Public speaking from the dance floor

 Public speaking from the dance floor

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a good public speaker and if there is any direct relation between dance and public speaking? When I met the super dynamic Saleha Yohann who is a former Airline Service Trainer, Public Relations expert, Pageant Communications & Public Speaking Coach, we had a heart-to-heart chat about how dance can help a person excel in public speaking.

Saleha Yohann
Saleha Yohann, Photo: Hridgandha Mistry

What got you attracted towards the profession of training people in public speaking?
Life is a story and my story begins with me born in a humble Muslim family with 4 children. My parents prioritized education as my goal to grow and succeed. Books were my first love.  With a keen interest in language and dance, I enjoyed watching programs such as What’s the Good word and often stared at the News readers on how well the spoke, charmed by the heroines dancing on Bollywood numbers on Television. Imitating them & wanting to be like them.
Unable to forget of being laughed at in school by my entire class when I said, “my heart is paining” instead of “I am getting a chest pain”. Feeling humiliated and hurt, this incident made me think deeply at a very young age. Going through the dictionary to pick up new words was my strategy to show off to my friends and classmates every day. It was a pleasure to watch their reaction when they did not understand the new words. The feeling of giving back was thrilling.
After finishing my college, I worked in hotels and further enhanced my public speaking skills. Later I became a part of the aviation industry and was always surrounded by good looking people, the realization & importance of how one can stand out from the rest through speech became a habit and a way of life for me. The art of using language helped me deal with difficult situations, convince people at work and home, getting the work executed before time, face challenges with confidence and emerge out of it successfully.

How did dance become a part of your life?
My love for Bollywood dancing was another interest that nurtured within me right from a very young age. As a trainer, my belief in getting formally trained into Dance became a wish. That’s when I met you and learnt Salsa and Jive. It gave me immense confidence to dance at any formal or casual events. The mental process of connecting the dots with finding similarities between dance as a method of non-verbal communication begun. It was now time for me to reach out and coach those who want to be good speaker to help them succeed professionally and personally in life.
Effective Communication skills and public speaking can help strengthen relationships, avoid misunderstandings, providing solutions to problems, connect with people, have healthy interactions through small talks, make you sound positive, make you understand the difference between casual and business, make you talk to the point and talk like a leader. Effective communication skills & Public speaking has also made me a public relations expert for known personalities from the film & media industry.

What is needed to be a good public speaker?
The future belongs to those who are ready to unlearn to relearn to become a Powerful new ‘You’.  The success of anything depends on its ability to adapt and its willingness to change. Accepting constructive feedback and guidance to thrive in the new environment is essential. A good speaker is also a good listener.  Most importantly trusting your mentors & teachers is essential.
Similarly, winning an audience begins well before you step up to the microphone. Introducing yourself to as many audience members as possible before you speak, moving through the room with confidence, appearing relaxed and cordial as you talk with your team, and handling glitches with grace is a skill and an art.
To become a better speaker, volunteer for every available presentation and speaking opportunity; have the humility to believe that no audience is too small; and know that the ‘aha’ moments and leaps in progress only come from putting in time and effort, year after year.

How can learning dance help in public speaking?
They say Actions speak louder than words. 55% of communication is non-verbal. Dance is a language of the soul. Through dance, we express emotions and feelings. Every movement of dance communicates a story through expression. Dance is speaking with the audience. So, Body language is essential for dance and public speaking.
Hence, the similarity between the two is that both the forms require presentation in front of an audience, Connecting with them through Stage Presence, discipline, time management, Stance and movement of your body. For me Dance is learning to express with fun.

What challenges you face while you teach today’s youth?
Today’s youth are extremely enthusiastic, energetic and focused on their goals. I find them extremely sharp and willing to learn. Many students are also trained dancers in various forms. We give too much importance to physical appearance. For a common man, grooming includes hair, make up; clothes and that’s it. We only want to pay attention to Communication skills & Public speaking if we are going to face an audience or if our profession demands. Development of language begins from the time a child is in her/his mother’s womb. Imagine if every mother is trained to speak basic English or any other language correctly. India will have a well- versed younger generation. Every student is different ad have their strengths & weaknesses  The common challenges I face is that we are a multi-lingual country and the influence of mother tongue on the second or third language .i.e. English is strong, Literal translation of the first language to the second language which is termed as, ‘Indianism’,  the difference between speaking casually at home versus formally on a business platform, speaking to the point keeping timelines in mind is what I explain to my students in details. I as a mentor understand and gauge my student after my first interaction on their interest levels and their passion towards learning Public speaking.

Sandip Soparrkar is a World Book Record holder, a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with two National Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]


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