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Effective Oratory - I
by Ramendra Kumar

Effective oratory has always held man in thrall since the dawn of civilization. In third century B.C. the Athenian orator and statesman Demosthenes with his stirring speeches organized a unified resistance to Philip - II of Macedonia.

Who can forget these lines immortalized by Shakespeare? "Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your ears....." Anthony, in one of the most compelling orations in the history of human kind, unmasked the traitors who had murdered Caesar and galvanized the Romans into action.

Modern times too have seen great orators. Swami Vivekananda's address to the Parliament of Religions won the hearts of millions across the world. When he started his speech with the endearing words, "Brothers and sisters of America," the entire audience got up to give him a standing ovation.

Hitler and Gandhi have been very powerful speakers. However, there were some major differences. Hitler united an entire nation fuelling sentiments of Nazi pride, supremacy, xenophobia and unabashed jingoism. Gandhi too brought people together, but his call was based on truth and non-violence. Hitler relied on propaganda, Gandhi on communication, based on peace, truth and trust. That is the reason Hitler's triumph was short-lived while Gandhi's is eternal.

John F. Kennedy, the charismatic American president was a powerful speaker. "And so my fellow Americans...ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world....ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the Freedom of Man." This speech of the President will continue to inspire generations of 'world citizens'.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today....." These potent words of Martin Luther King Jr. mesmerized an entire race and gave a sense of pride and unity to the black community of North America.

Thus we see how important effective public speaking is. It can win hearts, minds and souls. It can inspire commitment, courage and conviction. It can start battles and stop wars.

Public speaking is both a science and an art. The content of your speech is the science part. Your style, presentation, voice modulation and how you manage to mesmerize the audience is the art aspect.


A speech should ideally be like a traditional story - it should have a well-defined beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning of your speech has to have a hook capturing the attention of the audience. To do that you can start with a quotation, a joke, an incident or anything riveting, to put forth an idea or a premise.

The middle should carry this idea further with cogent arguments. It should advance the premise and prepare the audience for the conclusion. The end should have a finality about it. It shouldn't leave the audience confused as to what exactly you have been trying to say. The conclusion should be one that will remain with the audience for a long time. Here too you can use a quotation, a line of poetry etc, but make sure it has relevance. Don't use a quotation for the sake of using it.


Don't distort facts or exaggerate issues simply to create an impact. The audience will see through your charade and you will end up losing both face and faith. Like the Mahatma, try to reach out to your audience with words.


Try your best to inject humor in your speech. It is a great way of ensuring the attention of the audience and also putting your point across. This will also convince your audience that you are confident about your abilities. A tense, nervous speaker turns the audience off.

This week I have discussed the science in next week's update I shall write about the art of public speaking.          

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