Public speaking classes can always give that confidence you need for presentations and speeches. A good environment with a great mentor can do wonders, but it has its cons as well. Classes can help you only to some degree, the best way to become a good speaker is to practice the skill daily.
Public Speaking: Why is it necessary?
The only way to put your point across is to be someone who people like to hear and this is where public speaking comes into place. Public speaking ropes in your thoughts and reasoning with active communication while adapting to the mood of your audience.
It helps reorganise your pitch mentally, makes you an excellent speaker which naturally makes every job on the planet easier. With a strong hold over this skill, you can present any argument no matter the calibre of the person in front of you.
In a way, public speaking is an easy stairway to success and a good way to adapt to any social setting.
Whether it’s your school presentation, a pitch to your client, an important meeting, a stand up or a poem recital, you need to know how to get your point across in a clear way. If you’re someone who has great things to talk about but cannot put it across verbally, this skill is essential for you and classes might be a good way to start.
Related article: Public Speaking for Introverts: The Why, What & Who (An A-Z Guide)
But are public speaking classes necessary? To understand the importance of public speaking classes, we have broken the article into the following sub-topics:
- What are public speaking classes?
- What a public speaking class is like
- What an online public speaking class is like
- Public speaking classes takeaways
- How to get the most out of your public speaking class
- The Good Part
- The Bad Part
- How to survive a public speaking class
- Personal Experiences
- Classes, Courses, Books & Podcasts to get you started
- Alternatives to public speaking classes
- So, are public speaking classes for you?
What are public speaking classes?
Imagine that you were told to handle a camera and commanded suddenly to make a video. After about 50 trials, you know how to take a video, shift focus and adjust color, but you could’ve learned the same in one sitting and then applied your knowledge towards creating better practice videos.
Coaching for any skill is just that. It helps to reduce the unnecessary traction in between, gets your foundations correct and provides ground principles for every time you take a photograph with your camera.
Why are public speaking classes essential?
A public speaking class helps you break the glass of suffering while speaking and makes the activity enjoyable and profitable. You get to learn various speaking techniques, voice modulation, alter speech, give impromptu performances, present attention grabbing arguments and become more vocal (amongst other things).
You might want to take this option seriously as it is a definitive open ground to experiment, try, fail and get better at a very important skill (articulating thoughts spontaneously isn’t very easy!).
Looking back, public speaking classes might’ve helped me way more than anything I was doing to gain confidence. But I am also glad that I wasn’t introduced to giving speeches in a controlled environment.
You’d be surprised to know that public speaking classes are quite enjoyable. They provide a great space to rehearse and learn. You get to clean your hands off with a ton of practice on impromptu speeches, pitching, clean presentations, debates, storytelling skills and much more.
Your classes might not be all about delivering speeches, they’ll involve tons of games and activities which will continually improve your grammar and vocabulary. Here’s what you can expect:
- Prompt-based speeches: You’ll be given several prompts to talk on. This would mainly focus on building spontaneity, grammar and presentations.
- Riff offs: Going solo is not the only skill you will hone in your classes! Riff offs are a great class exercise to help you become more alert and shape your arguments succinctly.
- Storytelling: There will be various exercises on storytelling. You might be asked to build a story with your group, continue a narrative from someone else or build up a story from photos or any other props given to you.
- Out with the fillers: Filler words are a major dilemma and we all use them in our speeches. Games on fillers will help you identify your gibberish, know where exactly you use them and help you smoothen your diction.
- Just a Minute!: How well can you speak in a minute? This game will test your grammar, diction, rhymes and almost everything else in a fun, challenging way.
- Memory Games: Public speaking isn’t all about good presentation: it always requires great memory. From carrying a sentence forward in a group, to stringing a story together with visual cues, memory games will be a highlight of your classes.
The first few sessions may feel intimidating but being spontaneous does the job. You might be asked to speak in every session or choose between being a speaker or a listener. Expect every session to be interesting while also a bit challenging (that will help you think quick on your feet!).
