Aamir learns the art of public speaking from an expert Richa Tripathy. Ramendra Kumar’s “Friends Forever” journeys on with Aamir and Sagar.
Three weeks later a special session of the Literary Club was held, with Richa Tripathy as a special invitee. Even though Shantanu and Ajay were not members of the Literary Club Aamir had gone to them.
“Hey Chhote Nawab, these tips are for guys like you who quake in their trouser seats when asked to speak to a gathering of more than one. Not for me and Ajay. We don’t need a girl to tell us how to debate. So, get lost!”
Aamir was about to retort but saw Sharma Sir coming from the opposite direction and turned away without a word. As he walked back he could hear Shantanu and Ajay sniggering.
Richa was completely different from Rishi. She was short, fair and plump with smiling eyes and an animated expression on her face.
After she was introduced to the members by Aamir she said, “It is very nice that you guys have a Literary Club that is so active in your school. When my kid brother, Rishi, asked me to come here and interact with you I was really very happy. However, I am here not to give you any advice, but just to share with you a few thoughts based on the mistakes I made.”
She looked at the attentive faces in front of her and continued, “Public speaking is both a science and an art. The content of your speech, your arguments, are the science part. Your style, presentation, voice modulation and how you manage to mesmerise the audience is the art aspect. If you want to be a good debater you have to have a good vocabulary. You should be widely read and have confidence in yourself. But, most importantly, you should enjoy going on the dais and speaking. Standing on the dais when you see a large crowd what is the feeling you get? Do you feel a strange kind of power, a hold on listeners? Do you feel thrilled that for the next five minutes you have a captive audience that is waiting, willing and wanting to listen to you? If your answer is yes, then debating is certainly your cup of tea.”
“Didi, what about the nervousness? How does one get over it?” asked Ratan of 7 B and Aamir was glad he didn’t have to ask this question.
“Good question. It is not easy to get over the nervousness. I have been participating in Debate competitions since I was in Class VI. I have won practically every major contest in the city, yet even now when I go on the dais I do feel nervy, especially during the first few seconds. But I don’t allow this anxiety to overcome me. Rather than concentrating on the butterflies in my stomach I search for a friendly face in the crowd and fixing my eyes on him or her and start my speech.”
Richa looked at Ratan, who nodded and then continued. “Let me now outline what I feel is the best way of preparing for a Debate competition. First and foremost, write your speech in your own words. Even if you take the help of your teachers or parents make sure the final speech is in a language you are comfortable with. This way you won’t have to grope for words. Secondly, never try to mug up your speech. The tendency for most participants is to just mug up each and every word and then go and vomit everything out. And, God forbid, if they forget a phrase or even a word then everything goes blank! I have faced this situation a couple of times so I know how embarrassing it can be.”
Aamir wanted to applaud. Exactly the same thing had happened to him in the Debate competition last time. He had prepared the speech with the help of Sharma Sir, using his teacher’s language, and crammed it. On the dais, he had forgotten a phrase and that had been the end of his speech.
“You guys are now competing in school where you get a day or two for preparing the speech. When you go out for Inter-School competitions, you may not have your teachers to guide you and will not get more than an hour. So you have to learn to be on your own and also be comfortable with speaking without committing your speech to memory.
Another aspect you have to keep in mind is what is called the first impression. 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 that is riveting. The end, too, should be one that the audience will remember for a long time to come. But when using a quotation or a joke make sure it is relevant to the speech. Don’t just use a joke for the sake of using it.
While delivering the speech make sure you modulate your voice, speak clearly in the right accent and move your eyes across the length and breadth of the hall. Many times it happens that the speakers avoid looking at the audience and instead look at the fan, outside the window, at the floor and practically everywhere else except where they should actually be looking. This turns off the audience. As I said earlier, search for a friendly face at the beginning of the speech and then gradually search for a few more and keep shifting your eyes so that it appears as if you are interacting with the entire audience.”
Later, the members asked Richa a few more questions and Aamir thanked her for coming.
It was decided that in every monthly meeting of the Literary Club an Extempore Speech or Elocution competition will be held to sharpen the skills of the members.
In the second week of September, the first terminal examination of Class IX was held. Aamir had been regular throughout and he did well. Sagar, as usual, put in a last-minute effort depending heavily on Aamir’s notes.
The results were announced. Shantanu had retained his first position in the class. Aamir once again stood second, but in English Shantanu had edged past him. The rest of the class was nowhere in the picture.
Aamir was disappointed, but not shattered. He knew Shantanu had really slogged to keep ahead of him and the pressure would continue to be on his rival.
‘The real competition starts now’, Aamir thought to himself. ‘Let’s see who emerges the winner – the suave, sophisticated and silver-spooned Shantanu or the upstart Aamir.’
The school broke for the Dussehra holidays. Aamir went home and Sagar promised he would be in touch with Amir over the phone.
Read on to Chapter 16
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