Public speaking is the process and act of speaking or giving a lecture to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain a listening audience. Public speaking is commonly understood as face-to-face speaking between individuals and an audience for the purpose of communication. It is closely allied to "presenting", although the latter is more often associated with commercial activity. Most of the time, public speaking is to persuade the audience.
In public speaking, as in any form of communication, there are five basic elements, often expressed as "who is saying what to whom using what medium with what effects?" The purpose of public speaking can range from simply transmitting information, to motivating people to act, to simply telling a story. Good orators should be able to change the emotions of their listeners, not just inform them. Public speaking can also be considered a discourse community. Interpersonal communication and public speaking have several components that embrace such things as motivational speaking, leadership/personal development, business, customer service, large group communication, and mass communication. Public speaking can be a powerful tool to use for purposes such as motivation, influence, persuasion, informing, translation, or simply ethos.
In current times, public speaking for business and commercial events is often done by professionals, with speakers contracted either independently, through representation by a speakers bureau paid on commission of 25-30%, or via other means.
Early training in public speaking took place in ancient Egypt. The first known Greek work[specify] on oratory, written over 2000 years ago, elaborated principles drawn from the practices and experience of orators in the ancient Greek city-states. In classical Greece and Rome, the main component was rhetoric (that is, composition and delivery of speeches), and was an important skill in public and private life. Aristotle and Quintilian discussed oratory, and the subject, with definitive rules and models, was emphasised as a part of a liberal arts education during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
The art of public speaking was first developed by the ancient Greeks. Greek oration is known from the works of classical antiquity. Greek orators spoke, on their own behalf rather as representatives of either a client or a constituency, and so any citizen who wished to succeed in court, in politics, or in social life had to learn techniques of public speaking. These skills were taught first by a group of self-styled "sophists" who were known to charge fees, to "make the weaker argument the stronger," and to make their students "better" through instruction in excellence. Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates all developed theories of public speaking in opposition to the Sophists, and their ideas took on institutional form through the development of permanent schools where public speaking was taught. Though Greece eventually lost political sovereignty, the Greek culture of training in public speaking was adopted virtually wholesale by the Romans.
With the political rise of the Roman Republic, Roman orators copied and modified Greek techniques of public speaking. Under Roman influence, instruction in rhetoric developed into a full curriculum including instruction in grammar (study of the poets), preliminary exercises (progymnasmata), and preparation of public speeches (declamation) in both forensic and deliberative genres. The Latin style was heavily influenced by Cicero, and involved a strong emphasis on a broad education in all areas of humanistic study (in the liberal arts, including philosophy), as well as on the use of wit and humor, on appeal to the listener's emotions, and on digressions (often used to explore general themes related to the specific topic of the speech). Oratory in the Roman empire, though less central to political life than in the days of the Republic, remained important in law, and became (under the second Sophistic) an important form of entertainment, with famous orators or declaimers gaining great wealth and prestige for their skills.
This Latin style was the primary form of oration in the world until the beginning of the 20th century. After World War II there began a gradual deprecation of the Latin style of oration. With the rise of the scientific method and the emphasis on a "plain" style of speaking and writing, even formal oratory has become less polished and ornate than in the Classical period, though politicians today can still make or break their careers on the basis of a successful (or unsuccessful) speech. Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, Marcus Garvey, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all advanced their careers in significant part by their skills in oratory.
These basic principles have undergone modification as societies and cultures have changed, yet remained surprisingly uniform. The technology and the methods of this form of communication have traditionally been through oratory structure and rely on an audience. However, new advances in technology have allowed for more sophisticated communication for speakers and public orators. The technological and media sources that assist the public-speaking atmosphere include both videoconferencing and telecommunications. Videoconferencing is among one of the more recent technologies that is in a way revolutionizing the way that public speakers communicate to the masses. David M. Fetterman of Stanford University wrote in his 1997 article Videoconferencing over the Internet: "Videoconferencing technology allows geographically disparate parties to hear and see each other usually through satellite or telephone communication systems". This technology is helpful for large conference meetings and face-to-face communication contexts, and is becoming more widespread across the world.
Training and Education
Effective public speaking can be developed by joining a club such as Rostrum, Toastmasters International, Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC), Speaking Circles, or POWERtalk International, in which members are assigned exercises to improve their speaking skills. Members learn by observation and practice, and hone their skills by listening to constructive suggestions followed by new public speaking exercises. These include:
- The use of gestures
- Control of the voice (inflection)
- Vocabulary, register, word choice
- Speaking notes, pitches
- Using humor
- Developing a relationship with the audience
- "Show of Hands Method" (used primarily for Billboard presentations)
The new millennium has seen a notable increase in the number of training solutions offered in the form of video and online courses. Video can provide significant training potential by revealing to the student actual examples of behaviors to emulate in addition to verbal knowledge transfer. There are also numerous agencies who offer one to one training in the delivery of a speech.
National and international organizations
The National Communication Association (NCA) exists to assist professional communicators - both marketplace and academic. At the annual convention, many presentations address the concerns central to effective public speaking.
The National Speakers Association (NSA) is a professional speakers' organization that supports the pursuit of public speaking as a business. The organization's website says NSA provides "resources and education designed to advance the skills, integrity, and values of its members and the speaking profession".
Toastmasters International, Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) and POWERtalk International are nonprofit educational organizations that operate clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills. Through their member clubs, Toastmasters International, Association of Speakers Clubs , and POWERtalk International help men and women learn the arts of speaking, listening, and thinking.
Rostrum Australia (formerly Australian Rostrum) is an association of Australian public speaking clubs aim to help their members improve their speaking and meeting skills. They do this primarily through regular club meetings and less frequent competitions.