There might be other roles as well, such as a moderator between group discussions, an observer or a panellist. You will also be guided by a mentor who helps you track your personal journey towards becoming a better speaker.
The best part of it all: networking. You get to meet new people from all sorts of professions and lives and get a new opportunity to speak with each one of them. Toastmasters does a beautiful job with this aspect of public speaking.
Also, the word “stage” might start feeling normal after every visit.
What an online public speaking class is like:
An online class for public speaking might lose its touch. It may not seem that impactful as compared to an on ground one, but apart from the absence of a crowd, this might become a golden opportunity if you’re shy for getting on the real stage.
If you opt for an online course or public speaking classes on Zoom, you might get your words out in an efficient manner (as the spotlight will be only on you when you speak). You will be able to refer to your notes (like an open book test!) and have better chances of improving your diction.
Your online classes would be more focussed and you will be provided your speaking material and tools at home. Furthermore, you would get a greater confidence for the stage, once you feel ready after your online classes.
If you don’t want to directly jump on the big stage, this might be a great baby step to consider.
Here’s a good online public speaking course to get you started.
Public speaking classes takeaways:
Public speaking classes work differently for everyone present. Not only is the skill crucial for your business, but also important in college. Here are some things you might take away from your class:
• How to give a proper presentation, write impactful speeches and pitches
• Socialising and keeping up a conversation
• Eliminating stuttering, nervous ticks, shaky hands and legs
• Voice Modulation, good body language and hand gestures
• Good use of vocabulary and proper pronunciation
• Eye contact and connection with the audience
• Great listening skills with an attention to detail (in what others are saying)
• More objectivity in everyday decision making
• Knowing exactly where your conversation tapers off into something boring
• Meeting like-minded people and learning from their speaking experiences
• Be more active and observant of daily life settings
• An overall increase in confidence and optimism with every passing practice
Not everyone gets everything out of their classes, but even one session can have a lasting impact on the way you speak and present yourself!
How to get the most out of your public speaking class:
You might always get the thought, “are public speaking classes required?”; “Is this really where I should be spending my time and resources?”, and the concern is real. Your classes might start feeling easy-breezy, but this is when you need to get alert and make the most out of each session.
• Make notes: Don’t be shy! Take that diary out and write it all down. Refer to your notes and you’ll never be clueless in any session.
• Practice: After class is the best time to practice at home. Get those creative juices flowing to become a master at public speaking.
• Speak out your problems: You’re here to get your voice out, so discuss your progress (and concerns) with your class and your mentor.
• Say yes: Your class shouldn’t be a place to be hesitant. Go ahead and say yes to every opportunity you get, even if you’re underprepared or nervous.
• Observe: Don’t just attend your class in a hassle and leave when it ends. Try to be present, interested and active in each session. Observe what others do when they speak and emulate what works.
• Set definitive goals: Do you want to be able to give a good open mic performance at the end of your class? Did you attend to sharpen your debate skills? Did you want to learn how to make a good presentation? Set out clear goals at the beginning and chalk out your progress accordingly.
• Be intuitive: Your mentor might have some great advice for you, but you know what works best for yourself. Try to internalise the advice with processes that would suit you, and you’ll witness tremendous progress!
• Network: I know we’re all tired of listening to the word (especially if you’re a student), but making a few friends never hurt anyone. Plus, it will help you shape your conversations out for the real world.
• Start reading: This one seems a little off topic, but reading will help you quite a lot with respect to your vocabulary, responses and attention. If not books, try listening to podcasts.
If you’re unsure of the whole thing, we’ve got some insights for you. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of public speaking classes:
The Good Part
There is no bad time to register for a short course in public speaking or effective communication. Even a seasoned orator can brush up his/her skills and get equipped with new speaking techniques through a class. Everyone’s experience with these classes isn’t the same and the lessons learnt are unique to every individual.
