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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Speaking me to death

Published: October 1, 2007
Section: Opinions

Try to imagine this scenario- Im sitting down, surrounded by people in a room, with a speaker whos supposed to be captivating my attention, but Im sorry to admit I havent heard a word hes said. Where am I, you ask? No, Im not sitting in a lecture hall, and Im not watching a presidential address, Im at church. I dont know about you, but I feel like sermon time has now become more like nap time for me, personally. What is it with everyone, not just priests in general, and speechmaking?

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. Well, you can have the satisfaction of the physicality of me actually hearing you, but you wont get my attentionmy daydreams are already occupying that!

Speechmaking is an artone which very few people are naturally gifted at performing. But that doesnt mean you cant work at it;

it just means you need to wake up, get out of the rut youre obviously stuck in (and yes, we all know youre in it, were just too nice to let you know up-front), and admit you have a problem.

I dont consider myself an expert at speechmakingnot by far!but I like to think I know a thing or two about the art, having suffered through a speech-making class myself my senior year of high school. And I say suffered in very endearing terms, because at the end of the year, I was really glad that I took the leap, and, trust me, it was more like a plunge off a very high cliff.

Let me diverge and tell you a little bit about my own experience with speechmaking. I was naturally terrified of giving a ten minute speech to my classmates for several reasons. First, everyone saw me as the shy girl (so not true if you know me!) and my voice just didnt want to project itself like the other bigmouths. So, when I was put through what I like to call speech boot camp, I was in some serious pain, but not of the physical sense. Told I was too cutesy and feminine, I was expected to man up and command a stronger presence. After several embarrassing practice sessions in front of my class, and weeks of painstaking preparation, I was ready. I admit, my first speech wasnt any I Have a Dream, but it was good considering I had overcome my own faults. Over the course of the year, I like to think I grew not only as a speechmaker, but also as a person.

I realized that sometimes its necessary, as painful as it is, to put aside what youre used to and come out of that curled up comfort zone. I needed to become louder, more commanding, and powerful. But it seems like some people have the opposite problem.

Theres a fine line between mediocre, powerful, and painful speech making. And this doesnt apply to just priests. It applies to teachers, public officials, even ourselves. If you want to get a point across, you need to appeal to the audience to whom youre preaching. And Im sorry, but I dont think youre going to do that if Im in the back row desperately trying to wake myself up from my land of escapist reverie.

Speeches need to be interesting. Appeal to the audience;

dont bore them to death by repeating the same metaphor, or the same story ten times. Because as much as you like the story, its obvious that you just dont have enough to say, but love the limelight so much that you recycle old and tired material.

The tone of a speech can also make it or break it. Like the saying goes, dont let them see you sweat. You dont need to stand up at the podium shaking, sweat rolling down your face, because then nobody will see you as being anywhere near credible. But also, please dont stand up there, your hands thrown out to the side, your voice at glass-shattering decibels, and talk down to me. Youre not the supreme speech maker, and the fact that Im tuning you out speaks something to that. Youre not God, youre not the president, so stop trying to fool us. Its like moms always say just be yourself and everyone will like you. Sometimes, you just need to fine tune yourself to become ready to share who you are with everyone.

These are just a few suggestions. Again, Im definitely not an expert in speechmaking.

Maybe we should just think a little about the power of our speech to aid or stunt us the next time before we start to go off on a tangent about something. Choose your words wisely;

they have more power than you give them credit for. Im finished now, I dont want to overstay my welcome. Oh, and please let me know if Im rambling a little too much. Friends dont let friends give boring speeches.