The Art of Public Speaking

Public speaking skills are
ESSENTIAL to move forward
in your career
The Art of Public Speaking

If you’re like most people, public speaking is not high on your list of priorities. The thought of such an act makes you want to run away and hide. However, your success at selling yourself and—for business owners and executives—your products or services, depends largely on your ability to give an engaging, convincing presentation.

Whether giving a formal sales presentation or asking your boss for a promotion, public speaking skills are essential to move forward in your career. Here are five simple ways to diminish your public speaking anxiety.

Research shows that being able to effectively speak in public is the most powerful competency to fuel business growth. Learn how to build confidence and future-proof your skills with Suasive.

The only way to get ahead is by being able to talk like a pro with confidence and charisma. Unfortunately, there are many people out there that don’t know how to do this so they lose opportunities left and right. This article will help teach you some of the most important skills that public speakers need in order to succeed and provide you with the right resources to master the art of public speaking.

Although Stephen Lucas published his book The Art of Public Speaking in 1983, the topic has been seriously discussed and written about since the time of the Ancient Greeks. This art of public speaking feature article is for anyone in the business world that relies on effective presentations to communicate to teams, supervisors, and clients. It can also serve as a general overview and introduction to public speaking in general, and give you the foundational knowledge you need to become a confident public speaker.

What is Public Speaking?

An effective public speaker must build skill in four key areas: Story, Slides, Delivery, Q&A. The Suasive methodology focuses on each individual element, resulting in a clear, concise message that moves your audience to action.
public speaker
Public speaking is more than just speaking in public, but that’s certainly the foundation. Another way to phrase it would be speaking in front of more than a few people who are not your friends. Even more precisely, it would be speaking to an audience, whom many you do not personally know.

Public speaking covers a near-infinite variety of topics and is conducted in the same amount of spaces and situations. Your goal may be to educate, entertain, or persuade your audience. Using visual aids like PowerPoint is common practice if you’re speaking in a business or educational setting. Visual aids help you stay on track and help your audience stay engaged.

Visuals are important—but they are not the primary focus of a presentation. The Suasive methodology puts the presenter and their story first, and slides second to support the message and never overshadow it.

In the digital age, it’s important to differentiate that a public speaking presentation is different from an online presentation, although there is overlap. You can turn your camera off online and just use your visual aid, and you’re in the comfort of home or your office. These seemingly minor factors can play a big impact on your comfort level which directly impacts your public speaking performance.

Traditionally public speaking is done in person before a live audience. Your first experience with public speaking may have been in the classroom when you first started school. Your first teacher was in effect demonstrating the art of public speaking to your and your classmates every day. Likewise, the first time you had to speak in public likely took place in one of your childhood classrooms. You may have had to recite a poem, give an oral book review, or do a presentation with classmates.

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A Brief History of Public Speaking

The origins of modern public
speaking trace back 2,500 years
to ancient Greece
Origin of modern public speaking

To fully appreciate the power and usefulness of public speaking, taking a brief look back in time will help. Public speaking has been around as long as people have existed. However, the origins of modern public speaking trace back 2,500 years to ancient Greece.

In Athens, men were required to give speeches as part of their civic duties. They had to speak publicly in legislative assemblies and at court. Citizens met in the marketplace and debated issues on war, economics, and politics. Having good speaking skills was essential for a prominent social life and economic opportunity.

The First Speaking Models

Suasive models Aristotle’s powerful principles, especially the concept that persuasion is achieved by connecting the presenter’s message with the feelings, desires, wishes, fears, and passions of the audience.

Aristotle and Quintilian are the most famous ancient scholars to give public speaking definitive rules. Aristotle defined rhetoric as a means to persuade on any subject. Quintilian published a twelve-volume textbook on rhetoric, and many of his references are still used today by politicians.

Cicero is considered perhaps the most significant rhetorician that ever lived. He is famous in the field of public speaking for creating the five canons of rhetoric. A five-step process for developing a persuasive speech that is still used to this very day.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

Aristotle first discovered that persuasion was the only way to get citizens to agree on a topic. He called this rhetoric, which is defined as one’s ability to persuade others. He identified three components of rhetoric:

  1. Ethos
  2. Logos
  3. Pathos

There is a lot to say about each component, so we’ll keep it general for time’s sake. Ethos is used when the speaker is credible and can demonstrate authority over a subject matter. Logos is used when there are facts to support an argument and requires the audience to use logic and deduction to judge the strengths of the speaker’s argument. Pathos is used for emotional appeals to the audience.

Public Speaking in the Modern Age

Public Speaking in the Modern Age
Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, speaking in public remains critical to succeed in most careers. Schools and universities offer courses, lectures, and even majors on communication. Online courses and books have become popular giving anyone with interest in learning ample opportunities. From the famous Mcgraw Hill published The Art of Public Speaking by Stephen Lucas, to Dale Carnegie’s well-read book The Art of Public Speaking, you’ll find an abundant amount of resources designed to help teach the nuances of effective public speaking.

