Cease seizing the stage

Cease seizing the stage

Most of us have a malady of refusing to give up the stage or mike once we latch on to it.

Muriel Humphrey, wife of Hubert Humphrey, erstwhile Vice President of the US, is purported to have said, “Hubert, a speech doesn’t have to be eternal to be immortal!”

During my school days, I remember the collective groan as soon as the chief guest was requested to step on to the stage to deliver the address, be it on an annual day or a sports day. This is something that holds true across generations.

Unfortunately, most of us have this malady of refusing to give up the stage or the mike once we latch on to them. Words like crisp, pithy and interesting pave the way for interminable, convoluted and unstimulating. 

The main cause for this aberration is that we have so much to say spread across a volume of experience – real or stimulated. We also love to hear our own voice. Combined with the two, if we have a ready audience who are unable to escape; we seize the stage!

I am sure people who are asked to speak come prepared, but in their love to talk and in their happy zone of regaling their experiences, they fail to realise that the human attention span is of just eight seconds which is even lesser than nine seconds of a goldfish!

It is a wonder that a speaker does not notice the glazed expression on the face of his/ her audience or the constant shifting to make themselves feel comfortable. To add to the verbosity, we have speakers who look at the ceiling or only one section of the audience and drone on and on without any change in tone, pitch or rhythm, almost rendering the poor audience to a state of abysmal dismay.

I also believe that the modesty with which you speak goes a long way. Sounding bombastic or colouring up a story just to make yourself look better might actually boomerang. Recently, I was one among the audience when the person used too many “I’s” besides going off in an absolute tangent. The initial smattering of laughter turned to almost a groan. Unfortunately, the etiquette that goes into being an audience prevented many from walking out. Hence, I believe that once you know the audience, be aware of what you are intending to speak on and stick to the same. Brevity is the key.

I have noticed a few speakers who come up on stage either on a commencement or closing ceremony with just three takeaways. What a pleasure to sit among the audience and listen to the person saying, “I have just three points to make.”

Once stated, the audience sit up and are willing to take it all in. Quote liberally, use apt examples, share just one or two personal stories to connect, but not beyond that. If a person is naturally humorous, the speaker should resort to the same. But again, it would pay if the speaker has a couple of anecdotes or jokes to share rather than repeat the same.

Finally, know when to stop to make your speech immortal.

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