General Education Competencies
The six general education competencies are a foundation, when mastered, for ongoing academic and professional success. That is why M College ensures that these competencies are taught to students so that they can master them and apply them in real life scenarios. The six competencies are quantitative reasoning, information literacy, written communication, critical thinking, reading fluency and oral communication. This paper is going to discuss two of the six competencies: written communication and oral communication. Real life application of the two competencies will be illustrated, as this will enhance an understanding of the two.
Last spring, when the semester was ending, there was a closing ceremony. Parents were in attendance of the ceremony, there was also several other dignitaries and I had been selected to give a speech. In the speech, I had to talk about the progress the school has made in the last five years. Together with the speech, I also had to present a visual presentation of some of the projects the school had undertaken. I would do this through a PowerPoint presentation. There would also be a question-and-answer interaction session where the parents and those in attendance would ask anything with regards to what I would present. This was not a simple task and I had to ensure that my speech and my presentation were flawless.
The first step was to prepare myself for the speech. To achieve this, I simulated the actual speech environment with which I would gauge myself and curb any fears and apprehension. I had already informed my family of my role and they were of great help to me. At home, they acted as the simulated environment. I practiced in front of them; standing in the same manner I would while delivering the actual speech. My brother voice-recorded and film taped me so that in my free time, I would get to go over the whole process and know where I needed to improve. Other than practicing at home, I also practiced once in the actual hall where the ceremony was to take place. From our oral communication competence class, I had learnt that any speaker who attempts to memorize all the words that they will say during their presentation end up messing or forgetting some words, and when that happens, the whole presentation can get derailed. I therefore avoided this and focused on practicing saying the same passages, sentences and phrases in multiple ways. This would help me not to get stuck while trying to get all the words right.
It was important for me to visualize success. I imagined what I would be wearing, where the teachers, parents and visitors would be sitting, listening to the hum of the projector and how I would perform optimally. I knew that in the presentation, maybe I would end up saying something out of order, make minor errors and maybe forget one thing or two but that was okay. I knew that the audience would be rooting for me; my fellow students, teachers and family as well.
The introduction part was very important for me; I had to get the attention of the audience. I started with a short anecdote which made the audience laugh and smile, as such; they were now in a relaxed manner and in a friendly mood. I stated my credentials and set out the roadmap for the audience. This prepared them for what I was to talk about.
I had to ensure that I didnt drag the speech and presentation for too long. Any audience is always prone to distraction; therefore, I had to make some few adjustments. So as not to bore the audience, I had to ensure that I was audience focused and that all the content would address genuine needs. Speakers are not only judged by the credibility of their citations but by their verbal and non-verbal delivery techniques especially when facing the audience. As such, when delivering the speech, I had to ensure that I spoke conversationally. Treating my speech as an interactive conversation process where my tone had to match the expectations of the audience was vital and crucial. I needed to appear credible and fit to present.
I had to ensure that my rate of speaking was neither too fast nor too slow. When people are giving speeches or presenting something, they tend to speak very fast, this can be attributed to nervousness. Speaking too fast has several drawbacks. It makes it hard for the audience to follow the message. On the other hand, speaking too slowly makes one unprepared, hesitant, afraid and unintelligent. I had to get the right and correct balance between speaking efficiently, with the right speed, while at the same time ensuring that what I was presenting was understood properly.
The school hall is large and although I knew I would use a microphone, I had to ensure that I was heard by everyone. People who were sitting in the back did not have to strain so that they could hear what I was saying. I also had to keep the right balance so that the people sitting in the front did not end up feeling over-powered by the volume and tone of my speech. In my oral competence class, I had learnt that one way of assessing whether my volume was right was through paying attention and observing the nonverbal of the audience. To add a sense of dynamism in my speech delivery and presentation, I had to mix up the volume a little bit. This would also help me in not sounding monotonous. A voice where the pitch is constant and there is no intonation and lacks expressiveness becomes boring and dulls the audience. I had to use my volume in such a way that the audience would see I was enthusiastic with what I was presenting.
When transitioning from one point to another or to emphasize something that was important, I had to integrate and incorporate deliberate and intentional pauses in the presentation and delivering the speech. I however had to ensure that the pauses were not so many as this would alter the flow of the presentation. When delivering the speech, I had to make sure that my chin was not stuck in my chest as this would make my pitch go up. This would affect my speech delivery negatively.
