When I tell people I meet that I’ve taught public speaking for more than two decades, I get invited to lead seminars or guest lecture in classes. Tomorrow night I’ll be speaking to an engineering class at Penn State. I consider my first job when I stand up is to convince the students that this is really important and that their futures may depend on how well they speak. I also tell them how lucky they are because the technology we have to learn to speak effectively is better than ever! Here’s a little sneak preview of my talk for tomorrow night:
Learning to speak effectively in public is not a fad. Since 776 BC when Greek orators espoused the virtues of the first Olympic Games, people the world over have recognized the value of effective public speech. There are many great reasons why public speaking is a requirement at most colleges and universities across the United States and around the world. What is new about public speaking is that more than ever public speaking may be an electronic event. The likelihood that your speech will be recorded and perhaps shared with the world, or that you will be giving your speech online, is greater than ever. Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for President Reagan was right when she wrote that “everyone will be on TV.” It may not be a major network, but YouTube and other Internet technologies have brought “being on TV” to all of us.
So why push yourself to get good at speaking in public?
Speaking effectively opens up opportunities for leadership and it creates career opportunities unavailable to those who simply can’t speak well. Being an effective communicator increases a lifetime of success in any field you choose. In addition, effective public speaking will help you contribute to your community.
Think about the many professors you’ve had. The most intelligent professor is only as good as how well he or she can communicate knowledge. What good will all your education and training be, if you cannot communicate it effectively?
Ellen DeGeneres, Barack Obama, Tina Fey and Ryan Seacrest are all good public speakers. Their careers have skyrocketed, at least in part, by their ability to think well on their feet. You might be thinking: “That’s great for them, but I don’t think I will become a national talk show host or President of the United States, therefore practicing public speaking is not a priority for me.”
Public speaking effectiveness is so valuable that, even just a quick glance at job openings on a Web site such as Monster.com, illustrates most positions contain “effective communication” or some other phrase indicating that the applicant must possess communication skills. You will need to call upon public speaking skills to become more effective personally, professionally, and in your community.
And thanks to some of the new technologies like being able to record yourself practicing on your iphone and the One Button Studio at Paterno Pattee Library and many Penn State campuses, the ability to practice your speech and to see yourself as others do, the wish that Demosthenes, could only imagine, is here for us to use to full advantage.
Some get ready actions:
Unlike a conversation that may spontaneously happen, most public speeches are planned in advance. Great speakers must assess the situation. To adapt to the situation, good speakers ask themselves:
Why is there a speech?
What is the environment of the speech?
Where will the speech be given?
Is there the availability and need of a microphone? What kind of mic?
Will the speech be televised? (sometimes people sneak a recording on their phone and voila — you are a YouTube star) –so be prepared!
Will there be a stage and/or a podium?
Whether you are a student in college or a seasoned pro, invest in yourself, your future, your community and the world by continuing to improve your public speaking. Who knows where it will take you or where your speech will be taken!
Speak Up and Speak Well!