One thing common between politicians, environmentalists, and business tycoons is that they are all public speakers who have used their public speaking skills to sell either their mottos, opinions, or products to the people at large. So essentially, these public speakers affect society, either directly or indirectly.
Traditionally, Public speaking was believed to be an act wherein a speaker or speakers present a topic or idea in front of a live audience. However, with changing times and the wider penetration of technology in our lives, public speaking is no longer restricted to a live audience.
This is evident in the number of TED Talks we see on YouTube or political campaigns we revisit on Facebook. Public speaking thus covers every individual on this planet who has access to the internet.
This makes it essential to both, understand the importance of public speaking and the importance of being a good public speaker.
What is the importance of speaking?
Speaking is a very wide concept. It includes sharing ideas, thoughts, opinions, debating, narrating, teaching, and more. But the idea behind any sort of speaking is to communicate.
Public speaking is also one of the ways a speaker tries to communicate with his or her audience.
A few reasons why speaking to others is important is because,
1. Increases your confidence
Do you recall your first day of college or job? Probably you were very anxious to interact with an entirely different and strange set of people in an unfamiliar setting. But eventually after interacting with a couple of people, you might have gained a little more confidence in your ability to easily make conversation with others.
The same holds true about public speaking or speaking in general. The more you engage in speaking, the more you get used to it, and the more easily you’ll be able to convey your messages effectively.
It also helps get over your fear of public speaking in front of a large audience.
2. Enhances Vocabulary and language
Speaking helps in using words beyond the usual 20,000 active words that an average person is well aware of. Speaking, especially interacting with others may introduce us to new words or phrases casually spoken by other individuals thus adding to your list of vocabulary known.
The more you speak, the more you realize the language that your audience prefers. Thus, it also helps you reach the audience more effectively.
3. Enhances social connections
Why do we even speak? To interact with others, right?
Speaking or public speaking helps us to not only talk about our topic but also to receive feedback or the audience’s point of view on the same thing, understand their interests, and eventually form social connections. It is also a great tool to network with people and further add to your list of connections.
4. Broadens one’s understanding
As we speak to a greater number of people, we are more likely to be exposed to a plethora of different perspectives and opinions on the same topic. So, speaking helps you consider all these different perspectives and frame your understanding accordingly.
Why is it important to be a good speaker?
In this fast-changing world, where we expect AI to take over a large chunk of our jobs, one skill that doesn’t go out of trend is your speaking skills or communication skills.
Thus, being a good speaker is important not only for personal reasons but also for professional ones.
This also answers our question,
Why does public speaking matter today?
Personal reasons why public speaking is important.
As we have already seen, being a good speaker would mean you’ll have to get rid of your crippling anxiety when it comes to public speaking. Thus, being a good speaker increases your overall confidence, enhances your social connections, and also helps you work on your vocabulary and language.
Professional reasons why public speaking is important
Public speaking is your opportunity to bring something unique to the table.
You might have an amazing idea about marketing a product of your organization and if you can convey it effectively to your team, chances are that your seniors will take note of the idea. Even if your idea doesn’t make it to the final cut, they would have heard and noticed you, both of which can help you progress in your career in some way or the other.
It thus, helps you stand out and work effectively in a team.
Now if you are a leader, you might have the following question in your mind right now.
Why is public speaking important for leaders?
Being a leader, confidently conveying your ideas and vision to the employees or subordinates is very essential.
If you lead a team but lack effective public speaking skills, that could result in a poorly motivated team, inefficient results, and juniors who don’t look up to you. And who would want that, right?
So public speaking skills are crucial for any effective leader for the following reasons:
- To effectively convey your opinions or ideas on an issue
- To listen to everyone’s point of view and make a decision accordingly
- To motivate the team and appreciate them as and when required
Why public speaking is important for students?
As we have understood, the demand for good public speakers is very high. Schools and colleges have also understood this and now try to teach their students how to develop good public speaking skills that can be very helpful to them in their future career growth.