Here are some ways a public speaking class may benefit you:
1. Reduces social anxiety
Classes are a sure shot way to drop the nervousness and torture which comes with public speaking. Nobody wants to give a mediocre performance at an important event, and public speaking classes help you get your voice out in a controlled, safe environment with everyone combing out the bumps in your speech and providing a way to be a better orator.
One of the added benefits of the classes: making new friends! I was thrilled every time I made a new friend just by speaking. I was sceptical about the phrase “talk your feelings out” but it actually worked- and public speaking helped me open up to my friends too. It made me more communicative and verbal about my feelings and thoughts.
With proper public speaking classes, you can try your hand at different methods of speaking, different tone of voices, different jokes and one-liners. You can also try out what topics work best for you and how you can approach the crowd without it seeming too difficult or obvious. You can also be more in tuned with yourself, rather than just putting up a performance. If you’re not accustomed to being yourself, here’s how public speaking will give you the ability to be vulnerable.
All in all, you can reduce the anxiety and improve your mental bandwidth when it comes to dealing with a huge crowd, or a crowd you are not accustomed to.
2. Gives a safe space to fail and learn
How you speak in class stays in class. You never have to look back at it again other than referring to your mental notes about what can be done better. If you are incredibly shy and scared of failure (I wish I took classes for this exact reason) then this is the best option for you.
You can get inputs not only from your coach (who is a professional speaker) but also from people actively listening to you. There is no creamy layer that comes with coaching, you get a result according to your performance, which is the best return you can get for your efforts.
The classes will also make you realise that “public speaking isn’t for me” is an utterly false statement, and you can do it quite easily with some practice and patience.
3. Builds communication skills
I never knew that I could make an impression just by starting conversations. It is something a lot of my friends have pointed out to me- that I acquired good relationships because I spoke freely.
Public speaking classes gives you those 10-15 people you can talk to generously without the fear of “what did I say wrong” or “what words would’ve been better”. Essentially, it gives a lot of space for trial and error and helps you find your mojo in public situations.
4. Helps you become a better listener
Half of your work while speaking publicly is done when you understand and gel with your listeners. If your crowd is not in your control, you should consider making changes to your speech.
These classes help you keep time in your life just for the purpose of speaking and listening. They help you understand what points are put across and how you can connect them to what you have to say.
Mind you, this is the greatest benefit the class can give you, because handling a crowd outside of a controlled environment gets a bit intimidating and takes time to adapt to.
5. Improves language and grammar
There is nothing worse than the feeling of realizing that you only use “so”, “like”, “basically” and “and” in every conversation. I was shocked when it was pointed out to me, I had read tons of books and yet reduced my vocabulary to these four (dry) words.
Classes help you not only while talking, but also in writing and everyday conversing. They help you use newer, better words to present yourself, learn ways to greet people and in general become much more confident in approaching others to get your job done.
This skill helps in every area of life: whether you’re pitching to your client in office or negotiating on a deal . In case you feel the need to shorten lengthy departmental meetings in your office or get that discount or just excel at making new friends, you should consider taking this class.
6. Improves negotiating
Negotiating is a skill everyone must have. It rules out problems very easily and provides a clear path of progress. Unless you cultivate it at the very beginning, life can get tough and what can be tougher is to ask for what you want.
There is always a good way to negotiate which is suitable to the conversation. If you’re standing in front of a crowd with a view point different from them, you might want to learn how to negotiate, and do it well enough to grab their interest.
Classes will help you break that ice of asking for something which goes beyond what they are stating to give. You will learn how to negotiate, how to ask for what you want and learn how to settle and project confidence. You will also learn to be more observant towards opportunities for stating your opinions.
7. Gives a space to see what works and doesn’t work for you
You might realise that you’re excellent at giving motivational speeches after registering for a public speaking class. You might come to know that you put your point across very well through jokes, or through presentations. You might also be an excellent pitcher of ideas, provided you are given flashcards.
