Lesson 15. Public speaking and Group discussions
A speech generally has three parts;
In the introductory part, one has to thank the organisers of the meeting and then introduce the topic. The main function of the introduction is to prepare and motivate the audience to listen. For this purpose the speaker can cover some areas of common interest. The speaker should also show concern for the welfare of the audience and thus make a favourable impression in the first part of the speech.
(2) the body
The main part of the speech is its body and there should always be a logical development of thought. There may be some digressions but they should not be long enough to cause a distortion to your thought development. Digressions are to maintain the attention of the audience. A good speaker is one who can feel the interest of audience throughout the speech. The speech should be supported with humour, anecdotes and illustrations. The language and style should not create difficulty for the audience. There should also be a rise and fall of tone as per the content of the speech.
(3) The conclusion.
A good speech should have an effective ending. Because of an abrupt end, the speech loses its charm. 'Great is the art of beginning,' said Longfellow, 'but greater is the art of ending'. The main purpose of the conclusion is to bring forth the central idea. The best way to do it is to give a brief outline of the key points. It should not exceed more than a minute or two. There are a few typical ways to indicate that you have come to the concluding part of the speech, such as “Let me end by saying, One last point, To sum up, To conclude, Before I conclude .... Etc”.
15.2. WELCOME ADDRESS/VOTE OF THANKS
You may be asked to welcome an audience or propose a vote of thanks when someone is invited as a speaker on a special occasion. It may also happen that you may be asked to chair a meeting or deliver a speech. Many a times it so happens that though you may be adept in your field of operation, but feels shy to address a gathering. A good speech always establishes the reputation of the speaker. But if the audience feels that it has gained nothing from the speech, the meeting proves to be a failure.
A lot of planning is required for making a perfect speech. An effective speech generally depends on three major factors - the topic, purpose and audience. A good speaker should have a clear view about the audience, their level of understanding as well as their interest. The topic chosen should create some interest in them. The speech should not prove to be futile. There should always be a specific purpose behind any speech.
15.4. WELCOME ADDRESS
It is a custom or tradition to begin the welcome address by directly mentioning the name of the chair person, one or two important persons present on the stage, the chief guest and referring to the audience.
15.5. SAMPLE WELCOME ADDRESS
It is my privilege to welcome our beloved chairperson who has given his consent to preside over the function in spite of his busy schedule. I also extend a warm welcome to our distinguished guest Dr Mahesh Jani, Director, Satyam Computers, Anand, who has responded to our invitation to declare open our new computer class. He is a distinguished person in the field of computer science and technology. It is really kind of him to have his consent to address the student on this auspicious occasion. I am sure the students will certainly get important tips from his talk. I also welcome the faculty members and the students present over here.
15.6. VOTE OF THANKS
The vote of thanks is the last item of an organised meeting. People generally know that it is time for them to leave the meeting and they are in a hurry to go, and therefore the vote of thanks should be very brief.
15.7. SAMPLE VOTE OF THANKS
On behalf of the institute and on my personal behalf, I offer my sincere thanks to the Chairman for having presided over the function. He has always been available for all our academic activities. I am also grateful to Dr Mahesh Jani for his inspiring speech. I am sure that his speech will motivate the students up to great extent. I also thank the organisers of the meeting, faculty members and the students who have listened to the speeches with great zeal and enthusiasm.
15.8. GROUP DISCUSSIONS
In these days of extreme competition, employers are not satisfied with mere interviews for employees to assess their performance in a group. Human beings are social animals and they interact in several groups every day- social, academic, professional and political. Hence group discussion has now become a crucial criterion for choosing candidates for superior positions in professional life.
Following are three major objectives of group discussion. They are to test
The candidate's prior knowledge of the subject matter.
His capability to converse with others.
His behaviour in the group which may replicate his personal traits, leadership, qualities, attitudes, spirit of tolerance, self-assurance, etc.
The observation of group discussion helps the judge to have a clear idea of the participants' confidence, tact, temperament, attentiveness and ability to convince others with their line of thinking and argument.
There are generally five or more than five people in a group discussion. The candidates who
assemble for a discussion are provided with serial numbers such as 1,2,3, and so on. Clear instructions are given that they are not supposed to disclose their names. They bear number tags during the discussion and each one is communicated by the number. The judge does not decide who should initiate the discussion or how long each candidate is allowed to speak. The candidates are left to themselves. The judge may assign few topics for discussion and the members of the group are supposed to opt from those topics. The judge stands aside and closely observes the performance of the participants and evaluates their personality and behaviour in group. Moreover, one candidate from the group performs the role of leader as one of the main objectives of conducting group discussions is to find out whether candidates have the qualities of leadership. And it develops the quality of leadership. Therefore, the candidate should give enough evidence of ability to gently but convincingly influence the group and become the leader.