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

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The Four Types of Public Speaking

Public speaking can be categorized into four main types: ceremonial, demonstrative, informative, and persuasive.

Suasive also categorizes business communication into eight key needs, from virtual presentations, to product launches, to SPAC & IPO roadshows.

Ceremonial Speaking

Most of us will give a ceremonial speech during our lifetime. These are the speeches that mark special occasions. We’ve seen them at weddings, graduations, birthdays, office parties, and funerals. Often a ceremonial speech involves a toast and is delivered with intimacy and an emotional connection to the audience.

Demonstrative Speaking

Both sales demos and scientific demonstrations fall into the category of demonstrative speaking. This type of public speaking requires the speaker to speak clearly, concisely, and be able to describe the actions they’re performing while doing whatever it is they’re doing. For example, a demonstrative speaker may explain the technology supporting a new product at a trade show. Or how to use the new product. The idea is that the audience will leave with the knowledge about how to do something.

Informative Speaking

An informative speaker has the goal of trying to explain a concept to the audience. You see informative speaking at college lectures, industry conferences, and public meetings. As the name suggests, what’s most important is effectively communicating the information. An informative speaker is not trying to persuade or demonstrate, but rather make vital information easy to understand.

Persuasive Speaking

Everyday persuasive public speaking is carried out by politicians, lawyers, and salespeople. The type of speaking requires voice inflections, logic, false logic, and plenty of emotional appeals to convince an audience of a certain viewpoint. The persuasive speaker almost always has a stake in the outcome of their speech. Politicians for example want to persuade the public to vote for them. Lawyers are persuading judges and jury members to vote for their side of an argument. Salespeople are persuading so their audience will buy their product or service. The persuasive speaker’s strongest tool is pathos or emotional appeals.

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What are the Seven Elements of Public Speaking?

1. The Speaker

The most important element of public speaking is the speaker. There would be no communication without our speaker. It’s important for the speaker to keep in mind it’s they who are the presentation, and the visual aids are there to supplement and add clarity. Too many presenters and speakers go to great lengths in creating stunning visual aids rather than put time into how they are going to present. There are three things you need clarity on before you make your presentation:

  • Your motivation – why are you doing this? when making the presentation or your passion
  • Your credibility as a speaker – why will people trust you?
  • Your style and personality – how will you connect with the audience?

2. The Message

The message refers to everything you say both verbally and through your body language. The verbal component is segmented into three elements: content, style, and structure.

  • Content: What you say about the topic or subject
  • Style: How you choose to present the content. Is this a formal setting with serious executives? Are you in a high school gymnasium with rowdy teenagers? Style should be determined by the audience, occasion, and setting.
  • Structure: The structure of a message is how you organize it. There are many ways to organize your message. The classic structure includes an introduction, a body or argument, and the conclusion.

3. The Audience

Know thy audience. Understanding who you are speaking to, why they’re there, and what their expectations are is critical to your success as a public speaker. Keep in mind things like age, marital status, geographic location, and education. The more you can make your audience feel like you know who they are the better they’ll respond to your speech.

4. The Channel

When you communicate with an audience you use a variety of communication channels. These channels fall into three primary categories: nonverbal, visual, and auditory.

The nonverbal channel includes:
  • Gestures
  • Facial expressions
  • Body’s movement
  • Physical posture

The visual channel includes:
  • Diagrams
  • Drawings
  • Graphics
  • Photographs
  • Videos
  • Objects

The auditory channel includes:
  • Tone of voice
  • Variations in voice volume
  • Tapes, CDS or audio materials

5. Feedback

Feedback lets you know your audience has heard your message. A good public speaker is attentive to the nonverbal reactions of his or her audience. They can “read” the audience and respond to audience reactions or lack of reaction during a presentation.

6. Noise

In public speaking, there are two types of noises to be aware of: external noise and internal noise. External noise comes from the setting. It could be sounds of laughter, poor auditorium sound, the temperature setting is too hot or too cold, poor ventilation, bad lighting, or obstacles between yourself and the audience.

Internal noise occurs when you’re confused or are unclear about your message. To fight internal noise, combine various communication channels to your advantage. If you lose your train of thought, for example, reference your visual aid to get back on track.

7. Setting

The place where you deliver your public speaking is something you need to take into account when preparing. If you can, take the time to visit the place or auditorium well before your scheduled talk. Find out the exact spot you’ll be standing during your presentation. Every detail from the seats, air conditioner, lighting, sound system, and more should be set up properly.

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What Causes the Fear of Public Speaking?

Glossophobia
is the fear of public speaking.
It's believed to affect up to
75% of the population
Glossophobia
Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. It’s believed to affect up to 75% of the population. Some people feel a slight nervousness at the thought of public speaking, while others experience sheer panic and fear. Some people will avoid public speaking situations at all costs.
Read more on our blog: Five Techniques to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking.

The fear of speaking in public is more common in younger people. Individuals with social anxiety disorder are likely to have glossophobia. However, not everyone with glossophobia has a psychiatric disorder.