Classes will help you find your footing at what you’re naturally great at, what requires improvement and what might not be the way to go for you. You can tailor your future speeches accordingly, whether you like to narrate or joke or be super professional is for you to decide.
8. Boosts confidence and charm
Have you noticed that great leaders are also great orators? That’s because they get most of their persuasion done by words, not action.
Public speaking coaching will help you break that wall of shyness and excessive overthinking and help you gain confidence in your own words. You will no longer have to depend on others to say your point, because you’ll be able to radiate authority and confidence in every speech you give.
This will not only make you more likeable and comforting to be around with, but also make your life easy in everyday situations. If you want to learn the ropes of gaining momentum in your career, public speaking is a good way to start.
9. Helps build credibility
Once you prove to others that you know how to put forth your arguments, they will come to you for help requiring the same. You will be taken at the point of contact across all communications and will be a source of dependency for everyone around you.
The classes will help you do just that, because every speech of yours for the class will be highly researched and worked on by yourself.
10. Helps moulding beliefs
Talking to a crowd is great, but moulding their beliefs and opinions is where the magic happens. You might be able to gain confidence to speak to people, but you’ll never know if they are actively listening to you. Once you practice and preach to your class, you understand if they are actually listening to you and taking in your points for consideration.
The Bad Part
What should you look out for in your public speaking class?
While public speaking classes may seem like a safe bet, they might not be the most ideal place to start your journey towards public speaking. You might feel a bit at ease when in the class because of how safe the environment is, and also because you can always fail. But you might overlook some bumps throughout your journey.
Here are some things to keep an eye out for:
1. You already know the crowd
The way you test your crowd in real life settings (while speaking publicly) isn’t something which can be taught very well in a class. You can always get familiar with people in your class and start knowing them personally. You can also become friends with them, which reduces the possibility of knowing the mood of your crowd and balancing your speech accordingly.
Know your class, but don’t get accustomed to them. You might want to shift classes or sign up for ones which have a different batch in every session.
2. It is a controlled environment
Classes do not provide that element of spontaneity, you can always fail and come back with a better speech. It increases your odds of delivering better while decreasing the odds of being active, spontaneous and quick at thinking.
You can’t always get the truest reaction to your speeches because everyone present there is for the same purpose. Your classmates might be super supportive and hence not give an honest reaction to what you have to say.
Plus, the classes do not test your skills beyond a classroom setting. What you say is judged only in a heavily organized environment, reducing every activity to something artificial.
3. It shouldn’t convert in to a comfort zone
Public speaking classes are supposed to help you ease in with the terrifying idea of speaking out loud, but beware of it becoming a cushiony activity. These classes shouldn’t translate into a place of comfort to the point that speaking outside still feels intimidating.
Once you get the hang of speaking in class, try the outdoors as a challenge. You can always come back to class to brush up on skills.
4. Don’t be set on one technique
Every speech requires its own practice and rhythm. You cannot adapt one set technique taught in class and stick it to every presentation you have to give. Try to be personal, shift according to the crowd improvise in every performance.
5. The right crowd
This might seem unnecessary, but if you aren’t able to find your footing in class, you might want to rethink your options. Did you select the right class? Did you get bumped in to something slightly different than promised? Are there too many people in your session?
Be open and talk out your grievances to your mentor, this would also be great practice to become a good public speaker!
How to survive a public speaking class?
Are public speaking classes scary?
A lot of people are often riddled with the thought of being nervous and messing up in a class. Not being able to speak is why you attend a class and when it’s the same scenario there- the entire activity might start feeling pointless.
But your classes will have a different, more welcoming environment. It will provide tons of opportunities for you to talk and change your speaking style. You will experience plenty of improvement and thank yourself for taking that first step and registering for a class.
Here are some tips to sail through your public speaking classes (and ace them with ease!):
• Get creative with your introduction: At the beginning of your class, you will be asked to give a brief introduction about yourself. Try to experiment, work up a rough speech and get creative with what you can tell about yourself.
