Public speaking is a vital skill necessary to function successfully in today’s world, and its essence increases even as people move higher in the social hierarchy. Essential skills are needed in the preparation and presentation of effective public speeches.
Benefits of Studying Public Speaking
Public speaking abilities are improved producing a more accomplished and refined public speech. This is achieved through exposure, experience with different audiences, feedback on progress, and individual learning. Competence and confidence are developed as a result of public speaking. Among things learned are effective listening, empathy with a tint of discrimination, persuasive appeal, critical thinking, and open-mindedness.
Studying public speaking confers the advantage of improved personal and social competence. The speakers know how to manage their fears, be more confident in presenting their ideas, and use power to influence others’ behavior or thinking. All these factors are marketable to many employers.
As a result of public speaking, an individual can learn academic and career skills. Speakers are able to conduct researches, analysis, and evaluation, understand human motivation, apply appropriate criticism, communication competence, character and charisma to make them believable. These skills help speakers in their day to day life.
Essential Elements of Public Speaking
There is some interdependent interplay of elements in the public speaking process. Speech organization is dependent on a variety of factors like the topic, type of audience, host, and purpose. The essential elements are as follows.
Speakers are the deliverers of the message. Unlike in conversations, speakers are the center of the process in public speaking. The role of the speaker can be to inform, influence or at times represent a brand.
The audience is the listeners. The first is the immediate audience who directly listens to your speech. The second is the remote audience who gets the material reading reviews or narrations. Recognizing the existence of both audiences is crucial in understanding the influence of speech. Knowing their audience gives the speakers the upper hand. When the audience is new to a speaker, time should be taken to analyze what they know and their attitudes, to understand their needs and adjust messages to suit them. Involving the audience is also important for the process, they can offer constructive criticism.
Messages should serve a purpose for a speaker. It needs organization for clarity purposes. Research has to be done beforehand, and the presentation should be spot-on with tonal variations and gestures.
Noise is any distortion that is useless, or the speaker would not want. Noise distracts the speaker, therefore, it should be avoided at all costs. It forces the speaker to alter the delivery of their speech like volume because it interferes with audibility.
Channel is the means used to transfer the message from a sender to a recipient. It has both an auditory and visual component. Through auditory channel, the spoken word is sent. The visual channel encompasses body language, gestures, and even clothing. Advancements in technology try to replace face-face interaction elements as much as possible.
Cultures vary in audiences, and the speaker must learn to understand their audience’s cultural background. Principles of communication and persuasive appeal differ from culture to culture, and the speech needs to be tailored to fit the audience.
Ethics is also essential. Speeches influence an audience, hence, the speaker has a moral obligation to fulfill that duty. In developing their topic, presenting research, and persuasive appeal speakers have to consider the moral implications on their audience.
Communication apprehension refers to the fear of public speaking. Fear is normal in public speaking and can be managed to work for the speaker rather than against them. In public speaking, the speaker becomes the center of attention, people evaluate their performance, therefore, anxiety is a natural reaction. There are two natures of communication apprehension. The first is trait and state apprehension. Trait apprehension is shown in all manners of communication, from conversations to public speaking. People with high trait apprehension find themselves more in embarrassing situations (Withers and Venom). State apprehension occurs in some situations like public speaking but not conversations. Communication apprehension exists on a continuum, with some people experiencing more apprehension than others. Those who are unfortunate to have extreme communication apprehension cannot speak properly when they are needed to communicate. They will therefore avoid such a situation. Fear of public speaking can be measured using James McCroskey’s personal report of communication apprehension (Richmond and James)
Apprehension can be managed through a combination of techniques. The first is reducing nervousness through gaining experience by much exposure until the feelings of accomplishments outweigh the anxiety. The second is by reducing self-focus thinking of the speech using an enlarged conversation or visualizing the speaker’s audience as small groups. The third is by decreasing perceived lack of points of shared identity with the audience especially in the event that the speaker and the audience are of different cultures. Identifying with the audience boosts confidence. The fourth is by reducing the fear of failure through preparing and practice lessening failure possibility and communication apprehension. The fifth method of reducing apprehension is through alleviating anxiety by use of a visual aid that draws attention away from the speaker. Alternatively, the speaker can pace around the stage. The sixth is by avoiding the use of chemicals not prescribed to relieve tension. Drugs should only be used under a physician’s instructions. Finally, it is important to restructure your thinking. Cognitive restructuring involves a general idea that what the speakers think about a situation influences how they react to it. It is effectively reduces fear.
DeVito, Joseph A. The essential elements of public speaking. Allyn & Bacon, 2005.
Withers, Lesley A., and Vernon, Laura L. To err is human: Embarrassment, attachment, and communication apprehension. Personality and individual differences 40.1 (2006)
Richmond, Virginia P., and McCroskey, James C. Communication: Aprehension, avoidance and effectiveness. Pearson College Division, 1997.