Benefits of Public Speaking

benefits of public speaking

What do Americans fear more than heights, bugs, snakes, zombies, and clowns? You probably already know the answer – public speaking.

Every year a new survey comes out ranking people’s top phobias and fears and public speaking always ranks at the top. Why is public speaking such a strong and enduring fear considering how critical it is to career success?

Glossophobia, the scientific term for fear of public speaking, is believed to affect up to 75% of the population. Some individuals feel a slight nervousness while others may experience panic attacks at the mere thought of speaking in public.

The exact common cause of public speaking fear is unknown but psychologists think it’s a combination of genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological factors. Individuals with a family history of glossophobia are more likely to experience it. Today the consensus is that environmental and educational upbringing have more influence. Past negative experiences with public speaking can have a long-term impact.

Most people have their first public speaking experience in the classroom, and depending on how prepared they were and the empathy classmates showed, they either had a good experience or a bad one that created trauma and taught them public speaking equals humiliation. Unfortunately, many people fall into the latter category, but only because most of us were never given the tools to be successful.

Despite the negative connotation that comes with public speaking, the good news is most people can get over their fear and become effective speakers. Once you’re shown how to prepare and deliver a public speech it just takes practice before you can move beyond the past experiences, get over your fears, and use it as a powerful tool to advance your career.

You can overcome the fear of public speaking with process, skills, and practice.

What is Public Speaking?

public speaking benefits

The definition of public speaking, in its simplest terms, is an oral presentation or speech delivered to a live audience. In most cases, it’s a formal or staged event, although impromptu speeches to a group of people are also a form of public speaking.

These impromptu types of speeches occur every day in the business world. You may be attending a meeting and may find yourself called on to explain technical information to a client, and how well you do could be a career defining moment.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has two definitions of public speaking.

  1. The act or process of making speeches in public.
  2. The art of effective oral communication skills with an audience.

What’s interesting about the dictionary definition is that it defines public speaking as both an act or process and an art. The act is the physical carrying out of the speech, while the art is the mastery of the skills that create effective public speaking.

The real problems many people encounter is they haven’t been trained in the art of public speaking so when they’re faced with the act of public speaking they’re understandably mortified. Doing a public speech without training is like entering a karate tournament without ever taking a karate class which would be simply terrifying.

Why Public Speaking is Important

Whether you’re at a social gathering, business meeting, or conference, being able to comfortably speak in front of others is important. When you speak with confidence and have a structure, your audience members can follow your ideas and you will be heard. The result includes closing a sale, receiving a promotion, or building your reputation and executive presence. When you’re neither confident nor prepared, the power is removed from your words, your audience disengages, and your odds of succeeding drastically decrease.

Effective presentations are easy for the speaker to tell and easy for the audience to follow.

Make an Impact

The best public speakers have the power to motivate their audience to take action and make change happen. You can inspire the inspired, light a fire in the face of apathy, and transform entire teams from mediocrity to professional success.

Share Useful Information

When you have important information to share you need an audience that’s willing to listen. Whether you’re giving a presentation at a conference, a sales pitch to an important client, or outlining a local initiative on a ballot you’re passionate about, you need to draw on your public speaking skills to make sure your message is heard.

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What is the Essence of Public Speaking?

essence of public speaking

The essence of public speaking is leaving a lasting impression on your audience. At the conclusion of your speech, your audience should feel different. They should feel like they learned something new, obtained important information, or now see something old in a new way. If they feel exactly the same as they did when you began speaking, then you likely fell short in delivering an effective speech.

Effective public speaking skills is about connecting with your audience through the words you choose, delivering the words with confidence, and using body language that conveys how you feel about your speech. If the audience can see that you’re not interested in what you’re saying then you’ll lose them right away.

A presentation is successful when it is actionable and moves the audience to do exactly what you want them to do.

On the other hand, if they can see and feel your passion you can make an impact. Keep in mind your audience is typically always rooting for you. They want you to succeed. In fact they see themselves on the stage and have empathy for you. If you make a mistake, they are waiting to forgive you especially if you’re able to laugh at yourself and move on.

If you show them you care about their time by being prepared, and that you care about your topic by bringing good energy, your audience is going to enjoy listening to you and remember what you said.