While this may seem nerve-racking, it will help you ease in and gel with the crowd. No introduction is perfect, stating yourself in the simplest manner is the way to go!
• Take baby steps: Try getting yourself out there on your own pace. If one session doesn’t work for you, you might want to give it another try. Maybe you’ll find your voice after you’re done with your course or maybe it works magically for you in the very first sitting.
• Take it slow: Don’t set out on a confined trajectory for your progress. The best work happens in groups. Do observe and inculcate what others are doing best to shoot your own progress.
• Speak freely: Don’t try to hold back on your point when you are speaking. Do be conscious of when you’re going off topic.
• Be present and alert: Don’t use excessive filler noises to fill up your speech (ahs and umms are no good). Do pause while you speak and take guidance from your mentor about your progress.
• Be observant: What’s that one habit which is constantly affecting your performance? What can you learn from other speakers? How does your mentor speak? Observe every little detail in each class to get the most out of it.
• When in doubt, attend: If you get into a nervous breakdown before every speech and have to rework it a thousand times, even one session will help you immensely in speaking better. These classes will help you deal with that uneasy feeling and make you more confident with every passing session.
How to ace your public speaking class introduction speech:
Introductions. Who doesn’t hate them? After all, what all should “Tell us about yourself” cover? Only mentioning name, profession and hobbies barely leaves the mark, plus, they don’t make you who you are.
Anecdotes, personal experiences, jokes, insights are great bits and pieces to add to your introduction. You could start by explaining an incident which made you realise you need the classes. Jokes work well, but personal stories hit the spot.
Don’t take yourself too seriously, but don’t speak everything that comes to your mind. A brief anecdote might be a good way to go.
Hello, my name’s XYZ and I’m a 20-year-old content creator who likes to write and design. I spend most of my time trying to get my cat to pay attention to me and I’ve realised I suck at it. All jokes aside, speaking publicly and having someone’s attention is a task, but learning it seems fun and I’m very excited to join this class and become a better speaker!
Mix and match your likes and dislikes and you’ll get yourself a fabulous introduction in your class (while also having fun!).
I remember not being able to speak in front of people and asking others to put across my point. But after a while, it agitated me that my own excuses were hampering my ideas, causing them to not gain any momentum. I started small- with greeting everyone when I met them and asking about how it was going.
I always feared that I might not be audible or worse, quite boring to talk to. But it worked with proper eye contact and good listening skills. I then advanced to talking in groups, for projects and ideation. Reading books and actively listening to people helped abundantly in these settings, but what helped the most was being present and a good listener.
Speaking publicly wasn’t just about putting my point across. It involved gelling my point along with others in a way that it seemed like an add on. What I said was supplementary to others, but it also maintained its uniqueness and solidarity.
Soon, I was able to get my words out easily in front of larger groups and put my point across in conversations (in a non-threatening, cooperative way). Being able to speak within groups is liberating and if the process of it all seems too much to you, you might want to sign up for public speaking classes.
It doesn’t have to be aggressively pursued: patience and practice makes a man perfect. The toughest step in learning the skill is to sign up for an introductory class. While a class may seem too much for you, it is a definitive step in the right direction towards being a good orator.
Classes, Courses, Books & Podcasts to get you started
There are different types of public speaking classes you can start with. Alternatively, you can also incorporate the skill in your everyday life. Here’s how.
You can get your basics right from this course and learn about persuasion, storytelling, selling ideas and overcoming fear. Furthermore, you can learn it and refer your notes as and when you want.
Learn how to present your arguments in a succinct way with this one. A fundamental part of presentations is narration and storytelling, and this helps you in just that. Learn how to tell a story effectively (and with poise!) with this course.
Chris Anderson, the head of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) provides useful insights when it comes to huge audiences, good narration and impactful speeches. He explains himself through real life TED talks as examples and helps in providing a structure to your thoughts.
He also helps with the fear aspect of speaking publicly. All in all, it’s a good starter course to spread your wings.