Glossophobia symptoms:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased perspiration
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and panic like feelings
  • Intense anxiety when thinking about public speaking
  • Stiffening of upper back muscles

What Causes Glossophobia?

A lot of phobias seem to appear in childhood. Phobias can be a result of genetic tendencies, environment, biological, and psychological factors. People who fear public speaking often have a strong fear of embarrassment or rejection. If you had a bad experience in the past while public speaking that alone can be enough to trigger glossophobia.

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THE THREE Ps OF PUBLIC SPEAKING

3 Ps of Public Speaking:
Prepare Practice Present
Prepare Practice Present
Speaking in public does not have to drive you to glossophobia. The reality is, being comfortable with public speaking automatically makes you stand out as an authority because of the fact that so many are afraid of doing it. When you’re good at public speaking, people look at you as if you have some kind of superpower. The secret is – there is no secret. Being a good public speaker comes down to knowing the principles. The three Ps of public speaking will set you up for success: prepare, practice, present.

Prepare

Learn how to Prepare, Practice, and Present in a wide range of Suasive programs to fit your needs: Virtual, In-Person, Train-the-Trainer.

When you agree to speak, do your homework. How large will your audience be? How long are you speaking? What type of presentation is expected? The more you know, the easier it will be to prepare.

Going into a public speaking situation blind is a recipe for disaster unless you’re a seasoned pro and have the rare ability to wing it. But even people who “wing it” aren’t really winging it. They’re relying on their experience and tools from all the times they didn’t wing it.

Before you speak, do your homework. How many people will you be speaking to? How long are you scheduled to speak? What type of presentation is expected? The more you know what you’re getting into the more at ease you’ll be.

Take the time to write and create your presentation long before you speak to a live audience. This gives you more time to practice, fine-tune, and reduce anxiety. Focusing on what your audience wants and needs is a good filter to use as you prepare.

Practice

Does practice really make perfect? When it comes to public speaking the answer is yes. The better you know what you’re going to talk about and how you’re going to deliver it the better your chances of hitting a home run. Don’t read from a script and don’t try to memorize everything word for word. Use an outline and note cards to help stay on track.

If you’re using a slide presentation you can use that to keep you focused on sequencing and what to emphasize.

On the day of your speech arrive early. If you’re running late you’re putting yourself into a stressful state when you should be relaxed. Arriving early lets you see where you’ll be speaking and get comfortable with the space.

Present

It’s showtime. You’ve prepared well and practiced until you know your presentation better than you know the alphabet. Just a few more tips to help you nail this one.

Now you’re ready to present. You’ve prepared, practiced, and now you deliver your presentation. One thing to keep in mind is your audience is always rooting for you. They are there to see you succeed. Many are just relieved you are up there and not them.

If your audience is highly reactive don’t make too much of it. People make weird faces all of the time. Don’t try to figure out why they’re doing whatever they’re doing.

Another pointer is to talk to one person in the audience at a time. Pick out one person, look at them directly and deliver your speech or presentation. You can move to different people as you progress but try just focusing on one person at a time. This will make you feel like you’re having a conversation and the audience will feel like you’re having a conversation with them.

Always keep your focus on your purpose and your audience. The more you think about them, the less time you have to think about yourself and any negative thoughts. The butterflies are just there to remind you that what you’re doing is important.

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Public Speaking Resources

In-depth coaching and tools
Five books in 14 languages by Suasive founder, Jerry Weissman, provide in-depth coaching and tools to perfect your Story, Slides, Delivery, and Q&A.
  1. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, Stephen Lucas first published his book The Art of Public Speaking in 1983. The McGraw Hill published book is now in its 13th edition. For years Lucas taught an introductory public speaking course at the University of Wisconsin.
  2. The other famous book with the same title was written and published by Dale Carnegie in 1915. Dale Carnegie is one of the most influential self-improvement/business writers of the 20th century.
  3. Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds gives the reader an inside look into the secrets that make TED talk speakers so successful. After analyzing hundreds of TED talks and interviewing the most successful TED presenters, Gallo distilled their best methods into nine public speaking steps.
  4. Toastmasters International grew out of a single club founded by Ralph C. Smedley in 1924. It originated as a set of classes with the goal of improving communication skills. Over the years Toastmasters has grown into an organization found in 145 countries with over 365,000 members. Toastmasters uses a local club-based structure, each having 30 to 40 members. Meetings are held weekly or every other week. Each meeting is based on a set of organized speeches. Speakers are given feedback, often by more experienced members. Toastmasters International places a big emphasis on building the public speaking and leadership skills of its members.
  5. TED talks are a great resource to watch best-in-class public speakers do their best work. If you want to get better at a skill, watching masters perform that skill is a great thing to add to your studies. TED has grown in popularity in recent years, and many cities now have local TED events. If you can find one near your home it would be worth attending in person so you can see how the audience reacts to a skilled public speaker.
  6. American Rhetoric has a lot of free speeches and information about public speaking. Their online speech bank has more than 5,000 speeches you can listen to for free. Listening to great public speakers can help you improve your own public speaking skills.