Over 2,500 years ago, a well known public speaker rose to his feet in the Greek Forum and said “One who forms a judgment on any point but cannot explain it, might as well never have thought at all on the subject.” (Pericles quoted in ‘Elements of Rhetoric’ Richard Whately, London 1849 p10)
The only way to bring ideas, opinions and judgement into the public realm is to communicate them; but the only way to create a change in someone else’s thinking is to communicate them personally – to speak about them.
Spreading ideas is the start of influencing people, and in many instances encouraging them to change. It was the speeches by Wilberforce to the British Parliament that brought about a change of opinion on the slave trade and its ultimate abolishment.
It was the exhortations from the platform by the likes of Susan B. Anthony and Emily Pankhurst that broke the stranglehold on the franchise and let women into the political process.
Well, of course, you may say, that is all well and good, but I have no intention of going out and changing the world, so why should I bother about improving my public speaking?
What if I were to tell you that I bet you will be faced with giving a public account of your ideas, your opinions, or even of your actions within the next ten days … would you believe me?
You should; because research has shown you are going to spend about 30% of your daily working life talking to other people; and further, the ability to communicate effectively is so important that job selection can often depend on the applicant’s personal skill
And it doesn’t matter what career you follow, public speaking – or communicating your ideas to a group of people – is going to haunt you whether you like it or not.
Business Guru Midge Constanza put it this way:
[You must] “… have the ability to stand on your feet, either on a one-to-one basis or before a group, and make a presentation that is convincing and believable.” – “Address for Success”, Nations Business – Feb 1991
That 30% of your working life that you spend in talking to other people will probably be in communication designed to Inform, Instruct or Inspire – or even all three at once! And, as Constanza realised, that communication needs to be convincing and believable to be effective.
But – I have been talking since … since I was a toddler! Why do I need to learn about Public Speaking? I speak in public to my friends, my family and even to strangers – I communicate fine, thank you!!
Well, not necessarily. It depends on what your communication is designed to do; and we can communicate to build relationships or to achieve a required business outcome. And the both are not mutually compatible.
Just think about communicating around the dining table at a family get-together. You know that Uncle Joe’s political ideas are directly opposed to yours; would you then choose this time to engage in a political debate? You might; but you would make a lot of people feel uncomfortable, and you might lose the friendship of a well-loved uncle. So perhaps it is better not to introduce the subject of politics at this gathering. (Deliberately avoiding the topic)
And what about your Cousin Ruby? Wasn’t it her you saw staggering out the night club at 2am? Do you really want to bring that up here, in front of her parents and her grandparents?? Perhaps another time! (Withholding information)
OK; so your new partner is feeling a little nervous at meeting your family for the first time and asks you if they look all right, you personally think the colour doesn’t really suit them … are you game enough to say so? I bet you say ‘You look fine dear’ If not, then good luck with that one! (Deliberately lying)
As you can see you need a specific type of communication to achieve the desired outcome whether it be conversation for relationship building or the more structured style of business communication which will achieve your goal to be convincing and believable.
Public Speaking is not difficult if you know the reasons for standing up in the first place. It need not be the most terrifying thing after death and taxes, if you know how to turn that nervous adrenalin into positive energy: and it need not be a career hazard if you find out how to structure your ideas and deliver them with passion.
‘Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense”. (Ralph Waldo Emerson in Letters and Social Aims)
There is an old English proverb that says ‘talk is cheap’ – perhaps we should turn that around to say that “ineffective talk is expensive” because business needs effective communication.
Speaking in public offers you three main ways to make a difference; that is, to inspire people to change their ideas and actions; to instruct people on better ways to do things; and to inform them of things they did not know. Speech is power; and effective public speaking is indeed powerful.
It maybe that we can help you improve yours.
Michele @ Trischel