How to tell your story so the audience feels it’s their story.

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What are the Benefits of Public Speaking?

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The benefits of public speaking can be experienced professionally and in your interpersonal relationships. Developing your public speaking skills is a form of personal development that spills over into almost every area of everyday life. Here are some of the biggest benefits of public speaking.

Advances Your Career

Public speaking skills display your creativity, critical thinking skills, leadership abilities, and professionalism, all of which are invaluable in the corporate world. Every time you speak at an event or conference you build credibility.

Public speaking helps you stand out at work. You can speak up in meetings to get your ideas heard, and present yourself as someone who has valuable insights. Speaking skills also translate to job interviews and differentiate you from other candidates.

Increases Your Confidence

Overcoming the fears and insecurities that come naturally with public speaking is empowering. When you see a large audience hanging on to your every word you know you are making an impact.

Although the pre-speech jitters may never fully subside, the more you speak in front of crowds the easier it becomes to control your nerves and turn your perceived weakness into a strength.

Helps with Critical Thinking

Public speaking and critical thinking skills go hand in hand. Writing your speech requires careful thought, from selecting your main points, to using a powerful open and close, to anticipating how the audience will react to each part of your speech. You’ll rely on and develop critical thinking by tailoring your message to fit the needs of your audience so you can move them to action.

You’ll need to navigate important considerations like how to best make your points relevant to your theme and audience expectations. Your research skills will sharpen. You’ll have to think deeply about addressing possible audience objections to contentious points in your speech. You’ll even need to lean on critical thinking to find ways to help you improve your presentation style and delivery.

Drives Personal Development

Because communication skills are critical for personal and professional success, personal development is another benefit of public speaking. Preparing a speech makes you take a step back and think about best ways to connect with both small and large groups of people. It forces you to rethink old habits to improve communication skills and polish them in a way that helps you develop as a more effective, persuasive individual.

Improves Interpersonal Communication

When you design a speech you’re always thinking about the big picture, persuasive strategy, and how to best influence your audience. This leads to more effective interpersonal communication skills outside of the work environment.

You’ll find yourself communicating with more clarity and persuasiveness in your personal relationships and social interactions, and you’ll develop the ability to communicate and deal with opposing views without getting overly emotional.

Opens the Doors to New Connections

Public speaking engagements are a great place to meet others who share similar interests and goals. After a great speech people may approach you and want to know more about you and your ideas. This can open the doors to new business opportunities and friendships that can last a lifetime.

If you’re part of a speaking line-up, you can reach out to fellow presenters and connect through a common experience. There are endless speaking opportunities for social networking once you start speaking in public.

Polishes Your Persuasive Skills

Throughout history great speeches have changed the course of humankind. They’ve started and stopped wars. They’ve been the catalyst for generational change. Public speeches have motivated people to take action on political, environmental, and economic issues.

You’re not going to change the world with every speech, but your ideas will be heard and seeds of influence will be planted in the minds of your audience. Over time these seeds will grow and eventually you may see your ideas spring to everyday life.

Effective presenters follow the philosophy, “Be Suasive, be heard.”

Builds Leadership Skills

Many of us in the corporate world have become comfortable with letting others do the taking for us, even though we’ve had important things to say. When you gain more confidence to speak up you’ll find yourself helping others who have important ideas but aren’t able to speak and express them.

When you stand up and speak in a powerful way and start changing hearts and minds, you’ll be seen as a leader. Leaders are defined by their ability to drive change, and public speaking skills are the foundational super power all great leaders possess. Developing leadership skills is one of the many benefits of public speaking.

Become a Better Listener

The ability to listen well is just as important if not more important than speaking. When you attend conferences, meetings, or have an important everyday conversation, you’ll be more in tune to listening for key points that matter. When it’s your turn to speak, showing your audience that you listened to their points enhances your responses and credibility. Becoming a better listener also helps you understand why other speeches work and you can leverage those strong elements for your future speeches.


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Tips to Improve Public Speaking

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Because public speaking is a learned skill, there are many ways you can become more effective. The more you practice sharpening the different tools in your public speaking tool box the better you’ll get. Here are some of the best helpful tips we’ve seen that improve public speaking.

