“Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world. Abandoned by his party, betrayed by his friends, stripped of his offices, whoever can command this power is still formidable.” ― Winston Churchill
Most people are afraid of speaking in public places. Study shows that people are scared of two things — first on death and second on public speaking. It is basically the fear that they might make mistakes or others might make fun of them, if their speeches go wrong. Hence, people hesitate to speak in public places. Of course, there are many other reasons why people are apprehensive to speak in public places. Several thinkers have doubts whether public speaking is an art or craft. The fact is that public speaking is both an art and craft.
Is Public Speaking a Talent or Skill?
Several people have doubts whether public speaking is a skill or a talent. It is certainly a skill, not a talent. Skills can be acquired from training, reading, observation, practice and experience. In contrast, talent is something people are blessed with. They acquire from their parents by birth. If people are blessed with public speaking, it is a boon. Otherwise, people can hone this skill by reading various books, observing other speakers and practicing it regularly. Hence, public speaking is a skill. There are several internationally renowned speakers who had their reservations when they started to speak initially but improved and finally became great orators.
Presentation versus Public Speaking
People often use “presentation” and “public speaking” interchangeably. In fact, there is often confusion between them. Public speaking is general in nature while presentation is specific in nature. Presentation often involves usage of slides while public speaking involves usage of spoken communication skills. Presentation involves a small audience while public speaking involves a huge audience. There is intimacy with the audiences in presentation while there is no such intimacy in public speaking. Therefore, public speakers will have lesser interaction than the presenters. Despite these differences in presentation and public speaking, the challenges remain more or less same for the presenters and speakers at the core level while getting their messages across to their audiences.
Advantages of Public Speaking Skills
As a public speaker, you organize your thoughts and speak clearly, logically and analytically. You learn to focus on what is required leaving the unwanted to the trash. You enhance your interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and spontaneity. You build your confidence and equip with competence. You become a good listener, speaker and leader. You will be able to inspire others and make a difference.
As a public speaker, you increase your visibility in the workplace professionally. You build more connections. You develop interpersonal skills to handle various people. You can handle office bullies and difficult people. You will become more assertive. You will be able to communicate effectively with others and avert any conflicts and miscommunication. You can mentor or coach your colleagues. You can make your presence felt within your industry or sector. You get offers to deliver seminars and keynote conferences. Your market value goes up rapidly. You can grow as a celebrity. You will be surrounded by more people. You can grow as a thought leader. To summarize, you build your credibility, enhance your visibility and build your leadership brand. You will be more marketable with ample employment opportunities. You can strengthen your CV. You can become a successful educator, entrepreneur and leader with your public speaking skills.
Presenting is Cooking
Presenting is like cooking. When you want to cook food, you have to arrange several ingredients. You have to choose the ingredients depending on the food you want to cook. For breakfast, you will have some food, for lunch, something different, and for dinner, something else. You must also look at the people who would relish your food and you must cater as per their taste buds, otherwise your food will not be appreciated and relished by them. After finding out who will eat your food, and whether it is for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, you have to procure the required ingredients for preparing the meal. After acquiring all varieties of inputs, you must start preparing the food. While preparing the food, you must mix all ingredients proportionately as anything in excess will spoil the taste and your efforts will go waste. Similarly, you must find out the audience that will attend your presentation. After analyzing their profile and background, find out their aspirations and expectations so that you can do research and get the inputs accordingly. If the presentation is in the morning, you have to emphasize theory and applications. If the presentation is post-lunch, it is tough to lift the energy levels of your audience. Therefore, you have to make it more interactive and involve them into discussions so that they don’t feel drowsy during the post lunch session. If your presentation is in the evening, you have to put in some more efforts to get their attention and sustain it as it is almost the end of the day. Therefore, you need to add humor so that they get rejuvenated and enjoy your session with great interest. Above all, for any presentation it is advisable to follow 20: 60: 20 rule where the first 20 stands for concepts and theory of the topic; 60 stands for applications of the theory and the knowledge; and the last 20 stands for activities and assessments that help them assess where they stand in terms of takeaways. This rule is not rigid but serves as a guideline for any presentation, and you can make it flexible depending on the profile of the audiences and the type of topic to be presented, and the timing of the presentation.
Learn Leadership and Public Speaking by Practice
“The only way to learn to speak is to speak and speak, and speak and speak, and speak and speak and speak.” — Elbert Hubbard
As you learn leadership by practice, you learn public speaking skills by practice. It requires immense passion to grow as a leader and speaker. When you look at most leaders, they are orators. They utilize public speaking skills to grow as great leaders. When you look at Winston Churchill, he played a crucial role during the Second World War. He provided a ray of hope when the entire world was beset with war clouds. He took the world out of war clouds. Hence, public speaking skill is an asset. You may be betrayed by everybody including your friends and well-wishers but the command on your public speaking will not let you down. It is more than a friend, and will stand by you forever. Hence, acquire public speaking skill to survive during tough times and thrive during your great times.
How to Become a Great Speaker
“There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.” — Alexander Gregg
Here are some tools to become a great speaker:
• Join Toastmasters club close to you.
• Attend training programs to observe the presentation styles of various speakers. Find out what makes each speaker stand out from others. Ask questions at the end of the session to overcome your apprehensions.
• Maintain a journal and jot down their ideas and insights. You can read them during your free time to understand and absorb the content.
• Observe videos of eminent speakers to find out how they inspire others. How each speaker begins his presentation? How each speaker connects with audience members? How each speaker responds to question and answer session?
• When you observe various speakers speak, you evolve your own style of speaking.
• Practice presenting in front of small groups until you became more comfortable and confident. Gradually go in front of huge audiences to speak.
• Be confident about your content.
• Take feedback from your audiences to find out your strengths and weaknesses. Consolidate your strengths and concentrate on your concerns to overcome.
• Practice regularly.
• Hire a public speaking coach, if possible. You can overcome your anxieties and acquire public speaking skill within a short span.
To become a successful speaker, you must have strong content and delivery skills. Both are two sides of the coin.
If you want to learn swimming, you must practice. If you want to learn driving, you must practice. Similarly, if you want to learn public speaking, you must practice. Therefore, everything boils down to practice. Practice is the key to excellence and perfection. Hence, learn the art and craft of public speaking to grow as a great speaker and orator.
“They are eloquent who can speak low things acutely, and of great things with dignity, and of moderate things with temper.” — Cicero
Professor M.S.Rao, Ph.D.
International Leadership Guru, Keynote Speaker & Author of 30 Leadership Books
35 years of experience in leadership development,
authored 30 books on leadership,
coined 3 grids,
and published 250 articles in prestigious global journals and magazines.