Other reasons why public speaking is important for students:
1. Increases their knowledge
We often see that in schools or colleges, public speaking would involve giving a summary of your assignments or giving presentations on a new topic. All of this requires the students to study the topic precisely, thus adding to their existing knowledge.
2. Instils confidence
As discussed, once you can present or talk in front of your class of 60 students, it would make you feel a little more confident in your public speaking skills than you were before.
It would also encourage the students to participate in more such public speaking events and refine their skills.
3. Gives them enough practice
If students are exposed to public speaking activities since school, it gives them enough time to learn, practice, and enhance their public speaking skills. This would help as the students can then make use of these years of practicing public speaking while applying for jobs and in their workplace.
Every day we speak and interact with several people, be it on a bus, at college, in a business meeting, or even with our family at home. If we have been speaking and interacting every day, doesn’t that make all of us good speakers?
It takes something more than the mere ability to speak to be a good speaker.
A good speaker has the following traits that differentiate them from others:
1. Ability to communicate effectively
Effective communication is when the other person can understand exactly what you are trying to say. When there is some misunderstanding or gaps in understanding on the listener’s end, it is something that the speaker needs to work on and not the listeners.
As ineffective communication is often the result of poor delivery or improper structuring of your speech.
2. Ability to listen carefully
Communication and speaking are not just about talking for hours at an end. It also involves listening to others’ opinions and considering that.
3. Respecting others
When we say that a good speaker respects others, that includes respecting their ideas, time, and background.
A good speaker isn’t someone who tries to enforce their opinion on others. Nor are they someone who make jokes or comments about things that would hurt anyone.
A good public speaker understands the importance of everyone’s time and tries to structure their speech or presentation in a way to effectively communicate their ideas without wasting a lot of their audience’s time.
4. Having substantial knowledge
A good speaker is someone who has substantial knowledge about what he or she is speaking. They do not just talk about something based on hearsay or assumptions but talk about research-backed ideas and opinions.
Why is Public speaking important to society?
1. To motivate
Society requires good public speakers who can motivate people to do something or avoid doing something. Examples of this could be to motivate people to follow traffic rules or to avoid littering.
Therefore, public speakers carry with them the ability to inspire people to take some actions that would help in the effective working of society.
2. To inform
Public speaking is the most convenient tool to easily reach a large audience, at times it can be used to inform the public of some decisions taken by higher authorities or the government.
An epic example of this was the 2016 Indian banknote demonetization wherein Narendra Modi, PM of India declared a ban on all the 500 and 1000 rupee bank notes by addressing the people through the media.
Another fabulous example of how public speaking was used to inform the public in society was the initial news of the spread of coronavirus which later turned into a pandemic.
3. To persuade
The idea of persuasion is to win over the crowd. Public speakers affect society by trying to accomplish this primary goal of winning over the crowd by effectively delivering their message.
It is a very common practice followed by politicians, and big brands while launching new products.
How do public speakers affect society?
Try to think of any public speaker right now and see how they impacted you. They could be a motivational speaker or a business mogul or even a politician or a celebrity. You might realize that they come to stage with a purpose in mind; A takeaway, that they want the audience to go home with and ponder upon.
The takeaway was probably so impactful, you were able to recall that person at this very moment.
A few instances of how public speakers with powerful takeaways affect society have been given below:
1. Bringing people together
Public speakers have great skills in moving people and influencing their decisions. One of the ways some public speakers have made use of their amazing public speaking skills was to fight injustice and bring people together.
They all have their unique style of conveying the core message through their speech, but it was their selection of words that made the most impact on the crowd. Some of their famous sayings are still remembered by people all around the world.
The most influential public speakers who brought people together include Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
When we take a look at the famous speech by Nelson Mandela, we see his passion for the cause of social equality and political rights for South Africans.
This is evident when he says,
He was a great storyteller who instilled hope in people and kept them motivated. Ironically Mandela believed he wasn’t a good public speaker!
