Also known as Oratory or Oration, public speaking has traditionally meant the art of speaking face-to-face with a live audience. One of the many scholars associated with public speaking, Confucius, believed that the words and actions of someone of power can influence the world. Developed as a primary sphere of knowledge in Greece and Rome, public speaking was codified as a central part of rhetoric by prominent thinkers.
The art of public speaking is usually presented as a mixture of teaching, persuasion, and entertainment and is used for many different purposes. Today, public speaking has been transformed and expanded from the traditional live audience addressing to technologically available avenues like video conferencing, multimedia presentations, and other non-traditional forms.
Public Speaking Skills
Dale Carnegie wrote the book on public speaking. His techniques have helped an entire generation of public speakers grow from nervous beginners to confident professionals. The art of public speaking is precise and in equal parts verbal and non-verbal.
There are key skills involved in effective public speaking:
Understanding the Audience
This is the first step towards public speaking engagement and is similar to a marketing gimmick. Knowing the type of audience that is in attendance helps to determine the choice of words, the level of specificity, and the speech organisation of the presentation. It is important to learn as much as possible about the listeners.
Speaking from an Outline
There is a reason why public speaking is referred to as an art. Reading directly from a slide without any additional information is a crucial error and the fastest way to lose an audience. The key is to put together an outline of the main topics that can be elaborated on in person during the presentation. This keeps the audience engaged and captivated while channelling their attention to the spoken words rather than reading off a slide.
Tell a Story
Public speaking and storytelling are complementary. A short personal story conforming to the outline of the presentation and relating to some points can establish a connection with the audience. It goes a long way in painting a mental picture for the listeners. Explaining the value proposition and recanting a relatable situation creates a bridge of trust with the audience, leading to an effective presentation.
Utilizing Inclusive Language
As societal norms continue to change, evolving with technology, it is critical for public speakers to understand and adapt to the appropriate vernacular. The speaker must utilize language that is easy to understand and follow, avoiding gender-specific and all-encompassing words as well as antiquated naming practices.
Prepare for Questions
Last but not least, this is an important part of the presentation that may happen during or at the end of the speech. Knowing the subject matter is only half the equation. The success of the presentation may well rest upon how well the speaker is able to address queries from the audience. The confidence with which the questions are dealt with establishes the credibility of the speaker. It is prudent to understand the query clearly and thoughtfully construct the response.
Best Public Speakers in the World
Over the years, the world has seen many public speakers touch on a wide variety of topics. Needless to say, some have been more effective and successful than others. Some great names in the public speaking arena possess more than just adequate knowledge of their chosen topics. They possess those little extra skills and talents that pull their audience into their speeches, include them as an essential part of the presentation, and are able to answer most unspoken queries through effective presentations and stories. They are able to connect with their audience emotionally.
An American businessman, Christopher Paul Gardner, struggled with homelessness while raising a toddler son before becoming a successful stockbroker. He describes himself as a 67-year-old start-up. His inspiring keynote speeches focus on messages of perseverance and personal responsibility in times of crisis. He communicates these themes through his own story of struggle and homelessness with his son, and his subsequent success as a stockbroker, CEO, single father, and best-selling author.
His was a life that started with a rare and almost debilitating disadvantage. Nick was born without arms or legs. He turned what was an impossible existence into one that is inspiring and motivating. He earned a double bachelor's degree, majoring in accounting and financial planning. Facing tremendous challenges, Nick found his purpose in inspiring and equipping the world to rise above adversity and overcome every disability. His engaging speech has given strength to millions of people to overcome challenges. Nick runs his own motivational speaking company, ‘Attitude is Altitude’.
In a fiery explosion that burned 100% of his body at the age of nine, John O’Leary was given only a 1% chance of survival. He lost all his fingers and had to re-learn how to write, walk, and feed himself. Having fought extraordinary odds and persevered through such a harrowing personal experience, he is able to share his life lessons with audiences all around the globe. John O’Leary speaks about living life to the fullest, embracing each moment and celebrating the joy of life. He has authored his life experiences in the best-seller, ‘On Fire’.
He is, perhaps, the most well-known leadership speaker in the world. He has been an entrepreneur, best-selling author, philanthropist, and life/business strategist for the last four decades. He conducts life training programs that deliver messages of empowerment to more than 50 million people from 100 countries. His non-profit foundation has awarded more than 2,000 grants and other resources to health and human services organizations.
He is considered one of the world’s premier public speakers on leadership and personal mastery. Throughout his career spanning 20 years, he has provided insights into world-class companies like Nike, GE, Microsoft, FedEx, and PwC to NASA, Yale University, and YPO. His books have topped international best-seller lists and he is ranked as one of the Top 5 Leadership Experts in the world in an independent survey of more than 22,000 business people.
Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington – Brene Brown Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. She has devoted the past two decades to the extensive study of courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She hosts the Unlocking Us podcast and has authored 5 best-sellers – The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead. Her TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top 5 most viewed TED talks in the world.
He served as a monk for three years and came back with one mission – to make wisdom go viral. With 7 billion views of his YouTube videos, he has over 29 million fans on Facebook alone. ‘On Purpose’, his podcast is among the highest ranked in the health category and explores the topic of work, love, self and service. He makes ancient wisdom relevant through modern science. He combines his experiences as a monk living in India, business school, and working as a digital strategist to formulate practical and accessible leadership techniques.
What makes these people such leaders in their chosen field of public speaking? It is the very essence of their talks that draws inspiration from their life experiences that gives their speeches the ring of truth. The lessons they highlight are self-learnt and, sometimes, hard-learned. Their philosophy is derived from their struggles, and their character traits are defined by the obstacles that they have overcome.
The stories of these public speakers are engaging, ringing with clarity, and filled with anecdotal references to the importance of personal values and responsibility. They speak of the path they have travelled and have chosen to now become the light that guides others who seek to follow the same path.
What is public speaking?
Also known as Oratory or Oration, public speaking has traditionally meant the art of speaking face-to-face with a live audience. The art of public speaking is usually presented as a mixture of teaching, persuasion, and entertainment and is used for many different purposes.
Who are the best public speakers in the world?
Some of the best public speakers in the world are:
- Nick Vujicic
- Chris Gardner
- Robin Sharma
- Tony Robbins
- John O’Leary
- Brene Brown
- Jay Shetty
Which skills are required for public speaking?
The most important public speaking skills include:
- Understanding the Audience
- Tell a Story
- Utilizing Inclusive Language
- Prepare for Questions
- Speaking from an Outline