I also had to make sure that I did not use so many disfluencies. These are also referred to as verbal fillers and they are common words and phrases, for example, um and you know. I had to balance between the right amounts of verbal fillers. A speaker who does not use verbal fillers ends up seeming so robotic and mechanical. The advantage of these fillers is that bring a conversational tone to the speech. I had already worked on this through the simulated speech environment and my earlier recordings before the actual day of the ceremony.
I incorporated nonverbal cues in my speech as well; factors such as appearance, gestures and movement as equally as important as the volume used in the speech delivery. When delivering the speech, I had to maintain eye contact with the audience while engaging them with my eyes. It is important to maintain eye contact and know when it should end. In the presentation, to avoid looking at the PowerPoint and the speaker notes, I ensured that I had internalized the content well enough. I had to know my materials well enough and thus make eye contact with the people sitting in front and the people who were sitting in the back seats. The importance of eye contact is that it enables the speaker know whether the message is being understood. Through observations of the signs of confusion in the faces of people in the audience, one will know how the message is being perceived. Most people, to show that they comprehend and following the message, usually nod their heads in approval.
When I got nervous a little bit, I focused on some of the friendly faces in the audience. Some of these were my friends and my family, who were smiling and were rooting for me. This therefore gave me more confidence and made me more comfortable while I was on stage.
My physical appearance mattered as well, from my clothes and my outlook. People who look clean appear intelligent, smarter, more enthusiastic and energetic compared to those who are untidy. I used gestures to enhance my performance. To supplement and strengthen my verbal message, I used gestures. In my oral competency class, I had learnt that poor speakers put their hands in their pockets, or keep them locked behind their backs. I therefore had to avoid doing that. Hands put forth the message one wants to deliver in a natural and effortless manner. It was crucial to find a home base where I would place my hands when I was not using gestures.
I had to maintain the correct posture and stance. While standing, I made sure that the width between my feet and my shoulders were apart, I kept my shoulders back and my chest out. I avoided slouching as this would make me seem afraid. I stayed open and attentive. However, I had to maintain a balance between the gravity of the event, while maintaining my confidence while not overdoing at the same time.
While at the stage, I had to move naturally and gracefully while still engaging the audience. It is not advisable to stand in one just one position the whole time, it makes the speaker seem rigid and tensed up. Pacing around will hide some tense signs such as shaky knees and hands which are fidgety. Moving around also engages the audience and shows the audience that the speaker is confident. However, I had to move with purpose, not just move back and forth without any order. Good speakers occupy the space and use the stage effectively and efficiently.
In my PowerPoint presentation, I ensured that the slides were simple, easy to follow and elegant. I made sure that I limited the number of different colors which I used in my presentation. These colors had to clearly contrast one another and reduced sound effects as much as possible. I reduced the transition animations between slides, while making sure that the slides were not so wordy. Cumbersome and wordy slides make the presentation look haphazard and the audience will lose track of what is being presented. PowerPoint is an excellent tool when it comes to displaying pictures which can activate the appeal of the image. I therefore used this optimally especially when presenting completed and on-going school projects.
To supplement my PowerPoint presentation, I talked to our class teacher if we could print some handouts where information on some of the projects and progress our school had made would be recorded. Handouts provide a permanent record and they allow the audience to contextualize and recast the evidence shown in the slides.
After concluding the speech and the presentation, there was a short question and answer session. From my competence class, I had learnt that it was not right to interrupt someone while they were asking a question. I had to let the person finish their question completely rather than cutting them off while they were midway in their sentences. After asking the question, I had to thank them for asking the question then follow that up by answering the question in a thorough way while still keeping it concise and confined in the subject topic. The answer should not be too long as this will seem like the speaker is giving another speech. When the questioner feels like the answer given is too short, he will most likely request for a follow-up.
When I was asked tough questions about the past or ongoing school projects, I kept my cool and explained that the head teacher would delve into the matter further and touch on the subject. After the end of the question answer session, I had to take like thirty seconds on which I reasserted the major points. I had to remind the audience what were the main points and the key pieces which acted as support evidence. I addressed some of the few objections raised and thanked the audience.
The whole process was very successful and the ceremony went without any hitches. My speech and presentation were among the highlights of the event and why it was really successful. Written communication and oral communication competencies were very vital in my speech and presentation delivery. Through understanding and applying the skills I had learnt from the aforementioned competencies, I successful in my task and played a role in ensuring that the event was successful and entertaining as well. I was able to apply the skills and knowhow that I learnt, not only in this occasion but in also other situations. These two competencies along with the other general education competencies are important as a foundation, and once mastered these competencies will continue to provide academic and professional success.
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