What You Can Accomplish with Public Speaking

Summary of the Benefits of Public Speaking

Public speaking can enrich the speaker’s personal and professional life, and also provide opportunities to influence the outside world.

Learning Objectives

List the benefits of developing public speaking skills

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Public speaking can be a great self-esteem booster.
  • Public speaking engagements are great places to meet new social and professional contacts.
  • If you would like to change the world, remember–public speaking is an effective platform for spreading revolutionary ideas.

Key Terms

  • networking: the act of meeting new people in a business or social context.
  • publicity: Advertising or other activities designed to rouse public interest in something.
  • critical thinking: he application of logical principles, rigorous standards of evidence, and careful reasoning to the analysis and discussion of claims, beliefs, and issues

Summary of the Benefits of Public Speaking

The previous segments in this chapter explained how public speaking can enrich personal life, professional life, and the outside world. Still not convinced? If you worry that public speaking has nothing to offer you, or simply isn’t worth the stress, then check out this brief review of the benefits of public speaking:

Personal Satisfaction

OVERCOME FEARS

Many people have a phobia of public speaking. Jerry Seinfeld put it this way: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. “Even though public speaking can be scary, it is possible to succeed in spite of these fears–with preparation and practice.

BOOST SELF-ESTEEM

Public speaking is quite the self-esteem booster. Overcoming the fears and insecurities that accompany public speaking is empowering. Furthermore, connecting with audiences can be a great reminder that you have valuable insights and opinions to share with the world.

SHARE YOUR VIEWS WITH OTHERS

It can be very satisfying to share something that matters to you with people outside your usual social circle.

Critical Thinking

IMPROVE CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS

The process of writing a speech will exercise and strengthen your critical thinking skills, from the research to the actual speech-drafting.

ANALYZE COMMUNICATION HABITS

Preparing a speech will force you to reevaluate the way you communicate and re-examine your speaking habits.

Personal Development

IMPROVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS

When you write a speech, you have to think carefully about the best organizational framework, persuasive strategy, and language to communicate your message to the audience. This type of thinking can help you improve your communication skills in other areas of your life.

MAKE NEW SOCIAL CONNECTIONS

Public speaking engagements are great places to meet other people who share your interests.

Career Advancement

A picture of Bryant A. Hilton, a public relations representative for Dell, giving a speech entitled "Going Green: Dell's Journey to Sustainability."

PRSA Houston Speech: Bryant A. Hilton, a public relations representative for Dell, giving a speech entitled “Going Green: Dell’s Journey to Sustainability.”

IMPRESS YOUR BOSS

Success in public speaking indicates creativity, critical thinking skills, leadership abilities, poise, and professionalism–qualities which are very valuable for the job market.

GAIN PUBLICITY

Public speaking is a great way to bring your message to a wider audience.

EXPAND YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK

Public speaking can bring like-minded professionals together to share ideas. These engagements are great networking opportunities!

PERSONALIZE YOUR PROFESSIONAL REPUTATION

If you establish a good reputation as a public speaker, your public persona will set you apart from the sea of faceless resumes and cover letters.

Influence the World Around You

FIND THE RIGHT WORDS TO INSPIRE CHANGE

Public speaking has a long history as a catalyst for nonviolent activism and political change. It is a powerful way to unite people under a common cause and motivate them to take action.

Personal Benefits of Public Speaking

Public speaking has great personal benefits, such as building self-esteem, honing critical thinking skills, and presenting networking opportunities.

Learning Objectives

List the rewards of public speaking

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Public speaking can be intimidating. It is actually a common phobia. Overcoming this fear can be a satisfying personal victory.
  • Public speaking is a great way to further personal development on many levels, since improving communication skills is helpful in every area of life: personal and professional.
  • Public speaking engagements are great places to meet new people and build your social and professional networks.

Key Terms

  • critical thinking: The application of logical principles, rigorous standards of evidence, and careful reasoning to the analysis and discussion of claims, beliefs, and issues.

