How to be a better orator

Dear All,
An orator is a person who speaks publicly and can convey his/her ideas clearly and convincingly. Would you like to improve your oratory skills for a school, work, or even TedTalk presentation? If so, you may find this post of interest.

Gestures, gestures, and gestures (Demosthenes in Pease & Pease, 2006, p. 156).

Demosthenes was one of the best known and most skillful orators of ancient Greece. When asked what makes a good orator, he simply answered, “Gestures, gestures, and gestures.” It is notable that he attributed so much importance to nonverbal means of communication for successful speeches and, to extend it a little more, for communication in general.

Although the importance of nonverbal means of communication was noticed long ago, the scholarly interest in nonverbal component of communication was documented much later, in the 20th century with the development of ethology (animal behaviour studies), psychology, and linguistics.

The video below explains what kind of nonverbal communication in particular can contribute to a better public presentation. Specifically, it discusses the following three elements:

1) hand gestures – purposeful hand gestures contribute to charisma and likability;
2) vocal charisma (vocalics) – is the ability to be energetic/enthusiastic about the topic you are discussing; this shows itself in using variations in tone, appropriate pauses, and the pitch of voice;
3) smile – a sincere smile during a speech can further contribute to the success of a presentation.

Another interesting point that is raised in this video is that it is nonverbal means of communication that contribute considerably to the overall impression about a given presentation (people who were shown a muted video were able to identify successful speeches), at times even more than the words. Moreover, the initial impression that lasts for the first 7 seconds, may be a determining factor in how a speech is evaluated by listeners/viewers.

Interestingly, although gestures and other nonverbal means of communication are so important people rarely pay attention to them. By paying more attention to gestures one can become not only a better orator, but also a better listener by following the presenter’s train of thought more carefully.

In summary, this post has briefly discussed how nonverbal means of communication can contribute to better presentations. In particular hand gestures, vocal charisma, and smile have been discussed.

Have you ever tried using nonverbal means of communication purposefully when you are presenting? What was your experience?

Have you noticed how a skillful presenter (e.g. your professor or a colleague) uses nonverbal means of communication? What exactly have you noticed?

Please share your ideas in the comment section of this post.

Video credit: Vanessa Van Edwards, “How to Be Instantly Irresistible” February 19, 2016, via YouTube.

Pease, A., & Pease, B. (2006). The definite book of body language. New York: A Division of Random House Inc.

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