“次はアーリフ・ムタズさんです。「名前珍しいですね!」というタイトルです”
(Next up is Mutaz Arif, the title is “your name is pretty rare!”)

The hall went silent. More than 100 pair of eyes are starring at me as I steadily walk toward the podium. I momentarily give no shit about the audience and setup my iPad and the mic so I can have a smooth speech. I decided I should go army style so I put my hands behind my back and raise my chest a little bit, stare directly at the audience, poker face expressions, projecting dominance all over the place. A moment of silence, then I take exactly one step back, do a silent bow, return back to original position, exactly one step forward, stare at the audience. then just pure silence.

1…2…3…

“人間とは・・・・” and I proceed to give my speech. I went very slow and unfriendly at the beginning, and say some meaningless words and un-understandable jokes. Then Whoop! Life comes back to my voice and the audience just sets there in awe listening to the beautiful Japanese coming out of my throat, after all the crappy ones before (sorry!). I intentionally make a silly mistake right after that and the audience bursts into laughter. Now all the tension has eased between the two parties and now I can see smiley faces willing to listen to my naracistic speech. I can see the eyes rolling trying to cope with my speed and trying to comprehend the meaning behind it. As I pass the climax, and everybody is just relaxed, waiting for the seconds to end, I wrap up my sentences and finish up with a thank you and a bow. The hall is filled with loud applauses. I can feel the tension building up in other contesters as they now feel very pressured to show confidence in their language. Speaking Japanese in a public place has always been a big fear for a lot of foreigners, specially arabs I guess. But public speaking and Japanese language has always been my strongest suit. I just utilized the situation to make the best out of it.

To speak the truth, every single angle of that act, specially the first part, was beautifully crafted and mastered the night before. You see, speech contests are actually mostly NOT about the speech itself. It is almost about everything else. In fact, you may know this but, words only count for 7% of communication. 38% is vocal tonality, and 55% is body language. It is more about how much energy do you put in the room, how much right amount of factors you put into it that counts. But people, and judges don’t realize that. I’ve never seen an evaluation sheet for a speech contest, but I can imagine having something like:
– speaking ability
– how much was the content interesting
– being in time
blah blah

These factors don’t really matter, and they are not valid to evaluate the speech. Need a proof? the contents of my speech was really boring and meaningless. It was just a personal experience that shows how fond of myself I am. But I won first place because the delivery of the body language was right, vocal tonality was appropriate, pauses were just at the right timing, eyes were firm…etc

So let me break down what I did exactly that day so the idea gets clearer.

– The part I entered the podium.
(It doesn’t show in the video that much) I walked all the way to the podium with a very good body pose. It projected confidence. When there are no words spoken, body language becomes the dominant factor for judgement.

– Handling the iPad and the mic
I intentionally didn’t left an eye to the audience from my walk till I finished setting up everything and feeling comfortable to start. The reason is, there is only one chance to catch attention and start a string of actions when it comes to interacting with the audience. So as long as I didn’t have eye contact with them, I am still invisible to them and they are still carving for my attention. It also allowed me to be comfortable so that I don’t feel intense about setting up my zone.

– The bow
This is a Japanese thingy. I did it in purpose (I don’t think the other contestants did it. Maybe one other guy). The reason is, this is a Japanese gesture that is done every time someone goes and speak at a formal event behind a podium and in front of an audience. It is a silent demonstration of knowledge, and a friendly gesture that “I understand your culture, raise expectation and relax please”.

– The pause
Whenever there is a pause, there is silence. This allows everybody to gather attention and allows me to take the breath that I need to start. I gave eye contact first so that I acknowledge everybody’s existence, and let them acknowledge mine. By giving a brief pause, they had the chance for the fact that I am prepared to give a speech any second to sink in. You can just feel the tension building to the right level.

– The deep voice
So people, specially Japanese I guess?, love to have a gap in character and talk. Whenever there is a gap, there is laugh and amazement. So the deep voice step was intentionally put so that when I speak naturally afterwards, it will seem much powerful and smoother. Just a temporary effect that I need. I just wanted to give a rough expression to build unnecessary ice so I can break it afterwards.

– The intentional mistake at the beginning
So this was the key for the speech to actually start. This was super intentional and it served it’s purpose. In the previous deep voice section I looked more of this elite squad guys, so cold, then suddenly I just crack a joke about my self and I am this warm guy. Now people are hooked up.

– The rest of the speech
Just normal speech giving. Now people are listening, so I tried to make my voice as clear as possible. But I also focused on making different intonations, made sure my body language is confidence all the time, I worked out my hand a bit, but that was just being natural about it.

Some other points
– When I forgot some words or made a mistake in some word
I didn’t pay so much attention to my mistakes. I did make 2 mistakes I think. But recovered so fast. That is because I was focused on delivering the speech. So my reaction was normal, like just when you mistakenly say something wrong when you are with a friend. You don’t stop and feel bad about it, you just simply say again the correct word.

– I was using a tablet to read my speech, and had to swipe the page overtime when I am done with a paragraph. But people don’t notice that. The reason is I am too focused on delivering the speech, I myself didn’t much care about the action of swiping the screen and how will people think about it. So it came out so natural. Later my friend told that all the other contestants looked very hesitant when they flip pages in their speech, but for me I was swiping really hard you can see my hand swing a bit, but I didn’t give a shit about it, and so the audience didn’t too.

– I did a very very very important step a day earlier. So I was lucky because it was a week long exhibition, and they allowed us access to the speech hall the day before. All the other contestants did was unconfidently try to “read” their speech in front of the mic behind the podium. I thought it was hilarious, because they are only reading the script, The only benefit they get is the feel of how the ground feels behind the podium, and probably poorly rehearsing the speech. My step was is that I went to the podium, took my iPad with me. Then I just imagined how will it look the next day. I actually hung my iPad exactly the way you see in the video. I practiced that and found what is the right angle for me. Then I started working on the mic, and adjusting it to the right height, which is why you see me confidently doing that in the video the next day. Then I started looking at the empty seats and imagining audience. I decided where I should look, how and when to move my eyes. I probably rehearsed the speech, not sure. But the whole point is I worked on very small details that I know will bug me the next day. I cleared them off early so I can focus on delivering the speech the next day. The last thing I did is take a picture from where I stood. Luckily I just bought the new iPhone and they just introduced the panorama feature. So I took a full width picture and kept practicing on that at night.

Panoramic view of the audience

Panoramic view of the audience

– Needless to say I practiced in front of a mirror the whole night, eye to eye, and examining my body language and everything visible.
As you can see, it was a 3 minutes and half speech. But there was a lot of preparations that were needed to be done before it. Not all the time you can inspect the stage before you go to it. But whenever you have the chance. always try to get a feel for it. It will help. Also image training is just so powerful. It will keep your body relaxed.

It might not be so clear in the video, but I was a bit nervous at the beginning. Just like everyone else. The difference is that I relaxed way earlier and got in the zone much faster, because of all the preparations.

Hope this comes of any help and find some application in your life!