Everybody loves to talk; but not everyone is comfortable with making a speech. When the resource person enquired how many students had delivered a talk before, few hands went up at the recent NIE session in Mount Litera (Zee) school . When she wanted to know how many harboured a desire to address the class, but had never done it before, the show of hands was greater.

The first module of ‘public speaking’ kicked off with an ice-breaker in the form of a story narrated by resource person Anuradha Umashankar who impressed on students that the gift of the gab is not inborn but can be acquired.

What held back students from making a class presentation? Answers ranged from stage fright, shyness, fear of possible memory lapse, fear of committing a mistake and anxiety over being laughed at by the class.

On the other hand, what made students confident about public speaking? Appreciation, popularity and applause were some of the reasons, students came up with.

Students who were familiar with public speaking admitted that they were held back by initial fears but constant practice had left them more confident. “Public speaking is an acquired skill: it is learnable,” assured Ms.Anuradha. “Speakers are not born, but trained.”

Both first time and experienced speakers were asked to make a two minute presentation on ‘The importance of reading newspapers’.

A peer assessment that followed had students pointing out positive attributes along with traits that could be improved upon. While some looked at the wall during the entire talk, others shifted about uneasily. One failed to introduce herself and another forgot to address the audience.

Ms.Anuradha enumerated the traits that made up a good speech.

“A good speech much attract and energize the audience, have solid, relevant and well-organised content,” she said, adding that body language and voice modulation matter.

A good speech should be mutually beneficial, resulting in growth of both the audience and the speaker. The essential characteristics of a good speech can be encapsulated with ‘Speech’ as a mnemonic standing for sensible, persuasive, expressive, enthusiastic, convincing and helpful.