Why Learn Public Speaking?

By Lou Solomon

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Introduction

What will your message about change be when you speak to your teammates?

Great leaders of change know that you must start with the so-called “soft stuff.” The danger of learning technique without letting go is that it does not carry the heat of authentic expression. People will know.

We need you to make a connection — to your leadership — which is not an exact or impersonal science. You use what you have. And for many people, authenticity is the discovery that what they have is more than enough.

The world doesn’t need you to fit into anything but your own skin. What we need today is not only your deep knowledge but your experience, insights, and stories of what life has taught you.

How will you build trust and buy-in?



Why Learn Public Speaking?

I smile when someone says, “I don’t need public speaking in my job.”

Getting on your feet and speaking to a group of people is a practice in human expression that goes back more than 2500 years. It’s in our DNA, not our job description.

And no matter how much we advance in technology, the in-person human being is still the richest, most miraculous “media” we have. To promote understanding, we come with nonverbal and verbal cues, body language, microexpressions, inflection, nuance, and gestures.

Public speaking word map showing words related to public speakingWith this kind of ability, we should practice it and hone it! We practice everything else: sports, musical instruments, singing, dancing—and a thousand other things.


What is Public Speaking?

Is public speaking simply speaking in public? Easy answer, right? Kind of. The public can be large groups or a few people, and public speaking is about practical, genuine, authentic message delivery.

Public speaking is an essential skill that serves you and your audience in many different settings. It is a skill used in professional settings, such as giving a presentation to a group of people, and in personal interactions, such as making an important toast at your best friend’s wedding.

Public speaking can provide many benefits to an individual. These benefits can include developing self-confidence, increasing public awareness of a message, and developing new skills. Additionally, public speaking can lead to opportunities for networking and professional advancement.


Why Is Standing Important for Public Speaking?

Another objection I hear is, “I only meet with a few people at a time–and we’re seated. I don’t need to practice standing presentations.”

But the benefits of getting on your feet are more than meets the eye.

Muscle Memory. What you learn while standing on your feet you embrace at a physical level that transfers to a seated position. What you learn in a seated position does not translate into public speaking skills.

Electricity. Breathing deeply and pushing past the initial adrenaline rush to your message is exhilarating. It lights up your eyes and kicks in your power.

Vulnerability. Being seated, we can stay in our heads, “hide” behind furniture, and feel safe. The primitive brain resists exposing our torso to injury–the ego resists exposing our heart to judgment. When you stand, you become vulnerable, where greatness begins.

Gestures. When you stand, you access natural gesturing that helps to develop understanding. A purposeful motion, such as laying your hand on your heart, can happen without you thinking about it.

Differentiator. The people who self-select into our classes tend to be different. They are some of the most exciting people you’ll meet, and they have the willingness to put themselves on the line and stand in discomfort to know more about themselves and their connection to others.


Trusting in Your Abilities

Albert Mehrabian, UCLA Professor Emeritus of Psychology, studied the impact of non-verbal communication. In 1971 he released a groundbreaking study that found the impression and the impact of your overall communication is 7% words, 38% vocal tone and color, and 55% visual.

This does not mean that words are not important, and Mehrabian was not looking at the integrity of a lecture given to an audience of specialists. If you are called to lecture on quantum physics, you better know your subatomic particles.

Mehrabian wanted to know how we trust the sincerity of an individual. Do you say you are passionate about the organization’s mission?

We trust that’s true by seeing you speak publicly—by watching your expressions and gestures and hearing your vocal tone. We know the real thing when we see it.


Public Speaking Builds Your Confidence

Speaking to others can help build confidence in a variety of ways.

The first step to overcoming public speaking is to realize that it’s an essential skill. Feeling like you can do it makes it less daunting and more achievable. Additionally, public speaking can help you learn new skills.

Crowd listening to public speaking

For example, you might learn how to control your nervous emotions or use humor to make a presentation more engaging. The secret to not being anxious is to focus on the audience, not yourself.

If you know anything about financial icon Warren Buffet, you know that he regularly talks about the fact that developing the confidence to speak in public changed his life.

Buffett enjoys having town halls with grad students and answering their questions about succeeding in today’s financial world. At some point in the discussion, he encourages them to develop public speaking skills. He promises to increase their earning potential by 50 percent by staying a student in communication.

Many of our clients tell us that their experience in our classes was life-changing. They have discovered they are more powerful than they realized. Every time they speak, they gain more confidence as they see themselves as well-received.


Public Speaking Skills are Life Skills

In The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life, author Steven Pressfield tells a powerful tale of a man rediscovering his authenticity.

The man is Rannulph Junuh, once the pride of Savannah, Georgia, but now a hollow and deeply wounded survivor of World War I. A turning point comes with the advice of the mysterious titular caddy, Bagger Vance:

Inside each and every one of us is our one true authentic swing.
Something that’s ours and ours alone.
Something that can’t be learned, something that’s got to be remembered.

