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Public Speaking Skills Explained

By Jess, published on 01/10/2019 Blog > Professional Development > Personal Development > What Are Public Speaking Skills

Do people keep telling that you need to speak up? Or maybe you’ve heard on the contrary that you’d be fantastic at giving speeches?

If you have a job or will soon have a position that requires you to speak in public to colleagues in small groups or in the masses, then finding out a little more about effective public speaking and what this skill entails could help you gain better presentation skills and banish nervousness.

What Is Public Speaking, Anyway?

Public speaking is, in essence, any form of addressing a crowd.

It could be reciting a poem in front of your classmates, being a toastmaster at a wedding, making a new proposal in a meeting at work, or you could be inspiring a group of fellow activists on a subject you’re passionate about. Regardless of why you’re speaking publicly, the ultimate aim is to get your message across despite any presentation anxiety.

This act of communication to an audience requires quite a lot of preparation for some whereas, for others, it comes somewhat naturally. That said, different environments and audiences can play a big part in how you react under pressure so even the most confident speakers can crumble under extreme pressure and get stage fright.

When public speaking, the information is intended to have a purpose, i.e. to educate, influence or entertain the listeners.

Are you in a position of power? Addressing a crowd can have many purposes, but the principals are always the same. Photo credit: governortomwolf on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

There are a few principal elements of public speaking that must be carefully considered, and which can reduce public speaking anxiety:

  • who is the message aimed at (managers, authorities, colleagues, students, etc…)?
  • what is the message itself being conveyed?
  • who is the audience (a deeper analysis of the group – age, gender, their position or stance on the subject in question, etc…)?
  • how will the message be delivered (i.e. with humour, using facts, etc…)
  • how will the speech be closed (will you ask the audience to do something?)

Public speaking has been used by billions of people over a number of centuries, probably since the beginning of time itself. However, it’s still one of the most important skills we can have. So, why is it so important to know how to do it and what public speaking tips can we give you to prepare you for speech writing?

Why Is Public Speaking Important?

There are a number of reasons why being good at public speaking is important. Below, we’ll run through just a few of the advantages of taking the podium with confidence and rolling with the adrenaline:

1. It will boost your self-confidence

Verbal communication is one of the best ways to throw yourself in at the deep end, but of course, it won’t feel like you’re being thrown in with the sharks if you have no issue at all addressing a crowd. The more you do it, the more you will feel comfortable speaking and voicing your views and opinions. In turn, your increase in self-esteem will only add to the respect that others have for you.

Not only will regular public speaking help you to hone your skills at passing on information, but it will also help you to better understand people’s reactions to your message.

2. It can teach you to be comfortable around others

Following on from the above point, communicating from a podium, all alone, can actually improve your relations with others. It sounds weird but the increased level of speaking and understanding means that, when you’re in social situations, you’re less likely to get nervous or fumble around awkwardly thinking of things to say. So, basically, standing up there on your own can make you much better at standing around… not on your own!

3. It can benefit you professionally

It goes without saying that public speaking is vital to people with power. Do you think that the leaders of the largest businesses got there by sitting quietly amongst the crowd? Not likely.

If you own a business or are trying to drum up business as we speak, then getting your head around public speaking is really important and will help you to generate sales. Public speaking doesn’t have to be for crowds; learning to get your message across and the emotion that is tied to it, can help you to build one on one relationships with suppliers and other important contacts.

If you work as part of a larger company yourself and want to get a promotion, then public speaking skills will help you. Interviews, meetings… they all require a level of confidence when addressing the panel or colleagues and being good at it could reward you with a better-paid job.

4. It can have a positive effect on other areas of your life

We’ve focused heavily on public speaking in the workplace, but have you ever wondered how this skill can affect you at home too? Developing the general ability to speak publicly will mean that you become better at leading, communicating and reading situations which can be just as important in your home life as in your professional one. You may find yourself being more respected in other areas of your life and this could be very fulfilling.

Public speaking skills are closely linked to leadership and respect. Working on public speaking can get you respect in your family life as well as at work. Photo on Visualhunt.com

5. It will prepare you for life

It’s a fact of life – you have to speak to get heard. So there’s really no time for fear of speaking in public.

It’s not just office workers in the city who need to communicate publicly, almost everyone will need to use this specific set of skills at some point in their lives, whether that be in their career or in a social situation that requires it. In fact, we will now take a look at just some of the situations you may face in life where you are required to stand up and be heard.

When Will I Need To Use Public Speaking?

As we’ve already said, public speaking isn’t just reserved for the board room. You can speak confidently to crowds in a number of quite varied situations. Just see below!

A Wedding Toast

Father of the bride, best man, maid of honour… if you are or will be one of these at a loved one’s wedding then the chances are that you may be asked to conquer your fear and give a speech. And what a pressured situation – giving a speech on the happiest day of someone’s life in front of all those people! Not only that, but the message will have to be heartfelt and genuine, with humour optional.

It’s okay though if you haven’t had any experience of public speaking before this. There are many ways you can prepare for a speech like this such as looking for tips on the Internet, practising your speech in front of a smaller group or partner, and making some flashcards to help you remember the order. If you are storytelling, then be sure to memorize your story and captivate the crowd yet if you are sharing a special memory, try to speak from your heart instead of relying too heavily on cues.

Weddings normally mean speeches! Are you preparing for a wedding speech and feeling nervous? Photo credit: Mr Moss on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

Work Presentation

Your job may require you to lead weekly meetings, or you may be asked to prepare something for your AGM. Either way, you can prepare for this in a number of ways. If you are allowed to use visual aids, this could help you as each new slide will be an automatic cue and will mean it’s unlikely for you to get lost and mess up. Don’t read the text in your speech word for word though, these should simply be a summary of key points and then you should engage with your audience and elaborate.

Prayer At A Funeral

If you’ve been asked to say a few words at a family funeral, then you might find it very emotional to write it, for one, but also to rehearse the words again and again. The important thing here is to speak truthfully and with gratitude. What’s more, people don’t expect a long speech from you at this time, keeping it short and sweet is normally quite appropriate.

Class Presentation

Some schoolkids get nervous about standing up in front of the class while others love clowning around in front of a crowd and getting the chance to get speaking. If you are someone who gets butterflies in their stomach when they get up to the front, then good preparation will certainly help you to get past these flutters of emotion. Confidence is essential in this environment because children can be mean and insensitive.

If you practice your presentation then go up and ooze self-confidence, your classmates won’t even consider mocking you as they will have the utmost respect for you. Also, you may find that if you deliver your presentation solidly, they might actually listen and learn something!

A Birthday Party

It’s your birthday. You’ve invited all your friends and family. You’ve opened presents. Now it’s time to address the crowd and offer them your thanks! Even though you may so grateful for their kindness and can express this internally, it can be hard to find the words to actually communicate this out loud. Once again, keep it short and sweet but be sure to get the main message across.

As you can see, public speaking or impromptu speaking isn’t just for politicians or the workplace. Not all of us are natural-born leaders, so we need to work harder on developing these skills. But with many opportunities to practise, we all become better with each and every speaking situation!

Do you think you could be a professional speaker now?

See here how you can get better at speaking in public.

Check out the online resources that could help you to become a more confident speaker.

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