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Public Speaking: An Agent of National Transformation

A paper presented by Abba Zayyan, Zonal Director, FRCN, Kaduna, on the occasion of graduation/induction and award ceremony of the Institute of Public Speaking of Nigeria, Kaduna State Chapter.

It gives me great pleasure to be invited by this great Institution to deliver a lecture on the topic: Public Speaking: An Agent of National Transformation. This lecture is coming barely after a month when I had delivered a lecture on a similar topic at ABU on Media: Tool for National Rebranding. I see both topics as one and the same thing bearing in mind that they are all geard towards the “Change” that we craved for and got for our country.
Throughout the course of world history, great speeches have influenced and changed the trajectory of the past. From Jesus Christ’s sermon on the mount, Prophet Muhammad’s [PBUH] Sermon to the inaugural speeches of Modern leaders, their words have become an inspiration to million of people especially in their darkest hours.
To do justice to this topic, some basic concepts need to be highlighted for us to have a better understanding of the topic.
Art of Public Speaking:
Public Speaking is fundamental to success in professional and public life. It is sometimes termed oratory or oration. The world has produced fantastic orators, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, JFK, Tafawa Balewa, Maitama Sule, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jnr. Williams Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln etc. senior and high profile individuals face particularly demanding expectation when in comes to public speaking. Politicians preparing for election rallies, companies for venture capital pitches.
Investment, Bankers preparing technical presentations Government and Ministries etc. it is important to note that certain parameters must be in place for effective delivery.
Psychologies have confirmed the old belief that man is born with the inherent tendencies for stage fright. This act has been referred to as glossphobia or the fear of public speaking often caused by negative perception or judgmental scrutiny from others.
A good Public Speaker must know the value or importance of his/her voice and body language in public speaking, one needs to acquire basic skills in voice, pace, postures and gestures.
In order to deliver excellent presentation with greater confidence, authority and impact, a good public speaker must acquire the following but not limited to:-
Skills Necessary

  • Research Topic: Sticking to what you know best great speakers- Research what they need to convey.
  • Focus: Focus your Message: Help your audience grasp stories, humor or other set bars. Edit anything not needed.
  • Organize ideas logically:- Bridging is key.
  • Employ Quotations, facts, and statistics: Appropriately used to complement your ideas.
  • Tell a story: Points wrapped in a story are easy to be remembered.
  • Start strong and end stronger.
  • Connect with audience – Eye contact is important. Aim to have audience conclude this speaker is like me
  • Listen critically and analyze other speakers study their   strengths and weakness.
  • Obey time constraints: Customize your presentation to fit the time allocated.
  • Conduct a Q & A session: To justify that you are an expert not a just Speaker.
  • A public speaker could be an agent of devastation or an agent of national transformation depending on where he or she chooses to belong. But a patriot will always choose the path of positive national transformation by dwelling on those things that tend to bind us together as a people, instead of things that divide us.
  • The government of change which we have in Nigeria at present should be encourage rather than be vilified on its change slogan.
  • For us to truly have national transformation, both the public speaker and all of us must play our part well.
  • A good public speaker who does not want to derail in the course of delivering his speech must prepare a list of key points he would want to talk on.
  • To make a sound presentation, one must engage in constant rehearsal or practice of his speech. Repeated practice will go a along way in boosting one’s self confidence when you enter the stage.
  • One should prepare one’s mind for hecklers or critics who may want to take off the shine on you. You could say things like thanks for that great question, or I really do appreciate your comments. Soft words like these could soften their hard stand on issues raised especially during question time.
  • We all are stakeholders in Nigeria Transformation. It is only when we transform ourselves as individuals that our society as a whole will be transformed.

If a man wishes to become a great orator, he must first become a student of the great orators who have come before him. He must immerse himself in their texts, listening for the turn of phrases and textual symmetries, the pauses and crescendos, the metaphors and the melodies that enabled the greatest speeches to stand the test of time.
Great oratory has three component; styles, substance and impact.
Style: A great speech must be masterfully constructed. The best orators are master of both written and spoken word and use words to create texts that are beautiful to both hear and read.
Substance: A speech may be flowery and charismatically presently and yet lack any true substance at all. Great oratory must center on a worthy theme it must appeal to and inspire the audience’s finest values and ideas.
Impact: Great oratory always seeks to persuade the audience of some facts or idea. The very best speeches change hearts and minds and seem as revelatory. Several decades or centuries removed as when they were first given.
Public speaking as agent for national transformation is essential and a must for the attainment of National goals, individuals saddled with the responsibility of informing/educating the public must be acquired with the rudiments of public speaking.
A good public speaker must be conversant with the very topic he is to speak on. He should take time to acquaint himself with the right diction.
Mentioning something spectacular that happened on this particular day in history. Share a joke, a story or a famous quote that ties into the subject of your talk.
The choice of words is very pertinent for a public speaker especially in our geopolitical context where wrong choice of words could inflame the whole country with dire consequences. In our public speaking or presentation we should be conscious of the religious, socio-political and ethnic divides so as not to jeopardize the existing peace in our land especially after the keenly contested general election.
National Transformation: Transformation could simply be seen as a complete change, a re-birth or a departure from the past.
Successive Governements mid-wifed series of programmes on National transformation e.g. General Gowon in the 1970s after the civil war introduced – the 3Rs. Reconstruction, Reconciliation and
Rehabilitation.

  • OFN – Operation Feed the Nation
  • Green Revolution – Shagari
  • WAI
  • MAMSER, DFRRI
  • 7 Point Agenda – Yar’adua
  • Transformation Agenda – Goodluck
  • Change – Buhari.

In articulating programme or policy meant to be transformational to a country, there is an impending need to observe and adhere to all the principles of public speaking with a view to having a perfect delivery and positive impact.
Governments at all levels must toy in this regard by ensuring all those to speak for and on behald of governments [spokespersons] are professional public speakers for quality execution, delivery, authority and impact.
Public speaking is key to all governments and organizations. Public and programmes being the thrust of government are better articulated and delivered by a professional for easier assimilation because the professional speaker will ensure its projection in simpler tone but affirmative with all the sense of duty, high resolve and decency.
We should try in all our public presentation to wear the toga of patriotism when being called upon to speak in the public, we should make presentations devoid of ethnic, religious and sectional sentiments. This is a sure way to build a great nation. An average American has since after the admonition of their late President, John F. Kennedy of blessed memory learnt to think of what they can do for America at all times and not what American can do for them.
This is a great lesson for our country men and women especially those of us that speak in public forum.
We in Radio Nigeria just as our slogan depicts will continue to uplift our people and thereby uniting the nation through the promotion of those ideas that transform the nation.