they did and it surprised him and pleased him. Gradually the stammering dimmed and disappeared and his speech delivery was as normal as the next person. He later thanked me profusely but I said it was his confidence and self-belief that brought about the change though I might have given him a gently push.
You’ll realize how true the last statement was when you read this. There was a girl student who coming from an English medium school conversed fluently with her friends and me in good English. When her turn came to introduce herself, she remained mute and wouldn’t come to the front of the class. I called her to my office and asked her why. She said she was scared of facing strange people. I said it was only natural to feel so but she could get over it only by facing the problem boldly and with the help of the class and mine she could definitely drive away the fear easily. She had zero confidence and self-belief at the lowest. I was sad to see her readiness to live with the fear but couldn’t do anything about it.
So whether you’re a novice or an experienced speaker, what matters is how much you respect your listeners and their expectations and you tune yourself to their wishes.