Public speaking is the process or act of giving a speech to an audience. It is generally understood as a formal, face-to-face act in front of an audience in which one person addresses a group of listeners. Traditionally, the art of rhetoric was part of the art of persuasion. Public speaking can be employed to achieve special purposes, such as informing, persuading and entertaining. Different styles, methods and rules can also be used depending on the context of the discourse.
Public speaking is an art that is concerned with persuading people and astonishing them, either by speaking or writing. Public speaking can also be defined as everything that includes speech or writing that is skilful to immerse the conscience of the listener and when it is said to address people and in them and upon them.
As for the speech, it is an exaggerated form and indicates the person who gives speeches or preaches a lot, addressing and communicating to reach out to their audience. There are many definitions of public speaking. The oldest is the definition of Aristotle, who defines it as a power that involves persuading people as much as possible in all kinds of matters. Public speaking is a type of conversation closely related to the audience that hears it and is affected by it.
Therefore, one of the most complete and comprehensive definitions of public speaking is the art of addressing audiences to influence and win over them. It is an art mainly based on speaking orally with listeners to persuade them and their acceptance of what is said.
Thus, it can be said that one of the basics of oral rhetoric is the presence of a listening audience, and the elements of persuasion and the audience must be present. The public speaker must clarify their opinion to the public and convince them of it, just as they must present evidence that proves what they say.
As for convincing, it is intended to calm the listeners or arouse them towards what is said. The speaker must take control of every detail and be able to act on the listeners’ emotions as they please. The art of public speaking is the act that involves the practice of rhetoric itself.
Signs of public speaking have begun in Rome, Greece and Latin America. The prominent thinkers of these countries influenced the development of rhetoric and its history. Today, technology continues to advance the art of public speaking through newly available technology such as video conferencing, multimedia presentations, and other non-traditional forms.
How old is public speaking?
Public speaking is one of the means of expression that man has used in his life since ancient times. Human beings are created with an innate willingness to express their opinion and convince others of them. Many sermons were also found in the writings of the Assyrians and the hieroglyphic antiquities of the Egyptians. The history of rhetoric can be summarised as follows:
Public speaking in the Greek era
The Greeks were interested in rhetoric, and the most important one who studied it was Aristotle, the leader of the Greek philosophers. The Greeks divided rhetoric into three sections: judicial, advisory and inferential. Public speaking was mentioned in the 10th century BCE in Homer’s Iliad and on the tongues of gods and heroes.
It further developed in the late 5th century BCE during the reign of Pericles, the leader of Athens, then several orators appeared, including Isocrates and Demosthenes, who was Athens a weak and faint-voiced man, but when he decided that becomes a preacher who began to improve his voice and strengthen his throat by shouting from the top of the mountains, and it is worth noting that he became one of the important preachers of his time.
Public speaking was codified in Greece in the late 5th century and the beginning of the fourth century BC, and among those who wrote it were Prodicus, Protagoras and Gorgias. From its appearance in Greece due to their preoccupation with wars.
Public speaking in the Roman era
The orator Cato was one of the famous orators among the Romans, known as the critics, and Julius Caesar, the leader of the Romans, was also a famous orator. After him, Cicero became famous in front of Latin rhetoric, as many Roman orators appeared from the bishops and priests, especially after the advent of Christ.
Public Speaking Types
There are many types of public speaking, including:
- Religious speeches: sermons that are pertaining to the clergy.
- Judicial speeches: These include pleadings, accusations and allegations, and their source is often from lawyers.
- Military speeches: These are often delivered by heads of military regimes and commanders of armies.
- Debate speeches: which include boasting and dissonance.
- Political Speeches: Speeches delivered by leaders and politicians.
- Scientific speeches: which include scientific matters and debates.
Etiquette and qualities of public speakers
Public speakers must possess several etiquettes and qualities that they must employ in their speeches in order to win the hearts of the listeners and persuade them to correct their opinion. It can convey information, tell a story, and motivate or encourage people to take a particular action.
These purposes are summarised in three general purposes: informing, persuading, and entertaining. Knowing when public discourse is most effective and how to do it right is key to understanding its importance.
Professionals often draft or give speeches on business and commercial events. These speakers can also be contracted independently by communicating with a speakers’ office or other means. Public discourse plays a massive role in the professional world. It is believed that 70 per cent of all jobs involve some sort of public speaking.
Among these qualities and etiquette are:
- The ability to woo people in order to win them over and convince them, and to be dignified, honest, truthful, high-spirited and loyal so that people accept to hear the preacher and be convinced of his words.
- Fluency and the ability to speak gracefully without muttering or sulking.
- Avoid gossip and unnecessary talk.
- Sound opinion and the ability to distinguish things and solve problems.
- Good biography, with an honest tone in speech, integrity and sincerity in deeds.
- Quick intuition and the ability to keep pace in talking and reconciling matters.
- Examination of various matters related to religion and the world, the breadth of knowledge and its ramifications, and knowledge of sciences.
- A fit body, wearing appropriate clothes and paying attention to appearance.
- The ability to stir up the feelings and emotions of others and win over their hearts with what they say and preach.
- Good, comfortable and enjoyable voice for listeners.
- Dare to speak and not be shy or weak-hearted.
- Intelligence, discernment and common sense.
What is the importance of public speaking skills?
The importance of public speaking and public speaking skills is represented in the following points:
- Demonstrating the extent of the speaker’s knowledge: You will be at your best if you can communicate your ideas to others clearly and effectively. This is exactly what strong public speaking skills enable you to do. After all, the degree of your actual knowledge and culture is measured by your ability to show and pass it on to others.
