Public Speaking: Where do you learn to speak in public?

Socrates: “But perhaps Rhetoric has been getting too roughly handled by us, and she might answer: What amazing nonsense you are talking! As if I forced any man to learn to speak in ignorance of the truth! Whatever my advice may be worth, I should have told him to arrive at the truth first, and then come to me. At the same time I boldly assert that mere knowledge of the truth will not give you the art of persuasion.” — Plato Phaedrus

Preachers and pastors, lawyers and politicians, teachers and leaders, doctors and dentists, taxi drivers and salespeople, yes, these people must speak in public, in front of audiences. Small audiences, large audiences, it doesn’t matter if you are comfortable speaking in public.

In fact, if you are going to be one of these people, public speaking will determine, in large measure, how successful you are going to be. Can you imagine, for example, Barack Obama being elected President of the United States without being an extraordinarily gifted public speaker? How would you like to speak in front of an audience of 75 thousand people? (Not me, and I’m being honest) There are few people who would say Obama could have been elected without being a good public speaker, comfortable in front of seventy five thousand (75000) people…

Barack Obama spoke to 75,000 people in Portland, Oregon. He called it “the most spectacular setting for the most spectacular crowd” of the 2008 campaign.  Photo: Chris Carlson / Associated Press

Barack Obama spoke to 75,000 people in Portland, Oregon. He called it “the most spectacular setting for the most spectacular crowd” of the 2008 campaign. Photo: Chris Carlson / Associated Press

So, where do you learn to be a good public speaker? Ah, there’s the rub, as Shakespeare would say. Do we really need any special training to speak in public? After all, we have always had many, many opportunities to speak in public:

“With the call for public speakers from pulpit, bar, stump, and lecture platform remaining undiminished, and with the large additional call in these latter days from ever multiplying organizations, with their meetings, conventions and banquets, it comes about that there is today greater opportunity and demand for speech-making than ever before.

The average man finds it greatly to his advantage in civic, organization and business affairs to be able to stand up and speak his mind; while any man who is known to have anything of interest to say, or who has in any way aroused favorable public attention, will be fairly dragged upon the platform.

Thus it comes about that never before have so many untrained and ill-prepared men found themselves upon their legs facing audiences, not unfrequently to the regret of both parties. While many work out their own salvation,literally with fear and trembling, more have but scanty success.” – James A. Winans, Public Speaking, December 22, 1916

As we can see, things have not changed. Opportunity for public speaking is all around us, daily awaiting us to step in front of an audience and speak our mind. But when that happens, the results are in many cases less than satisfactory. We can recognize the need for training, for a book to help you overcome your obstacles.

Preparing and delivering your own speech

Well, now you know the title of my next book: Preparing and Delivering your Own Speech. The scope of the book is clearly indicated, this is about you making a speech. Therefore, this book is for anyone who might find himself / herself standing in front of an audience, or sitting in at a meeting, or with something that you know that needs to be said, and the only person who should say it, is you… In other words, this book is for the whole world, because sooner or later, we all have to say something that matters to people. This book will help you to say what you need to say with confidence…

To close, I want to share some words with you, said by a young man in a famous play, who had some words to say, that were very important for many people’s lives, not to mention his own. He had a question on his mind, and he was searching for the words to guide him in his quest for Truth.

As you read these words, ask yourself: How would I say these words, if I had to say them?


To be or not to be—that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep—

No more—and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep—

To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause…


About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Connectivism, Culture, Education, Reflections, Teaching Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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