Study Great Public Speakers

Just like when learning any new important skill, studying the masters is extremely helpful. When you watch great public speakers, focus on their body language. You’ll find that they tend to remain open and inviting throughout their presentation.

These speakers use their arms and hands as tools for emphasis on key points. They look relaxed and use the full stage space provided to capture and keep the audience’s attention. Listen for their pacing and pauses. Watch what they do with their face. Take note of how they go from serious to humorous. TED Talks on YouTube provide endless hours of great public speakers to study.

Persuasive speakers master four critical elements: Story, Slides, Delivery, and Q&A.

Relax Your Body Language

Fear of public speaking can make you feel tense and rigid. This translates directly to the audience if you aren’t able to control it. The best public speakers maintain great posture, connect eyes with the audience, and move around the stage in a natural, confident stride.

When you’re able to release the tension in your body and relax, it leads to not only looking like you’re in control, but you’re able to think with more clarity, remember your talking points, and get into the zone and express your passion. All of this equates to better performance in public speaking skills and greater audience connection.

Slow Down and Breath

Almost everyone ends up speaking faster when they’re on stage than they did during rehearsal. If you’re giving a timed speech this can leave you with extra minutes to fill at the end with nothing to say. But worse, it hurts the rhythm of your delivery and while you feel like you’re not rushing, the audience may have a different experience.

Practiced breathing can help slow you down and keep your pacing on track. Don’t be afraid of the pause. Silence is a powerful tool all great public speakers use. It adds tension and the audience appreciates the time to absorb what you’re saying.

Be Prepared

Preparation may seem obvious, but many speakers fall short here. It’s not because they didn’t work hard to practice their speech, it’s usually because they tried to memorize their speech word for word.

Verbalize your presentation by repeating it aloud to an imaginary audience to smooth and polish your story.

Being prepared for a speech relies on creating a solid outline that you know inside and out. This includes the two to six main talking points you want to cover with the underlying supporting points for each one. To internalize your talking points, verbalize your presentation by saying it aloud to an imaginary audience over and over again. Verbalization helps you polish your story and remove the kinks. Each time you verbalize your story, it will sound more concise and your confidence will grow.

Know Your Audience

Before you deliver a presentation, take time to understand your audience so you can tailor your speech to what they find meaningful. Think about what’s important to them. Analyze what they know about your topic at the start of your speech and what they need to know so you can move them to your desired action. If they don’t think you get them, they’re not going to be open to your new ideas, especially if they challenge their current way of thinking.

Use a Visual Aid

Visual aids like PowerPoint presentations can be a great supplement to reinforce your speech and keep you and the audience on track. Just make sure your visuals act only as support and do not distract from your speech. The presenter is always the focus.

Avoid text-heavy visual aids and never read verbatim from your slides. Create slides with graphs and images that reflect your key points. If you need text, keep it brief and ensure it reads like a punchy headline.

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The Benefits of Public Speaking Classes

The best way to hone your public speaking skills and overcome any fears you have is by taking a public speaking course.

Hiring public speaking coaches puts you in an environment with a professional public speaking instructor who understands how you feel and has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people succeed. You’re also with others just like you who have the same desire to learn how to become confident and effective public speakers.

When you think back to your first public speaking experience, it was likely in a classroom as a child. Your teacher was likely not a certified public speaking coach, and your classmates probably didn’t have the empathy you needed to get through it. Most of us have our first experiences in public speaking in the worst environment possible and with zero training.

When you take a public speaking class you’ll get all the tools and skills you need to design and build your speech and learn how to deliver it in a compelling way.

When you weigh the positive and negative consequences of developing your public speaking skills the contrast is clear. There is no negative to investing your time and resources in a public speaking class. It will be one the greatest returns on investment you’ve ever made. You’ll walk away with a foundation you can continue to grow upon throughout the remainder of your personal life.

Suasive, Inc. is a Silicon Valley-based communication consulting company that offers public speaking classes for organizations and individuals. To date, we’ve coached over 600 CEOs and helped individuals in some of the world’s largest companies including Netflix, eBay, Sonos, Lyft, and Freshworks.

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