Monday, April 10, 2006As evidently clear in our Parliament, public speakers are made, not born.
Ever since our MPs have begun to open up and speak, we noticed that most of them need to brush up on their public speaking skills. I wonder if there is an allocation somewhere in the 9th Malaysia Plan to teach our Yang Berhormat the Art of Public Speaking. If there is, they should attend some courses at reputable companies. If they cannot think of any, my daughter's company or my own company can organise some courses. Or else they can learn public speaking on their own by joining organisations such as the Toastmasters Club.
In the meantime, let me give some free advice. At least the YB will know that I know what I am talking about.
The first thing a public speaker should know is the subject he/she is going to talk about. Although some politicians think they can talk about anything to anybody, and most of the time they do, you simply cannot talk about something you know very little of. Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC), the Roman author, orator AND politician said
"I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity."
Centuries later, Mark Twain gave this advice:
"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt"
Of course it is not very prudent for MPs to keep quiet nowadays. Gone are the days when MPs can sleep or remain very quiet. Those who did not snore can do both. Today, with report cards and TV cameras around, our representatives scramble over each other to speak. Apart from shouting matches and name-calling, at times we can see battles of wits. Sometimes, at these battles we see combatants unarmed.
As mentioned previously, to make your talk worthwhile, you must have knowledge on what you are talking about. As one Samuel Johnson wisely pointed out in the 18th Century, there are two kinds of knowledge. One is where we know the subject ourselves and the other is we know where we can find information on it. If Mr. Johnson were to be around today, he would have mentioned the Internet. I wonder how many of our MPs, apart from those having their own blogs/websites know how to troll the Net. If they need to learn and a little bit averse to young people teaching them the Internet, again I offer my help at a nominal fee. I will throw in some interesting URLs as a bonus.
Of course knowledge alone will not make you a good public speaker. You have to arrange your knowledge, know your audience and deliver in an interesting manner. You have to attend the course. Reading about it is not enough. Otherwise this could happen to you:
A very boring speaker was barely minutes into his speech he was reading when the audience began to leave by the droves. Finally he saw only one man remaining in the audience. After he finished reading his speech, he came down the stage and thanked the man for listening to his speech.
The man replied "Oh, it's ok. It is my job to take the microphone away."