One of the most important aspects of public speaking is body language and voice modulation. This course will help you ace the supplementary aspects of public speaking and make you the leader you need to be to put forth your arguments.
From learning how to breathe while speaking to maintaining eye contact- this course has got you covered.
Toastmasters is a good place to be if you want to be a regular practitioner of public speaking.
It will teach a wide range of public speaking skills, give several speaking opportunities and help you gel in with a club of like-minded people to start your journey towards being more confident. If you’re not into regular classes or virtual training, this might be the place for you.
You can learn more about Toastmasters here.
In case a class is too much for you, you can start off with some great books on public speaking:
Detailed instructions, insights and examples: this book will help you build your confidence. Books might seem counterintuitive to the whole purpose of speaking, but this one will help you along your public speaking journey.
With precious insights of the greatest speeches in the world: Carmine Gallo gives useful tips to become a successful speaker in this book.
Not a major bookworm? Here are some podcasts for you to observe good orators:
Loads of stories and lengthy (interesting) discussions on public policy, this is a good entryway in the world of public speaking.
Don’t know how to hold a conversation? Learn it through incredible Indian stories (all true!) presented by Kalki Koechlin in this podcast. She has a great way of responding and interacting with her guests.
If you’re a terrible listener and want to improve your attention, this podcast can be your next challenge. Business Wars covers some of the most historic brand wars (Nike vs. Adidas, Pizza Hut vs. Dominoes being some) in a beautiful narration.
Alternatives to public speaking classes:
Public speaking is an art of persuasion, which often works without the listeners realizing it. You might want to acquire this skill even if you are never getting around a stage.
If you’re not keen on joining a class anytime soon and don’t find the above options that exciting, here are some alternatives:
Public Speaking Gigs, Open Mics and Stand Up
Grabbing eyeballs at gigs is like being able to drive in raging traffic- once you know how to do it, everything seems like a piece of cake. But not knowing how to begin can be a bit challenging. Grab one central idea when it comes to your speech.
Don’t beat around the bush- reach your central idea and then build your narrative around it. Make your ideas worth sharing, something which brings value to others more than It does to you.
Gigs and open mics often allow you to do that in a non-threatening way. You instantly come to know if your material is working or if you need to work on yourself more.
Don’t get disheartened when no one is listening to you-patience and practice does it. It’s often an insignificant speech which turns the table around than the one you hold close to your heart.
Stand ups are the way to go if you get around with jokes easily. If you find a way to get your point across while making someone laugh, it is always a plus point. Find your topics to develop your performance on and always try to steer the conversation according to your crowd’s mood.
Universal jokes which guarantee laughter might be a safe bet but what works better is personal experiences. A great example of this working is Daniel Sloss’ stand up special “Jigsaw” which emulates his experience with relationships and being single.
Making the camera your support system
Speaking in front of a camera is very different from speaking in front of people, there is always a way to reshoot or take bits of your performance again in a different way. It’s much more cultivated, controlled and helps you narrate in a smoother way.
Try working your speech in front of the camera before going to a live audience. Here’s a way to go if you’re new to the whole process.
Watch your performance through your audience’s eyes: would you listen to it after a minute of the speech? Where is the interest dropping and where do you need to modulate your tone? Would this work on your target group or do you need to tweak your speech and language?
Cameras can also be a great way to get yourself out there if you are shy. Don’t take every performance so seriously that it hampers your experience with the next one.
So, are public speaking classes for you?
We say it’s time you consider them seriously. If you find yourself being limited in your career or college, or you just need to brush up on your speaking skills, a class might be a great way to do it.
Take those baby steps and get yourself out there with a class (if not anything else!). You’ll get to network, make friends, try your hand at different speaking opportunities and most of all- have fun! Classes might seem like a huge step, but it will provide great results in the long term. If you’re unsure about the whole thing, go for a demo session or a crash course.
If not anything, you’ll at least know what works and doesn’t work for you.