One of the great human fears is public speaking. We believe this is rooted in our schooling, where we essentially trained to be listeners to, not “professors” of, knowledge. But view us on the playground, and you see us with a very different persona and voice, one alive in heart, body and soul.
This transformation is at the heart of the Hyde Public Speaking Course, taught to all seniors by Hyde School Founder Joe Gauld—getting students to have the courage to be their playground selves and become more of this persona both in life and in school, including the classroom. While they will need to learn some important new skills to assist them in this public transformation, they already have the potentials required to make them effective, even outstanding speakers.
The benefits are enormous. For once we become comfortable and effective talking to larger groups, we find ourselves really being able to connect to smaller groups and in our personal relationships. The process helps bring out a deeper part of ourselves that makes us more real, interesting, sensitive and attractive to others. We then begin to connect to others in creating the powerful synergy that enables us and them to realize higher personal bests beyond our own efforts: 1+1=3.
Speaking in front of others is inevitable
Whether you’re a student, a chef in a kitchen, a coach, or a CEO, there will always be situations where you have to speak publicly. Students give class presentations, chefs give directions and announce the specials, coaches instruct their team, and CEOs head meetings. Some positions are more communication-heavy than others, but regardless, every American will face a time when they need to put their thoughts into words to make a point, take a stand, or get a job done. When that time comes, it’s best to be prepared and feel comfortable with who you are as a speaker so you can communicate what you need to say as effectively as possible.
Being a good speaker is part of being a good leader
Here at Hyde School, we put a lot of value into the development of character. We view leadership as one of the fundamentals to becoming the best possible you that you can be. The greatest leaders of our time are also some of the best speakers of our time – in fact, their ability to speak clearly, compellingly, and charismatically are a big part of how they became leaders in the first place. One’s ability to lead is closely entwined with their ability to connect with and motivate their audience. For example, think of how differently Martin Luther King Jr. would be remembered today if he didn’t deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech with so much conviction that hundreds of thousands of others joined in on his dream.
Practicing your public speaking skills will make you an overall better communicator
Just as reading a lot can make you a better writer, practicing public speaking will hone your skills as an overall communicator. Marshall McLuhan, the public intellectual and famous media theorist, once argued that “the medium is the message” in his book Understanding Media. Simply put, this means that the ways you choose to communicate (the medium, which in this case would be public speaking) can and will influence the kinds of messages you are capable of communicating.
Reading a lot can make you a better writer. Writing a funny tweet in 140 characters will translate into being able to write clever captions on Instagram. Watching television frequently can train you to better understand the visual spaces of a video game better. Practicing your public speaking skills, then, will help your general oral communication, whether you have an audience of 200 or an audience of one. As you learn to devise and deliver speeches, you’re practicing the fundamentals of all oral communication – clarity, coherence, and confidence.
Being comfortable public speaking will help you in an interview setting
Whether you’re delivering a speech or the subject of an interview, one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the experience is being the center of attention. Because public speaking and an interview setting can often be so similar, becoming a self-assured speaker will only enhance your comfortability while in the spotlight in other settings. If you’re used to delivering speeches and presentations to dozens or even hundreds of people, you’re going to be primed for some serious one-on-one or two-on-one interview time.
Not only will public speaking experience give you confidence in your qualifications, but you can also feel confident in your actual communication skills. Interviewers, whether they be for employment opportunities, scholarship applications, or volunteer positions, are always looking for someone who can speak well and do it with assertiveness.
Establishing yourself as a public speaker can create new opportunities
One of the most exciting things about creating a reputation as an engaging speaker is the doors that can be opened. Being in front of a crowd makes you identifiable and approachable which works wonders in a world that’s based on networking and creating relationships. If you establish yourself as an adept communicator, others may identify that and want to create relationships with you in the personal, academic, or employment world. The very act of holding an audience’s attention with your words is one that helps you build a credible reputation and can showcase your character. Public speaking can just be the beginning of something that will carry you along your journey to becoming the best you.
Some quick tips and tools for becoming a better public speaker:
- Mind your voice:
Remember that no matter how compelling your message is, it will be lost if your audience cannot hear it. Be sure to speak up. Not all public speaking platforms have a microphone, so be sure to practice.
- Be aware of your body language:
We all have our nervous tics and unconscious habits. A good way of finding out yours is to record yourself practicing your speech and watch your body – do you talk with your hands? Do you shift your body weight from side to side? Is your hair in your face? It takes hard work to manage some of these idiosyncrasies, but practicing a poised posture will be well worth the time.
- Be prepared:
The more comfortable you are with your content, the more comfortable you will be delivering it in front of a group of people. Depending on the situation, notes may be encouraged or may be prohibited. Either way, it’s good to be familiar enough with your content that you can recover if you get a little lost on the way. Be sure to practice your content in a way that helps you remain familiar with your content but doesn’t give the impression that you’ve completely memorized it.
- Be confident:
Remember that your audience wants you to succeed. Every audience would love to be entertained and enraptured, and you’d be surprised with how generous a crowd may be. Let this fact, as well as your well-practiced delivery, be the backbone of your self-assurance.
This all takes practice. Even the public speaking greats started nervously somewhere. Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes and that this is a process of development, not a one-stop fail-or-pass test.