What Is Public Speaking and Why Do I Need to Do It?

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  • 0:01 What Is Public…
  • 1:14 Why Do We Need to Do It?
  • 2:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

Expert Contributor
Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

Public speaking is the process of communicating information to an audience. It is usually done before a large audience, like in school, the workplace and even in our personal lives. The benefits of knowing how to communicate to an audience include sharpening critical thinking and verbal/non-verbal communication skills.

What Is Public Speaking, Anyway?

Think about a time that you had to stand in front of a bunch of people and tell them something. Maybe it was an oral report in grade school or a proposal at work. After gathering your materials and preparing what to say, you arrived at the podium and started talking.

That, my friend, is public speaking, and it involves communicating information before a large audience. What makes public speaking different than, say, just talking to a crowd of people, is in the way information is conveyed. In public speaking, the information is purposeful and meant to inform, influence or entertain a group of listeners.

There are five elements of public speaking, and it basically boils down to who is saying what to whom using what medium with what effect. In other words, who is the source of the message. What is the message itself. Whom is the audience, while the medium is the actual delivery method and ending in the effect. Think of the effect as the speaker's intent for the speech.

Public speaking dates back centuries, yet still remains one of the most important skills we can acquire in modern times. So, why is it so important to know?

Why Do We Need to Do It?

So, you're thinking of a time when you had to present something in front of a group. And the only memory you have might be of sweaty palms and knocking knees. There are some very good reasons why you need to know how to do it. Actually, there are so many reasons why everyone should learn how to speak in a public forum. Let's check out a few:

  • Every time you speak in public, it increases your self-confidence
  • As we become comfortable speaking, we become more comfortable around people
  • We can reach a large audience in a shorter time than having individual conversations
  • It's a great way to show how much you know about a subject
  • You can build a fan base of followers

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Additional Activities

Getting Comfortable with Public Speaking

Prep:

  1. Part of getting comfortable with this skill is to take it one step at a time. Think about what should happen before a public speaking experience. Consider all the variables that might affect the actual speech situation. Make a list of the preparation process as you see it. Get some feedback on your list from a teacher or fellow student.
  2. Choose a subject about which you could effectively share with others. This could be a hobby, an area of study, something in your work assignment, or a current issue you've studied thoroughly. Make an outline to assist in making a presentation concerning this topic. If possible, get a person you trust to serve as an audience for your practice activity.

Observation Activities

  1. Study a specific example of public speaking that occurs in your everyday world. It isn't hard to find examples all around us—maybe a school principal or teacher at a school assembly, or a pastor or rabbi, or a community meeting in your neighborhood. Evaluate what you observe about the situation. Does the speaker seem anxious? Is their material well-organized? How does the audience react to what is said?
  2. Watch an interview-type show on television or online. Both people involved in the conversation are public speakers at that time. How prepared is the interviewer? How about the person being interviewed? See what you can learn from your observation that might help you sometime when you are in front of a crowd or a camera.

Note to Instructors

The main take-away from this lesson and these activities is to help the student be more aware of public speaking situations that happen all around us in the "real world." Observing is a prime learning activity in a performing type of skill. Then comes planning, and finally practicing the skill. If possible, give students an opportunity to practice speaking in public in a safe-feeling environment.

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