Personal Benefits: Satisfaction, Development, Critical Thinking, Social Connections

Personal Satisfaction

Public speaking is a very common phobia, right up there with spiders and killer clowns. Many people would prefer to do almost anything—even clean the bathroom—instead of standing up and talking in front a crowd of people. Delivering a speech can feel intimidating and risky. Fears and insecurities tend to multiply as the speech draws closer: “What if I freeze up?” “What if I forget my speech?” “What if people get bored and walk out?” “What if the audience tears me apart during the Q&A?”

A picture of a spider and its web used to illustrate common phobias; for example, spiders and public speaking.

Common Phobias: Many people have phobias. Just like some people are scared of spiders, others are afraid of public speaking.

If you’re thinking, “Why would I want to do something so stressful?” then remember: no risk, no reward! These fears don’t have to be crippling—practice and preparation can build confidence leading up to a speech. Overcoming these fears is an empowering experience. Public speaking is a great way to show yourself that, with practice, you can do the things that scare you the most. What starts out as a nightmare can turn into a great self-esteem boost.

Once the nervous jitters are under control, you may discover that public speaking is actually very rewarding. It can be satisfying to explain your views to a room full of people. Having the opportunity to share a message you care about is actually pretty special. If you think about it that way, public speaking can be satisfying on a personal level.

Critical Thinking

Public speaking is also a great way to build critical thinking skills. Writing a speech requires a great deal of careful thought, from the audience analysis to the outline to the conclusion. It’s not enough to have a message—you also need to figure out how to tailor the message to fit the needs of your audience. How can you make your points relevant to your listeners? How can you help the audience understand your views? Thinking in this way is a great exercise for improving general communication skills. If you start thinking critically about your speaking style, you may find ways to improve your general communication style at home and at work.

Personal Development

Communication skills are crucial for personal and professional success. Preparing a speech forces speakers to take a step back and think critically about effective ways to communicate. In day-to-day life, it is easy to fall back on communication habits we formed many years ago. If communication is the backbone of the important relationships in your life, isn’t it worth taking some time to work on it? Improving your communication skills can make life more fulfilling on many levels.

Social Connections

Are you looking for new ways to network and make social connections? Try public speaking. Giving a speech is like starting a conversation with a room full of people—and you can continue that conversation as soon as you step down from the podium. You and your audience share an interest in the topic of your speech, so you already have something to talk about! If the schedule allows, try to mingle with the audience after your speech, answering questions and seeking fresh perspectives on your topic. Give audience members the option of getting in touch with you at a later date by listing contact information on handouts or slides. If you have a website, direct audience members to find more information there. If you are part of a speaking lineup, reach out to your fellow presenters. Congratulate them or, if you miss a talk, ask how it went. There are lots of opportunities for networking in the realm of public speaking, so plan ahead and make use of them.

Career Benefits: Advancement

Public speaking is a great tool for career advancement because it provides opportunities to impress the boss, seek publicity, and network.

Learning Objectives

Use public speaking as a tool for career advancement

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Public speaking is a great way to showcase your talents, skills, and abilities.
  • For professionals who want to build a personal brand, increase publicity, or earn a reputation as an expert, public speaking is a great way to further those ambitions.
  • Public speaking engagements are great networking opportunities.

Key Terms

  • networking: the act of meeting new people in a business or social context.

Career Benefits: Advancement

Public speaking can be a great way to advance your career. No matter what your goals are, showing your boss that you deserve a raise, advertising your “personal brand,” or finding new career opportunities, public speaking can help you achieve them.

Impressing the Boss

Success in public speaking is a good indicator of valuable professional skills. Composing an effective speech demonstrates creativity and critical thinking. Holding an audience ‘s attention demonstrates a talent for leadership. Maintaining confidence and poise during a speech and Q&A session demonstrates professionalism under pressure. If you’re trying to impress your boss, public speaking can be a great showcase for your professional abilities.