Mahatma Gandhi, also known as the father of India brought the people of India together to peacefully fight the Britishers out of the country.
The thing about Mahatma Gandhi was that he had a very gentle tone and the ability to relate to the common men of India. He further made sure to use language that was easy to understand for all, using Hindi words at times when necessary.
He spoke with a defined purpose in his mind, thus enabling him to target millions of Indians and encouraged them to be a part of one of the biggest non-violent movements in history.
2. Drives change
Public speakers affect society by encouraging people to change or adopt new and more evolved alternatives, be it technological or conceptual. An example of such an instance wherein the public speaker affected society by driving them to change is that of Steve Jobs
Driving the most popular technological revolution, steve jobs was an absolutely amazing public speaker with his on-point presentation skills that attracted an audience from all around the world. His pitch included innovative use of his new products.
His most famous presentation of the iPhone is worth noting. He clearly presents to his audience why the new iPhone is better than the rest of the buttoned phones.
The effectiveness can be seen in the popularity of Apple products being used even today.
Public speakers who affect society by driving conceptual change include speakers like Bill Gates on avoiding another pandemic and Lauren Singer on living a zero waste life.
3. Making a decision
We are all aware of how politicians use public speaking as an effective tool to garner votes and win elections.
In this way, public speakers affect society by putting across their promises and vision for the country, city, or locality with the people who would bring them to power. They thus comprise a very precise understanding of the needs of their people which they then try to highlight in their electoral speeches.
They further also possess great argumentation skills especially when they are to present their stance in public debates.
Who could be a better example of this than Barack Obama?
Check out his keynote speech at the 2004 convention which is believed to be the speech that made him the president of the United States of America years later.
4. Inspiring people
Most motivational public speakers affect society by inspiring the public to do something that would bring change into their lives.
Inspiring people isn’t an easy task. It requires the speaker to dwell on the psychology of the listeners and understand how the listeners can work on their limitations to enhance achieving their goals.
Oprah Winfrey happens to be one such inspiring public speaker. Let’s take a look at one of her public speaking moments!
Oprah Winfrey always uses very powerful and impactful words to stress her cause. She has the ability to modulate her voice as and when required.
But above all her storytelling skills are beyond commendable. Check out the video above to see for yourself how she talks about the “Me too” movement and empowers every woman present in the audience.
What is the impact of public speaking?
As discussed, public speaking is a very powerful tool to persuade the crowd. It has been used to enhance the audience’s decisions or to manipulate them. History has enough evidence wherein public speaking was used both, positively and negatively to influence people.
Positive ways in which public speakers affect society
1. Increases sales
As we discussed the example of Steve Jobs and his amazing pitch for the iPhone when it was released for the first time, we see the idea was to impress the audience and drive sales.
So, when public speaking is done to introduce or market a product, it usually impacts both the sales of the product as well as the brand.
2. Increases trust and credibility
As leaders use public speaking skills to reach the audience, they would also be developing a public image of themselves which then acts as something that the people trust and relate to. It is this image that is also sometimes referred to as the brand image.
3. Helps in learning
Most public speakers affect society by adding to the people’s understanding. Thus, it poses an opportunity to learn either about some new developments or to look at something from a very different perspective.
4. Helps in making an informed decision
Public speakers provide their audience with a platform where they can openly hear the viewpoints the speaker wants to share as well as the ones that other audience members have to offer.
5. Brings people Together
Public speakers affect society by motivating them to come together to fight for a common cause. This is evident in a number of freedom struggles or struggles for human rights that we have either heard of or witnessed.
Negative ways public speakers affect society
One of the most famous examples that come to our mind when it comes to the negative ways in which public speakers have affected society is that of Hitler.
If you had observed Hitler during his early career days, you’d not have imagined him to turn out to be so influential, especially with his unattractive personality and narcissistic tendencies. However, Hitler possessed some outstanding public speaking and persuasion skills.
