Personal Development

Speech Delivery Essentials

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By Ikhlas Hassen

Got to give the Khutbah? Want to start a Halaqah? Use these tips to increase your speech delivery skills!

1) Thikr– Remembrance of Allah (subhanahu wa tala)

Malik related to me that he heard that ‘Isa ibn Maryam used to say, “Do not speak much without the mention of Allah for you will harden your hearts. A hard heart is far from Allah, but you do not know. Do not look at the wrong actions of people as if you were lords. Look at your wrong actions as if you were slaves. Some people are afflicted by wrong action and some people are protected from it. Be merciful to the people of affliction and praise Allah for His protection.”  56.3.8 Malik’s Muwatta.

Remember Allah in everything you do. In the beginning of any speech, the confident and strong speaker says Bismillah (In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful), or reads some Quran. Aside from the deeds earned from reciting the Quran and remembering Allah (subhanahu wa tala), it will free yourself from nervousness.

2) Stage Presence– expressing your confidence through non-verbal means. This is achieved through:

  1. The strong speaker in his or her ability to overcome difficulties. This confidence will invariably translate to the quality of your demeanor and posture.
  2. Take all the Prophets as an example. The strong speaker is knowledgeable about his or her topic. In public speaking, there is no substitute for hard work or researching and grappling with a subject until you are able to speak about it at length, extemporaneously, with limited prompts. This preparation includes frequent rehearsal. Again, if you know that you are prepared to speak, you will find it much easier to relax and present a comfortable but alert posture.
  3. The strong speaker knows how to harness nervous energy.
  4. Do not lock your arms in front or behind your body. Allow your arms to hang naturally and use them for emphasis just like you would if you were having a conversation. This will require a great deal of practice to perfect.

3) Eye Contact

Good eye contact communicates both personal confidence and respect for your audience. Great speakers, following the guidelines of Islam, make a point of engaging their audiences by moving around the stage and even sometimes around the audience- ensuring that they make eye contact with everyone. * If you do not have the courage to make eye contact with you audience, then the audience will quickly lose interest in your speech.

4) Movement

There are some exceptions, but a speaker should not be static. Movement, as well as gestures, is vital to maintaining speaker and audience enthusiasm for the presentation or lecture. The good speaker follows the 3 principles in ensuring lively (but not irritating) movement. They are:

  1. Never turn your back on the audience while you are speaking (great speakers never turn their back. period.).
  2. If you are moving about on the stage, make your movements purposeful. Don’t wander about in some geometric lazy pattern. Use your movement to reinforce or emphasize a point. Use it with gestures to draw the audience in or to push them away, depending on the effect that you are trying to achieve at a particular moment.
  3. Be aware (or beware) of all potential obstacles on the stage (and off if you leave it).  A fall or trip can be embarrassing and will kill your concentration.

5) Articulation & Vocal Modulation

This one of the most important and difficult element of speech delivery.

Articulation: Some people tend to judge speakers based on their ability to pronounce words correctly and clearly. Unfortunately and especially for most foreigners, this is not something that can be taught in 3 easy lessons. If you have difficulty pronouncing certain words you need to (in the short term) limit your vocal vocabulary. In the long term, you will need to acquaint yourself with the correct method of using a dictionary to facilitate proper pronunciation.

Voice modulation: Good speakers do three things with their voices to maintain audience interest

  1. Be enthusiastic. This will communicate your interest and excitement for you topic and help generate audience interest, too.
  2. Exaggerated voice inflection. Inflection in conversational speaking is difficult to detect when you are speaking in front of an audience. Exaggerate inflections when you are making points/demonstrating some kinds of emotion appropriate to the emotions that are trying to stir in you audience.
  3. Do not speak in a monotone! Monotone does not necessarily mean speaking in a low, drowning voice. Some speakers speak in a loud monotone, and worse yet, some yell in monotone. You must modulate your speaking (see 1 & 2 above) at whatever volume that you are speaking at, whether loud, medium, or soft/low.

6) Questions

Depending of what type of speech it its, allow the audience to ask questions. Answering positively will get the point through.

7) End with an Ayah/Hadith, a duaa of your choice, or whatever applies to your speech

This does not guaranteed automatic success. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them next time. By practicing you will become a better communicator. Insha’Allah, these tips will help you in your upcoming presentations or lectures at school, work, or masjid.

Indeed the best speech is the speech of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (S). And the worst of matters are those innovated by the people, and every innovated matter is a bid’ah and every bid’ah is astray, and every going astray is in the fire.

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