Self-Promotion

If you’re looking for publicity, speaking engagements are a great place to start. Look for opportunities to discuss your area of knowledge, and present yourself as an expert. One caveat: you still need to do a thorough audience analysis. If you don’t connect your personal story to bigger issues that affect the audience, you will seem self-centered and irrelevant. If you spout opinions without establishing credibility, you may come across as a charlatan. Even if your goal is self-promotion, remember: the world doesn’t revolve around you, and neither should your speech. You want good publicity, not bad publicity!

Networking

A picture of two businessmen shaking hands as a form of networking.

Meeting New People: In many business cultures, networking involves meeting new people. A handshake is a common gesture.

Public speaking is a great way to connect with people who share your interests and goals. You can get more mileage out of speaking engagements if you initiate conversations with other speakers and audience members. Find out more about their interests, and take those interests into consideration when you write your next speech.

In terms of professional networking, public speaking can help you gain an edge over the competition. A speech will show more of your personality than a resume or cover letter. You can control the content and tone of a speech more easily than you can dictate the content of a job interview. The primary elements of the typical job application–the resume, cover letter, and interview–are tough to ace, since rigid formatting makes it difficult to stand out from the crowd. When you have public speaking opportunities in a professional context, take advantage of them! Try to be memorable, make connections, and follow up afterward. If your professional connections know you as a speaker, you will be more than just another faceless resume and cover letter.

External Benefits: Influence the World Around You

Public speaking skills can be used to influence the world through public leadership and in personal day-to-day applications.

Learning Objectives

Give examples of ways public speaking can lead to influence

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • There is a strong correlation between communication skills and leadership. Speakers can use knowledge of persuasion to motivate others to take collective action to achieve desired goals.
  • Modern communication technology allows speakers to share their message and influence audiences any place in the world, for the cost of an internet connection and camera phone.
  • Experienced speakers can use their skills to accomplish simple goals in daily life with new self-confidence.
  • Trained speakers should ask, “How will I use my skills to influence the world around me? ” and other relevant questions.

Key Terms

  • orator: A skilled and eloquent public speaker.
  • leadership: A process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.

External Benefits: Influence the World Around You

Public speaking skills allow people to to influence the world through public leadership in society, including roles in commercial organizations, the volunteer sector, groups, and clubs. They can also enhance one’s personal development and self-confidence.

Public Leadership as Influence

Public speakers have the opportunity to influence others; they can use their knowledge of persuasion to motivate others to take collective action to achieve desired goals. There is a strong correlation between leadership and communication skills. Leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. ” Public speaking skills can be used to influence multiple people simultaneously, such as in a meeting or when addressing a large group. Speaking skills can help when setting and agreeing to a motivating vision or future for a group or organization to ensure unity of purpose; creating positive peer pressure towards shared, high performance standards and an atmosphere of trust and team spirit; and driving successful collective action and results.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, and Nelson Mendela are notable examples of effective orators who used oratory to have a significant impact on society. The influence of the great leaders may have been initially limited to moving an audience in person with written copies of their speeches distributed. With the invention of radio and television, listeners who could not attend in person were still influenced by the words of the speaker.

Global Leadership as Influence

Today, the reach of technology is pervasive and global. In the past, influencing others involved speaking directly to an audience face-to-face or having expensive equipment for broadcasting. Today, modern communication technology coupled with the internet means that speakers can share messages and thoughts with audiences anyplace in the world for the cost of an internet connection and a camera, or simply a smart phone recorder.

How Influence Works in Daily Life

Public speaking skills are not reserved for global leaders; anyone can use the same skills in his or her daily life to speak with confidence. Aristotle defined rhetoric as the “faculty of discovering the possible means of persuasion in reference to any subject whatever. ”

For example, imagine someone who wants to persuade his or her parents for money. Chances are that this person will work through strategies for persuading them why he or she needs the money and why the parents should provide it. He or she will reflect on what has and has not worked in the past, including previous successful and unsuccessful strategies. From this analysis, he or she constructs a message that fits the occasion and audience.

