Cicero-Sidhu Pack for Effective Communication

Cicero (106 BC-43 BC): Arguably the best orator, ever.

Urge to Communicate is as old as man

Man’s urge to communicate to a large group is as old as man himself. Whether it is a great orator at the pulpit addressing a packed audience, a traditional multi-member business meeting or the modern-day the live world-wide telecast and webcast or Facebook LIVE, communication is an art which many have aspired for but very few have mastered. Oratory is essentially verbal but communication, in its widest connotation, would include the written word. Then, of course, there is the non-verbal body language which is part and parcel of any meaningful and effective elocution or discourse. We have not included one-to-one conversations within the scope of this piece,

How effective the communication is would necessarily be a function of the objective which the speaker (source) wants to achieve. In very general terms, it would be to convey his message to the intended audience, with least possible distortion or ambiguity. Perhaps more importantly, it would include getting the recipient to react in a particular manner — vote for a candidate, buy a good or service, form an opinion or act or desist from acting in a particular way et al.

30 nuggets to choose from

We have culled out 30 postulates/ axioms of spoken and written communication and listed them in an entirely random order. Our claim is that these would apply not only to the formal oratory in an auditorium setting and conference-hall type of meetings but also to the present-day/ contemporary Social Media communication as well as print and TV messages, including advertisements. It is neither claimed that this list of the laws is exhaustive nor that the package works as a tool-kit. What is suggested is that while planning any speech, discourse or communication, it would be instructive to glance through this list and see what, if anything, applies to your situation. This would definitely make things better than embarking upon an oratorical journey without any guiding compass.

1. The product of what you say and what they hear is “constant”. In other words, “brevity is the soul of wit”.

2. It’s all about time and timing; timing is more important than time.

3. Know thy audience. Better still, research thy audience.

4. Silent and listen are anagrams.

5. It’s not just “what” is said but the “manner” in which is said that is perhaps more important.

6. Who says it matters much more than what is said. The words of a nonentity in the mouth of a celebrity would make entirely a different level/ order/ magnitude of impact.

7. Where — not just geographically but also contextually — you speak is very important.

8. The medium (TV, Internet, live) on which the message is disseminated makes a huge difference: numbers, quality, reaction and credibility.

9. End sooner than later; perhaps a corollary of the first postulate.

10. Tell them your subject (introduction), speak on the subject and finally tell them what you told them (conclusion).

11. Include different perspectives, including divergent and opposing views. Tell why you differ with these.

12. Make your last word interesting but do not rely too much on your concluding punch-line.

13. Don’t be the last speaker before lunch or dinner, or the first speaker after lunch.

14. Engage, enable, enthuse, enthrall, energise and entertain your audience.

Creating a balance betwixt preparedness and spontaneity

15. Document/ record your speech, even if relaying it real-time on social media/ internet.

16. If you can, visit the venue before the function; sit in the audience and see where the speaker should position himself.

17. Stand and speak, even if you have the option to sit. Don’t hesitate to wander about on the stage, if you have the facility of a wireless mic.

18. Do advertise/ pre-announce your talk; create a buzz around it.

19. Choose topical subjects; these are more likely to go viral. Also, you’ll find more people who are inclined to engage with.

20. Don’t court controversy; flirt with it gently. Know thy “Lakshman Rekha”.

21. “Never a story without a statistic; never a statistic without a story.”

22. “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.”

23. Junk your PowerPoint presentation. It weans away attention from the speaker to the screen. Use a picture or a short video, if you must, but very sparingly.

24. Don’t let your message get drowned in noise, literally and figuratively.

25. Remember oratory ought not to be a rotatory.

26. Effective Public Speaking is preceded by persistent private speaking.

27. A great orator seems to be almost conversing with the audience.

28. Welcome limited questions.

29. Leave behind your contact details.

30. Mingle after the talk as well as Q&A is officially over. Thank one and all but don’t over do it.

POST SCRIPT: Sedulously avoid all kind of polysyllabic profundity, platitudinous ponderosity and pusillanimous pomposity. In a word, use simple, lucid language…..even if you know big words.


K.B.S. Sidhu. The author is an IAS officer of 1984 batch of Punjab cadre. The views expressed are his own.

He can be reached on or @kbssidhu1961 or




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KBS Sidhu, ex-IAS

Dad, Leo, Mentor, ex-IAS, 1984 batch, superannuated as Spl. Chief Secretary, Punjab. Electronics Engineer, University of Manchester, UK, and Harvard Alumnus.