This may at first appear a rather outlandish claim. However, learning the fundamentals of public speaking is not just about producing presentations with panache. To step up, stand alone and speak in front of others can feel like a cringe-inducing chore. On the flipside, learning public speaking skills is one path – like no other – to grow in unexpected ways, impact on others and can be life-changing. Here’s how public speaking can help you be a better human being.
You learn how to put others first
Some of the most lacklustre talks I have been to were delivered by overconfident and complacent speakers, i.e. the talk is more about them than the audience. One of the most important parts of public speaking is not the talk itself but how you prepare for it. Simply put, know your audience. You have people in front of you who have gifted you time to talk. Any good speaker will think of themselves sitting in the audience. Who will be there to listen? What’s in it for them? What matters to them?
As you learn the skills of public speaking and practice them, your ability to focus on others, their interests and their reactions is constantly sharpened. These skills of imagining yourself in the shoes of another and learning to ‘read the room’ by giving talks are powerful. Central to leadership, relationships and emotional intelligence are empathy and awareness of others. All of this is part of being a better human and our best selves.
You learn that you can inspire
Speeches have triggered revolutions, sparked societal transformation and rewrote history. I don’t need say any more here about amazing oratory. Many of us in reality will probably feel far away from being the next Martin Luther King. All of us however will remember a talk which has motivated us to do something positive for others or the world around us.
When you hear someone speak in a way which is genuine, with feeling and real spirit, it’s arresting and you listen. Public speaking shows you how to harness the power of your story or passion. You learn the techniques to speak in a way which impacts, is memorable and energises others.
Being you and true as a speaker will ripple out and touch others so much more that can imagine. Whether promoting personal change, communicating about causes or reaching out to others to share a human experience, we all have the power to speak to inspire. Even if your talk changes one small thing, it’s one small thing you did to contribute to the greater good and already that’s about being a better human.
You learn the value of you
Aside from being a coach, from life and work experiences, I have seen and know how easily people can lose confidence through life events or more darkly, have their self-esteem shredded by the actions or words of others.
Feeling underestimated, undermined or undervalued is something we have all felt at some point. Coming back from these experiences and rebuilding our sense of self-worth can sometimes a slow process. Yes, true you may think, but how is that connected to public speaking?
Ponder this for a moment. The thought of stepping up to do a speech strikes fear into the hearts of many even when they feel good about themselves. When you lose confidence in yourself, you can also lose your voice. You may not even feel that what you have to say or think is worth listening to.
It was emerging from one of the lowest points in my life after an emotionally abusive relationship that I thought about learning public speaking. I started by attending a public speaking workshop and then discovering and joining my local Toastmasters Club (public speaking clubs).
To give a speech, do it well and connect with people is simply exhilarating. It’s one of the biggest confidence kicks you can have. Coming from feeling broken to get that feeling from speaking was a confidence catalyst and a turning point in my life. For me and I know from many others, learning how to and then giving talks radically reboots your self-belief and so much more.
Being a better human is understanding that each and every one of us has something to say and share of value. You matter and what you say matters. That’s what public speaking teaches you and when you start to believe this, you’re already on your way to greater things.
Author: Maire McGrath, Director, FutureSpark Coaching