The Art of Speaking
By Mohammad Yacoob
Los Angeles, CA
Several years ago, at an Eid dinner, a moderator made an announcement that the community leader will speak for ten minutes. The leader spoke for fifteen minutes, paused for a moment, and made a comment that he would finish his speech after making his last point. Then, he took another ten minutes to speak on the last point and concluded his speech. During dinner he walked up to the moderator and expressed his displeasure by saying, “Why did you say that I was going to speak for ten minutes.”
Many speakers from the old world feel offended when a note is handed to them during the speech reminding that only one minute is left to end the speech. Once, a speaker from the old world spent more than five minutes, after receiving his one minute warning, scolding the moderator and giving him a lecture on basic etiquette – as to how not to disrupt train of thought of a speaker.
The speakers have to learn the technique or the art of speaking. They must avoid the temptation of thinking that they are in control of time as soon as they land in front of the microphone. A speaker once summed up the feelings of a good speaker. He said, “If you want me to speak for three hours, tell me five minutes before the start of the speech. And if you want me to speak for of 15 minutes, then give me a three weeks advance notice.”
Many speakers have good intentions, speaking skills and a very powerful voice but lack the skill to handle the microphone effectively and speak directly into the microphone. Some speakers put the audience to sleep by their speaking tone and making the subject of their talk very dry and boring.
In early 1990’s, I attended a technical conference in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. The keynote speaker at the banquet was Dr. Kahles, a retired Professor of Metallurgy, University of Cincinnati, Ohio. He said he has slowed down in recent years, yet he has no intention of putting his audience to sleep by making a very lengthy or a boring speech. He repeated an anecdote from his personal life. He said he had two rules for the students to follow in his class. First, they could ask questions in the class only after raising a hand and after being allowed to ask the question. He did not allow any disruption in the class during the lecture. Second, he would not allow anyone to sleep in the class during the lecture. If he found anyone sleeping in the class he would ask the student to leave. One day he found a student sleeping in his class. He looked up, counted up to ten and asked the student sitting next to him to wake him up. The student tapped his neighbor’s shoulder and when he woke up, Dr. Kahles asked him to leave the class room. This became his routine. Several weeks later, Dr. Kahles saw another student sleeping in his class, he counted up to ten and asked the student sitting next to him to wake him up. The student did not respond to his request; he did not wake up his colleague. Dr. Kahles continued his lecture. A few minutes later, the Dr. assessed the situation and got a little bit irritated. He raised his voice and said, “Would you please wake him up.” The student next to the sleeping student did not respond. This time Dr. Kahles repeated his request in a very audible voice, “Would you please wake him up.” Immediately another student from the other end of the class room shouted back at Dr. Kahles, “You wake him up. You put him to sleep, you wake him up.” Dr. Kahles learned his lesson on that day. He summed up his lesson and said, “Stay on the subject, do not digress, make it interesting and stay away from giving windy and lengthy speeches or lectures.”