“8 Must-have public speaking elements in a world champion”

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Article by Hazriq Idrus
Singapore’s Dynamic Corporate Infotainer
Author | Communications & Creativity Speaker

Dananjaya Hettiarachchi won the World Champion of Public Speaking 2014.


Here we looked at what are the 8 elements that made him tick:

1) Theatrical attention-grabbing opener with analogy.
Dananjaya’s opening style was an attention grabber and theatrical.  He took time to take the flower out of his left pocket (in theatre, this is called ‘moments’) and used it as an analogy in his speech. He even addressed the audience as “flower” because of the positiveness of it.  That immediately made the audience as part of his presentation.

2) Engage Audience with questions and hand movements.
Twice, he asked the audience to raise hands to respond to his questions.  “Raise your hands, if…”  This is one of the simple yet effective methods to get the audience to agree and respond to your questions. By getting the audience to move, that is a way to engage and eliminate any boredom.

Interestingly, he didn’t use this method at the beginning of his speech (like some other speakers would) to grab attention.  This is a mark of a confidence speaker.

3) Using parents as an emotional connection.
Everyone has parents.  By using his parents’ attributes (his emotional mama and cool dad) as anchor points to start his story, he gets the audience to relate with him easily.  That again is a good connection.

4) Comic Timing for humour.
He didn’t use slapstick humour to get attention or audience to laugh.  He uses effective gestures and comic timing to illustrate “… when putting everything together, you’ll get my mama (or my dad)”. The audience laughed at that gesture (which he did twice) and during that moment when the audience laughed, he paused and let the audience enjoy the laughter.  I would call it a “sin” if you continue your story when your audience is laughing.

5) Stage movements – Moving with a reason.
He used different parts of the stage to illustrate the different points of his story.
At Stage Left (I call it ‘Stage Left’ because from the point of view as a speaker), it would be the story about him and his mother.  At Centre Stage, it was about him and his father and also about him and this “strange” man he met during his table topics presentation. Stage Right would be about him and his father’s good friend.  These different movements were different anchor points and brought the audience in the journey of his interaction among different characters.

6) Gestures.
See how he used his gestures –  he used different hand gestures to illustrate tears of joy (right-hand gestures), tears of sorrow (left-hand gestures) and tears of shame (pointing to him, because in the story he had let his mother’s down.)

7) Using Repetition and punch lines.
“I see something in you, but I don’t know what it is”:  he used it three times as part of his storytelling… That’s repetition…a very good tool to get messages anchored in the audience’s mind.  He also used it as punchlines to good effect to get good laughs.

8) Closing the speech.
Towards the ending part of his presentation, he went back to the “flower”.  It was a good link and recollection as to where he started off and talked about the flower again.  And he ended it with his punchline, “When I look at you, I see something in you” which by then, the sentence had already embedded in the minds of the audience and got the audience in stitches again.  He ended the show by portraying a “Star” calibre by throwing the flower into the audience.  He won the audience (and the judges)!

In conclusion, these are 8 elements that were presented in Dananjaya Hettiarachchi’s speech that made him a winner: Good Script + Good Delivery + Theatrical elements = World Champion!

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