The National Forensic Association (NFA) and the American Forensics Association (AFA) are two national organizations within the United States which sponsor competitive public speaking on the undergraduate level. Events within the NFA and AFA fall into four categories: Public Address, Limited Preparation, Interpretation, and Debate. The Public Address events include Informative Speaking, Persuasive Speaking, Rhetorical Criticism, and After Dinner Speaking; the Limited Preparation events include Impromptu Speaking and Extemporaneous Speaking; and the interpretation events include Poetry, Prose, Dramatic Interpretation, Dramatic Duo Interpretation (in which at least one dramatic piece is presented by two speakers working together), Duo Interpretation (in which two speakers present a scene or scenes from any source), and Programmed Oral Interpretation (in which speakers use material from multiple genres with a common theme). The Debate events include Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Policy Debate, and Parliamentary Debate.
The International Forensics Association (IFA) is an American body whose competitors hail from colleges and universities within the United States, but compete at an international location.
The National Forensic League (NFL) is an organization with a similar structure and purpose to the NFA and AFA, but serves as the national organization within the United States for competitors in high school. For Public Address, the NFL sponsors Original Oratory and Expository. Extemporaneous speaking is split into two events, International (Foreign) Extemp, and United States (Domestic) Extemp, and Extemp Commentary is offered at the national tournament as a supplemental event, while Impromptu Speaking and Storytelling are offered limited preparation consolatory events. In addition to the interpretation events offered by NFA and AFA, the NFL also sponsors Humorous Interpretation. The debate formats sponsored by the NFL include Policy Debate (Cross-Examination), Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, and Student Congress.
Stoa and a number of other organizations serve the growing homeschool forensics community. Homeschooled competitors are ranked on Speechranks, a website which also determines their eligibility for the championship tournament at the end of the school year.
The National Catholic Forensics League (NCFL) is an organization with a similar structure and purpose as the NFL, however it is a national competition between Catholic high schools in the United States. In recent years, the NCFL has allowed public high schools to also compete.
Several states also have state and local organizations generally unaffiliated with the two national leagues. These organizations frequently offer additional events which are unavailable within either the NFL or NCFL.
Rostrum Australia’s Student Development Program for Secondary School Students also contributes to the welfare and personal growth of Australian Youth through the conduct of the annual Rostrum Voice of Youth Student Development Program and Speaking Competition. Rostrum has organised this competition since 1975. Rostrum Voice of Youth is open to all high school students. It involves a prepared speech and an impromptu speech.
The objectives of a public speaker's presentation can range from simply transmitting information, to motivating people to act, to simply telling a story. Professional public speakers often engage in ongoing training and education to refine their craft. This may include seeking guidance to improve their speaking skills—such as learning better storytelling techniques, for example, or learning how to effectively use humor as a communication tool—as well as continuous research in their topic area of focus.
People who speak publicly in a professional capacity are paid a speaking fee. Professional public speakers may include ex-politicians, sports stars and other public figures. In the case of high profile personalities, the sum can be extraordinary.
The common fear of public speaking is called glossophobia (or, informally, "stage fright"), although many people simply confuse normal nerves and anxiety with a genuine phobia.
Public speaking and oration are sometimes considered some of the most importantly valued skills that an individual can possess. This skill can be used for almost anything. Most great speakers have a natural ability to display the skills and effectiveness that can help to engage and move an audience for whatever purpose. Language and rhetoric use are among two of the most important aspects of public speaking and interpersonal communication. Having knowledge and understanding of the use and purpose of communication can help to make a more effective speaker communicate their message in an effectual way.
'The soul of delivery is in the manful assertion of the orator's personality, in the revelation of the high purpose by which he is actuated, in the profound conviction of the truth of his course, in the firm resolve to establish it, in the dauntless spirit that faces all obstacles, and, conquering them, sweeps onward to the desired goal.'
Leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, and Sukarno are notable examples of effective orators who used oratory to have a significant impact on society. The speeches of politicians are often widely analyzed by both their supporters and detractors.
Some of the greatest examples of public speaking are well known and studied years after the speech was delivered. Examples are Pericles' funeral oration in 427 B.C.E. over the dead of the Peloponnesian War; Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in 1863, soon after Sojourner Truth's identification of racial problem in "Ain't I a Woman?" and Mahatma Gandhi's message of nonviolent resistance in India, inspiring Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the Washington Monument in 1963.
Rostrums hold papers for speakers. Public speakers may use audience response systems. For large assemblies, the speaker will usually speak with the aid of a public address system or microphone and loudspeaker.
- Audience response
- College of Public Speaking
- Crowd manipulation
- Public orator
- Speakers' bureau
- Thematic interpretation
- Zakahi, Walter (1988). "Communication Education". West Virginia:Speech Communication Press.
- Weiss, Alan (1997). Money Talks. McGraw-HIll.
- Womack, Morris M.; Bernstein, Elinor (1990). Speech for foreign students. C.C. Thomas. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-398-05699-5. Retrieved 2011-12-08. "Some of the earliest written records of training in public speaking may be traced to ancient Egypt."
- Great Speech Writing
- Improving Assessment through Student Involvement
- Mark Lewis (2010-02-16). "Podium Dreams". Forbes.com. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- National Speakers Association website
- Toastmasters International
- POWERtalk International
- FAQ,[dead link] Pi Kappa Delta.
- "Stoa USA Home Page". Stoa USA. 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
- Power, John O'Connor, 'The Making of an Orator', 1906, p.101
- German, Kathleen M. (2010). Principles of Public Speaking. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-205-65396-6.
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