He used his referent power to gain control and mesmerize people with his inhuman ideas. People were so influenced by him that they didn’t oppose the idea of clearing out an entire race!
Such practices aren’t rare. There have been tons of examples of scandalous spiritual gurus, cult leaders who have driven entire communities to kill themselves, and terrorist groups who have used their public speaking skills to reach the very core of their listeners, only to manipulate them into doing something they didn’t want to.
Are good public speakers born or made?
Unlike our general belief, great public speakers aren’t born but they are made.
What this means is that while some people may find it easier to form and deliver their ideas and thoughts to large crowds, it takes a lot more to be a great public speaker.
Many of the most influential speakers of all time weren’t good at public speaking at first! But they realized the power their words could have and thus worked towards being a better public speaker.
Here are some examples of great public speakers who worked hard to overcome their public speaking weaknesses.
1. Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill had a speech impediment, a lisp. Some people also believe that he used to stutter as well. However, of late the sources have agreed that he had a little bit of both.
Churchill had identified his weaknesses beforehand and started working on his speeches way ahead of time. He grasped as much information as possible about the issue and framed possible questions so that he could be prepared for almost every possible situation. As a teenager, he had taken the help of a speech therapist to work on his lisp.
This shows his dedication to public speaking and impacting his audience with his words in a way that would help him deliver his message effectively.
Find his most famous speech “Our finest hour” below and check for yourself how amazingly he delivered his speech at a time when the country was at war.
2. Mahatma Gandhi
As shocking as it might be, Mahatma Gandhi was afraid to speak on stage. In fact, there were times when he faced stage fright and went blank in front of a crowd.
Once when he was presenting a speech to the vegetarian community in London, he got nervous and couldn’t complete his speech. It was later concluded by someone else. Further, despite being a lawyer, he wasn’t able to ask a single question during his first court hearing!
So then how did he turn from such a weak-hearted speaker to a charismatic public speaker who drove India to independence?
After being humiliated in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi had found a purpose he wanted to work hard towards and that was India’s independence.
Mahatma Gandhi was also a great listener which helped me understand the problems faced by the common men of India. He then strategized his speech to reach everyone by covering these observations he had made.
How can you improve your public speaking skills?
There are some very strong traits that good public speakers who affect society have in common. You can work on refining these skills for your next speech or presentation and assess the difference in the impact of your speech.
1. Having enough knowledge
Having sufficient knowledge about what you will be speaking about is very important as there is a possibility that the audience members might have questions that go beyond your narrow topic. Thus, to do well in the Question-and-answer session it is important to have sufficient knowledge about your topic.
Further, the more in-depth understanding you have of something, the easier it is to explain it or share the information with others.
Storytelling happens to be one of the easiest and most engaging ways to reach your audience. Stories are gripping and also give others a chance to relate to you or your topic.
Establishing your takeaway is extremely important to effectively communicate your ideas or thoughts on anything. Good Public speakers usually stick to one takeaway that they want the audience to focus on. They try to structure their speech around the takeaway, making sure to repeat it enough times so that it stays with the audience.
4. Understanding the audience
I can go about giving a speech on how depression and anxiety can have an immense impact on the individual’s future behavior patterns, but if I’m presenting this in front of an audience made up of Physics scholars, then the speech would be comparatively less effective as it would not cater to the audience’s interests.
Similarly, to be an effective public speaker, it is very important to understand your audience and their interests so that you can frame your speech in a manner that interests them the most.
You can also try to seek professional help to guide you with your public speaking skills. Check out our services at Frantically Speaking.
Public speaking has a very important role in society and public speakers affect society to a large extent by shaping their decisions, opinions, and views. Public speakers try to persuade, motivate or inform the people.
There have been many instances when excellent public speakers used their skills to do more harm than good, including Hitler.
However, public speakers come with their own set of experiences, ideas, and styles of delivery that cannot be compared with anyone else. Thus, their impact can only be gauged by the way the audience responds to their speeches.