- Showing the speaker’s self-confidence: Strong public speaking skills not only enable you to show your knowledge but are also a reflection of your self-confidence, as a confident person is always able to speak in front of others without fear or hesitation. Unlike the person who lacks sufficient self-confidence, as you always find him nervous and stuttering in his speech.
- Enhancing leadership: The more advanced you are in your career, the more people you have to manage, and therefore the greater your need for solid public speaking skills that enable you to communicate with them, motivate them and distribute tasks to them. The more you develop your oratory skills, the greater the chance to be a successful leader.
How to improve your public speaking skills?
Here are some practical tips to enhance your public speaking skills. If you find yourself tense and frustrated every time you are asked to deliver a specific speech or speak in front of a group of people, then you undoubtedly need to enhance your skills in this field, and here are some practical and straightforward ways to help you do that:
1. Increase your presence
Speakers with strong oratory skills are:
Confidence comes from choosing a topic you care about and researching it well. At the same time, showing friendliness by smiling at the audience during the speech. Enthusiasm and vitality come naturally when you enjoy your subject and prepare well.
If you feel your presence needs to be stronger, you can watch videos of your favourite speakers and then imitate their delivery style. As the English proverb says: “Fake it until you make it”, that is, pretend to be confident and assertive in presence until it becomes a reality with time.
2. Control your voice
Your voice is an essential tool when speaking in front of an audience. You can improve the quality of your voice by doing breathing exercises. Lie on the floor, put your hand on your stomach, and then inhale for a count of ten. Repeat the same thing when exhaling, making sure to make the belly rise up and down with every inhale and exhale. Be sure to apply this process during your speech as well.
3. Do not neglect eye contact
Numerous studies have shown that people who look into the eyes of their interlocutor during a conversation are more likely to be described as honest, competent, trustworthy, and emotionally stable. Not only does eye contact make you look more attractive, but it also improves the quality of communication and makes the other party feel a hidden connection between you.
However, it must be noted that despite the importance of eye contact in creating intimate bonds between friends, it may backfire if you try to convince someone who doubts your point of view.
4. Focus on now
The power of presence begins in your mind, so if you feel like your mind is busy with something while you’re talking to someone, try this simple exercise that will help you get back to the present moment: Focus on the physical senses that you often ignore, this could be your breathing, or the feeling of your feet touching the ground, or the feel of your coat pocket touching your hands, etc. You can spend less time on this type of meditation. Just a few seconds are enough to bring you back to the present moment you share with a specific person.
5. Make sure to be comfortable.
It is hard to be completely present with your interlocutor if you are thinking about your tight pants, your shoes that hurt your feet, or you are preoccupied with the heat! So always make sure you do everything you can to be comfortable. Choose the clothes that suit you, because in addition to being a way to look better, choosing the right clothes contributes to making you feel better.
Other factors that make you feel good include getting enough sleep, reducing caffeine consumption and adjusting the temperature around you (if possible) to an ideal temperature that feels good.
6. Pay attention to body language
Always pay special attention to your body language, words are not the only way to communicate a particular piece of information, and to ensure the use of appropriate body language, adhere to the following:
- Train yourself to stand up straight and in a comfortable position.
- Keep your hands at your sides or extend them out in front of you unless you use gestures to emphasise a point in your speech.
- Always consider your facial expressions and ensure they match your words.
- If you are telling a sad story, of course, it is not logical to smile or laugh during the conversation, and different life situations are based on that.
- Always try to practice in front of a mirror to become more aware of your facial expressions while giving the speech.
7. Deliver your message well
When thinking about public speaking skills, the first thing that comes to mind is delivering the desired message to the listeners correctly and clearly. A loud voice and perfect body language are only helpful if your audience can understand what you have to say. Until you develop this aspect of your public speaking skills, try the following:
- Speak slowly and stoically, and do not be surprised if you feel too slow, as this is a sign that you are using the appropriate speed.
- Take a few seconds as breaks between ideas as you come up to give your audience a chance to absorb what you have said.
- Avoid using filler sounds such as: “Ummm”, “Aaah”, and any form of stuttering or stuttering.
- Manipulate the intonation and pitch of your voice based on the content of your speech, so you keep listeners from getting bored with your monotone.
8. Build a good relationship with your audience
Good speakers are often on good terms with their audience, a relationship that may be established just a few seconds before the speech begins as these speakers understand that public speaking skills are not just about standing in front of a group of people and talking to them. In order to create a positive connection with your audience, do the following:
- Welcome your audience as soon as you stand on the stage and wait until everyone turns their eyes on you to start speaking.
- Connect with your audience by asking them questions or hearing their comments about your speech.
- Get to know some of the audience and chat with them before you give your speech.
9. Compliment your audience sincerely
Perhaps true, sincere praise is the nicest thing you can give someone; it shows how much you value them and that you took the time to notice the little details about them. It creates good feelings in others, and then they will associate those feelings with you. So do not hesitate to tell someone what you like about them, be honest and stay away from exaggerated courtesy and flattery.
10. Listen to your inner voice
Here we mean your cheerful inner voice, as research has shown that positive self-talk significantly reduces stress and fear in various situations. But how do you do that?
Well, all you have to do is try to see your fears in a different, positive way. For example, you can say to yourself:
- Fear of public speaking is expected.
- Many fear that the audience will be bored or that they will make themselves laughable, and it is not just me.
- Even if the worst should happen to me, and I fail to give a good speech, the audience will probably sympathise with me, and it will not be the end of my life.
Whatever the level of your oratory skills at present, and no matter how introverted you are who is afraid to stand in front of crowds of people and speak to them, trust that you can enhance your oratory skills with continuous training and exercise, and this is precisely what distinguishes skill from talent, as the first is acquired and can be developed, and the second is mostly innate.