The Importance of Public Speaking

Public speaking is one of the most important, and yet, also one of the most dreaded forms of communication for our students. It is a common sight for students to evade teachers’ questions, or be hesitant about making enquiries that might facilitate their learning. With consistent practice, however, public speaking can cease to be an activity that is daunting.

Why should we hone our public speaking skills? The benefits to having good communication skills are innumerable; we are able to forge meaningful connections with other people, influence decisions and motivate social change. 

Below are five key benefits of effective communication:

1) Conveys knowledge. Public speaking ability bears much relevance to our transition to the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. With the emergence of trans-disciplinary fields, the knowledge economy has become ever more dependent on information sharing and collaboration. We need to convey and share knowledge with others, and the ability to clearly articulate our thoughts means the ability to demonstrate and share our knowledge.

2) Develops and shows confidence. Think Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ellen DeGeneres, or Bill Clinton. People tend to gravitate toward confidence, and one aspect of the appeal of these charismatic speakers stems from their unshakeable confidence. We will perhaps do well to remember that confidence is not an inherent trait, but a product of seasoned practice. Practising public speaking helps us to command others’ attention at school and at the workplace. More importantly, it helps us cultivate a more confident and enduring persona that will have a ripple effect on our lives.

3) Motivate others. David Foster Wallace, in a commencement speech at Kenyon College titled “This is Water”, opens his speech with a short story where two fish are so indifferent to their environment that they ask what water is. His speech was an impassioned reminder of the importance of maintaining perspective as we go through life. Good public speakers build rapport with their audiences and inspire us to action, showing how public speaking can be an important motivational tool. Having good public speaking skills means we are able to motivate others, which allows us to rally them to our message and goals.

4) Increases enquiry and knowledge. One lesser known technique to facilitate learning may be to adopt a shift of our own perspective from student to teacher. Have you found that preparing for a presentation requires you to be more familiar with the subject matter itself? We are forced to ask questions about the subject matter in order to field questions should they arise. The process of preparing for public speaking thus facilitates our own learning. It encourages a deeper understanding of key concepts so that we can communicate them effectively.

5) Differentiates you from your peers. We have all had encounters with people who stand out from the crowd. If we recall these instances, it is likely that those who made a strong impression were effective communicators. Good public speaking skills enable us to communicate or deliver material effectively, which is key to making a good first impression. The ability to make an impression prevents us from being cookie-cutter, giving us an edge over other people.