Public Speaking is another way to find one’s authentic “swing”–or voice, which is where we will have the most impact on the world.

The fear surrounding public speaking is not that different from the fear deep within the human psyche: the fear that we will fail to meet the standard, look bad in front of others, stumble in public, and be criticized as incompetent. But when we remember to be true to ourselves, we succeed in ways beyond our dreams.


How Do I Practice Authenticity in Public Speaking?

I practiced public speaking early in my career by going over my notes a hundred times. I memorized as much as I could, including structured sentences. My focus on getting my words right kept me locked inside my head and disconnected from the audience.

Authentic speaking requires you to practice your talk in your own words and your own style. Here are some suggested steps to show up authentically.

Keep it simple.

Identify your main purpose and the 3 to 4 key messages or focus areas to support it. Try not to fall into thinking a complicated talk makes you look smart. We will remember what it feels like to be with you and your generosity.

Keep it short.

We are more likely to hear what you say if you say it briefly. One of the reasons TED talks are so listenable is their length: 18 minutes. Early on, the folks at TED found that given 18-minutes, speakers who are used to lecturing for 45 minutes have to think about what they want to say to bring it down to 18 minutes.

Share your experience.

Trust yourself to use your own words and speak to the information, rather than giving us impersonal information. Here are some prompts to help you do that:

  • What is interesting to me is…
  • For example…
  • Throughout my career, I’ve seen a trend…
  • Historically, the industry has seen…
  • The real story behind these numbers is…

Have a conversation.

Have a conversation with a friend or teammate out loud, on your feet. Talk about your focus areas. You can keep it casual, the important thing you are practicing is actually speaking out loud.

Record yourself.

When you’re ready, record yourself on audio via your smartphone. You’ll hear redundancies, bland business-speak, and where you don’t sound like yourself. Shorten, tighten, and re-record.

When you’re happy with the audio, videotape yourself, and more will be revealed, such as body language signals that don’t match the message.

Rethink PowerPoint.

If your slides look like eye charts, you will fall short of an engaging presentation — every time. Notice what influential speakers do with just a few slides. They use images to deepen the meaning of their message.

empty podium used for public speakingKnow your audience.

Your #1 goal is to provide value to the audience. Talk with influencers within the group to understand whom you’re talking to—and what they need from you. Knowing the issues that concern your listeners will relax you, and it will feel as though you’ve met them.


Just Breathe: Public Speaking Relaxation Tips

Public speaking can be stressful for many. A few things you can do to relax when you are in the moment are:

  • Breathe deeply and slowly
  • Count to 10
  • Picture yourself in a relaxing place
  • Imagine yourself speaking in your natural voice

Try to visualize what you want to say, and deep breathing can help you relax your body and mind. It enables you to focus on the present moment and clear your mind.

When we breathe, our muscles relax. We can breathe from the diaphragm or keep our breathing steady without worrying about how deep our breath goes.

Inhale and exhale through your mouth and nose.


What Is Spontaneous Public Speaking?

Spontaneous public speaking is a form of speaking that is not air-tight and planned in advance. Spontaneous moments within a presentation allow for a more genuine connection with the audience.

It takes confidence. Spontaneous public speaking occurs in any setting when you have to give a speech or presentation in the present moment without having scripted or prepared every part. You have not memorized the content so much that you can’t “free-wheel” with a story or example here and there.

When you don’t know the answer to a question, and you need to tell the audience what you do know, you are speaking spontaneously.

In our class, “Your Authentic Speaking Style™,” we practice spontaneous public speaking. Participants are unscripted and have an opportunity to develop their thoughts into words.

In spontaneous moments, our authenticity surprises us. It’s as though we’ve stopped for the first time in a while and allowed ourselves to feel how much we care about our world.

Let yourself feel the energy and passion you have for your topic. You will forget about yourself and focus on the audience.


Take Leaps

Ultimately, you must make a courageous decision to leap out of your limitations—and be yourself. Take a chance.

A bit of advice to a young Native American at the time of his initiation:

As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm.

Jump.

It’s not as far as you think. – Joseph Campbell

Take the leap and sign up for one of our upcoming “Your Authentic Speaking Style™” courses today. You will learn to find your voice, tell your stories and amplify your presence. We invite you to jumpstart your public speaking journey:



Conclusion

Be a generous person and focus on providing value. The audience will know it. Whether you run meetings, give seminars, make presentations, or have high-stakes conversations, making a meaningful human connection is what it’s all about. If you face a moment in the spotlight, don’t settle for an unremarkable, mediocre talk. Put your heart into it.

Reach out or sign up for our monthly open enrollment Your Authentic Speaking Style™ courses today.


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