Now, imagine that the same person wants to persuade his or her roommate to go out to get Mexican food for dinner. He or she is not going to use the same message or approach that he or she used with the parents. The same logic exists in public speaking situations. Aristotle highlighted the importance of finding the appropriate message and strategy for the audience and occasion in order to persuade.

By training in public speaking and actually speaking in front of an audience, one develops a sense of self-confidence. Public speakers learn to overcome fear of failure and lack of confidence in order to deliver a message to an audience. They learn to think about ideas, evaluate their truthfulness, and then organize them into a message to share with others.

The flip side of public speaking is listening; people can learn how to influence by learning how to listen. Trained speakers know how to recognize sound logic, reasoning, and ethical appeals. A critical listener is less likely to be persuaded by unsound logic and fallacies or to take action that is not in his or her best interest.

How Everyone Can Influence the World

The world is still full of injustice, ranging from major issues such as poverty to minor issues such as people who cut in line. Every prospective speaker should ask, “Is there a particular cause that has personal significance for me? If I could change something about the world, what would I choose? If studying the art of public speaking will give me the tools to influence the world around me, how will I use them? ”

image

Bust of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Martin Luther King, Jr. used his ability to speak to influence and lead a nation to action.

Differences Between Public Speaking and Conversation

While public speaking and conversation share many similarities, they are in fact two very different forms of communication.

Learning Objectives

Differentiate between public speaking and conversation

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners.
  • Conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people who are following rules of etiquette.
  • There are three key differences that set public speaking apart from conversation: organizational structure, use of formalized language, and method of delivery.
  • Speeches involve thoughts that are logically organized and structured, whereas conversations may wander around subjects.
  • Speeches use formalized language, while conversation may use slang, profanity, or poor grammar.
  • Speeches are often delivered in deliberate, intentional settings and contexts, whereas conversations may arise spontaneously.

Key Terms

  • conversation: the expression and exchange of individual ideas through talking with other people; also, an instance of such talking

Differences with Conversation

It may seem rather simple: isn’t public speaking just a form of conversation with an audience ? At the most basic level, that might seem true. But under closer inspection, public speaking and conversation are, in fact, two very different things.

A picture of two men and a woman taking part in a casual conversation.

Differences in Conversation: While public speaking involves imparting a message to others, there are key differences between public speaking and casual conversation.

Public speaking is defined as “the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners.” Conversation, on the other hand, “is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people who are following rules of etiquette.”

You may already notice the similarities: both conversation and public speaking involve speakers and audiences, as well as messages exchanged between the two parties. Depending on to whom you’re speaking, you’ll adjust your message based on both your audience and the context of your speech or conversation. And of course, a good conversation and a good speech both share elements of compelling and engaging storytelling.

But, for the most part, that’s where the similarities between conversation and public speaking end. There are three key differences that set public speaking apart from conversation: organizational structure, use of formalized language, and method of delivery.

Organizational Structure

Speeches and public addresses are far more organized than everyday conversation. A public speaker organizes his or her thoughts in a speech by using three basic structural elements: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Conversations can wander and meander without ever coming to a point. Speeches are deliberately structured and organized, whereas conversations are not.

Use of Formalized Language

When you sit down and have a conversation with a close friend, either face-to-face or via text message or chat, you might find that your language and tone are far more casual than if you were to sit down and have a conversation with, say, your doctor. Public speaking formalizes language that much more. When speeches are designed to “inform, influence, or entertain,” they require a certain formality of speaking compared to a casual conversation between friends. Slang, profanity, and poor grammar might be accepted between friends but are definitely not appropriate for any kind of public address or speech.

Method of Delivery

You hear the phrase “strike up a conversation” more than you hear “strike up a speech” because conversations are far more spontaneous than public speeches. And don’t let extemporaneous speaking fool you: extemporaneous speeches merely involve speaking about a subject with no written notes and are not to be considered truly spontaneous. Conversations can spring up anywhere. Public speaking is often organized into events and venues with a set time and location. Public speeches may also fall within certain time constraints, whereas conversations can be as brief or as long as those involved are willing to participate.