15.10. Misconceptions about group discussion
There are some misconceptions among the people that a group discussion tests various skills such as debating skills, communication skills, and as such they are expected to take control of the debate, thereby not allowing others to voice their views and facts in support of their argument. They also try to contradict the views of other participants, hoping they will be noticed and appreciated.
15.11. Strategies for group discussion
After the selection of the topic, the candidate shall decide either to speak in favour of the topic or against it. The candidate should have sufficient prior knowledge either to contradict or to support the topic. The language should always be quite simple and lucid. The candidate should be careful while contradicting the views and opinions of other participants. Blunt statements such as 'Your arguments are illogical', or 'You are absolutely mistaken’, do not leave good impression. The candidate should disagree without sounding offensive and as politely as possible. It is always necessary to listen with great attention and react with relevant comments. Constant interruption must be avoided while others are speaking. The discussion leads to nowhere if all the participants speak at the same time. Some candidates have that habit to interrupt and even mock at other participants. This strategy will badly affect them. There shall not be any loss of points if a candidate openly supports the views of the other candidates but of course some valid reasons must be given as to why you support a particular point. In case your views are strongly criticised, you must not be upset. Criticism should be taken positively.
15.12. Some patterns of starting a group discussion:
• We have gathered here to discuss...
Let us get down to our discussion.
Shall we set the topic?
Shall we start?
15.13. Some patterns for interrupting a discussion:
I’m Sorry to interrupt you ...
Excuse me; I would like to add...
Can I make a suggestion, please?
Can I say something....?
Sorry but I don’t agree with you.
If I am allowed to make a point here ...
15.14. Some patterns of ending a discussion:
I think it covers everything.
It is time now to wind up.
Shall we put an end to the discussion then?
15.15. A MODEL GROUP DISCUSSION
Dear friends, we have assembled here for a lively discussion. You are all young and at one time or other you will each choose a life partner. What will you do? Would you go for a marriage of your choice or one arranged by your parents? You are free to speak on anyone of the two alternatives.
Thank you, sir, for giving us a very interesting topic. Friends, I would like to speak in favour of one's own choice of marriage. There was a time when people depended entirely on their parents for marriage. Marriage negotiations were on the basis of caste, social status and dowry. Now time has changed. Marriages based on one’s own choice have become very common. It is the result of an understanding between two self decided partners. Because love is a strong binding force here, it is sure to be successful. One doesn't normally find dispute between the partners ....
Sorry to interrupt you but I don't agree with you. I have come across a number of cases of divorce even in marriages of choice by oneself. Young couple lack worldly experience. They are governed by their emotions and passions. My dear friend speaks of love that binds young people but it is not real love. It is nothing but blind passions. Marriage is an important decision. Even a single wrong step can ruin the lives of the young couple. Love is always blind. The young couple consider only love and nothing else. They are not concerned with family background, society, their future, or commitment. This creates problems in their future life.
I completely agree with speaker 4. Young people take their decisions in haste but parents on other hand take consider all aspects before they arrange the marriage of their children. They would always like to see their children settled happily in their social life. Such marriages always remain successful. The partners lead a peaceful married life without stress and tension.
I cannot understand how you can be this much sure of the success of such marriages. Is it not possible that considerations of money, position, status and caste mislead parents? They are not concerned with the inner personality of the bridegroom, his approach and his character.
I agree with 1st speaker. Parents give more importance to money, profession and reputation but ignore individual qualities and character. There is no charm in such a dull life. Therefore, marriages of own choice are much better.
Our friends do not understand that marriages of choice are actually the influence of western culture. The main purpose of life is to lead a peaceful and happy life. Generations and generations of Indians have seen the success of marriages of parents’ choice. Our forefathers led an extremely happy life. You can't say the same about marriages of one's own choice that mostly end with disappointment, divorce, suicide or even murder.
.Our friend has reacted severely. If marriages of choice fail, it is only because of the interference of society and other people around them. They can't accept that their children revolting against their wishes. They try to their best to separate the
couple. In marriages of choice, young people don't get support from parents. There is more relief between husband and wife, which is really good for the smooth functioning of the family.
I disagree with the previous speaker that parents do not support their own children. Parents are known for their parenthood only. Parents are attached to their children up to great extent. Even if parents are concerned with money, who do they require it for? Not for themselves, but for their children only. I again would like to say that a marriage arranged by parents is certainly better than a marriage of choice. Yes, parents are concerned about the financial status of their son-in-law or daughter-in- law, but only because they want their children to be happy.
Well, friends! It’s nice and wonderful discussion we had. Let’s put an end to it now. Thank you for your active participation.
“Communication Skills for Technical Students “by T.M.Farhathullah, Orient Longman Pvt. Ltd., 2002