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Public Speaking and its Importance in the 21st Century

Engr S. L. Salifu, President of The Institute of Public Speaking Nigeria


“Words can poison, words can heal.
Words start and fight wars, but words make peace.
Words lead men to the pinnacle of good
And words can plunge men to the depths of evil.”
-Marguerite Schumann


Public speaking in the society today and in the 21st century serves a plethora of functions. It gives voice to our opinions, helps us share ideas, and persuade others, just to name a few. Words in the hands of a skilled public speaker can be an instrument for soaring change; it can become inspiration to millions of people especially in their darkest hours. We have heard and read about stories of great men and women in the past who have used public speaking to effect change in the society.
It is little wonder that most politicians, and social movements, depend heavily on public speaking to communicate their ideas, forge a sense of unity amongst their adherents, and for the formation of clearly defined objectives and ideologies which forms the basis on which their movement and campaign progresses. Because to move individuals into action, it is imperative to stir their hearts and emotion (to persuade), which is one of the fundamental purpose of public speaking.
It may be interesting to note that in our day to day conversation with one another, we apply public speaking, maybe not in a formal and pronounced way that most people associate with public speaking. When we engage in activities like attending job interviews, class presentation, making contributions during meeting at workplace, we are fully engrossed in public speaking. Hence, it is important to develop and expand our skill set in the art of public speaking. Some of the qualities and skills you can develop with knowledge of public speaking are:

  1. Helps you become Confident: Speaking in public tends to be an herculean task for some people, because of speech anxiety, and nervousness when facing a crowd. This problems can be surmounted through constant practice, understanding, and grasping the basic principles of writing and delivering a speech. Successfully completing a skill in public speaking helps you manage these fears and get better over time, which boost your confidence. This process can be achieved through positive feedback about your speeches, and constructive criticism on areas to improve upon by your instructor.
  2.  Improves your listening ability: since effective communication involves paying rapt attention, and giving verbal and non verbal feedback, public speaking helps you cultivate your listening habits. Therefore it improves your listening ability.
  3. Logical and orderly presentation of ideas and information: Ideas do not make sense if they are not properly organized in a text structure (a text structure is how information is organized in writing). For example, chronological (how something or a concept evolves over time), spatial (relationship between two things), order of importance (listing ideas according to priority), compare and contrast (difference between two similar or dissimilar ideas). Public speaking helps students become skillful in communicating their ideas better, by organizing their points in an outline before they come up to speak.
  4. Helps in effective transmission of information: For a speech to be effective, it must have a specific purpose, preparedness and attentiveness of the speaker; to what they say, and the feedback they receive from an audience. It also requires the use of presentation media, e.g., power point, keynote or other digital software. Through doing all of these, a carefully worded presentation can effectively transfer data, figures, new developments, and current trends to the audience.