Let’s Talk Public Speaking

All speaking in public is Public Speaking!

Is there a difference between talking, speaking, and Public Speaking? I, like many, have mused upon that question. Daily, we use signs and language to communicate. Although the differences are in how or when we talk and speak, the “why” or purpose is the same. The goal when we speak is to communicate effectively with others. As one of my friends often says, you might as well be speaking to a wall if you are not communicating. However, I do believe good Public Speaking begins with proper breathing.  

When we breathe life into our words, there is a connection with whoever is listening. But first, let’s take a look at the grammatical differences. According to Webster, the intransitive verb “talk” is expressing or exchanging ideas using spoken words with signs or sounds. The verb “speak” is to utter words or articulate sounds with the ordinary voice to express thoughts, opinions, or feelings orally. But the noun “Public Speaking” is the act or process of making speeches in Public to communicate with audiences. Talking and speaking, privately or publicly, are all interrelated. The subtle differences that exist are in the speaker’s delivery style. Breathing can make a vast difference when speaking privately or publicly.

When talking personally, we pay little attention to breeding. However, Public Speaking requires voice placement to produce different sounds, pitches, and tones. Therefore, it is critical to intake the air needed before starting each sentence. How that air intake is released helps to change the speaker’s tone, accent, and diction. Using a single tone or pitch causes what is called a monotone. A monotone becomes daunting to the ears of listeners. Varying the stress on different words helps audiences stay focused and connected to you and your message.

Speak to the eyes of your audience, and they will know that you care. At the end of each sentence, stop – pause, and take a breath. Some speakers fill what should be a pause or silence with “filler words,”  “ahs,” “ums,” or “you know.” In that moment of silence, the speaker should scan their audience before continuing to speak. Silence is an integral part of the communication process. The speaker can also use their non-verbal communication in those moments to stay connected. An inquiring look or smile can keep any audience engaged. Practice taking that fresh breath of air silently. And those moments can become enjoyable for you and your audience when executed seamlessly.  

One of the goals of Public Speaking is to speak as if you were talking to your friends or stranger. I have even heard coaches describe Public Speaking as being private in public. In a private conversation, the speaker focuses on voicing their opinion, offering information, or confidently making their case. However, everything changes once Public Speaking is mentioned. There is this belief that you must be a speaker to step onto a speaking platform. No! You’ll become a speaker when you seize every opportunity to speak to audiences. As my dear friend Darren LaCroix often says, it takes “stage time, stage time, stage time!” The transformation takes place on the platform.

Experienced speakers will tell you that you will have great success in Public Speaking when you focus on your audience and not yourself. That freedom of expression developed during private conversations and your life experiences provides excellent material for you to share with audiences. All speaking in public is Public Speaking. It certainly was, when you shouted those choice words to that driver who cut you off. When speakers are authentic and can present themselves as relatable human beings, anyone will lend an ear. The ability to appear unscripted and natural is attractive to audiences. When you focus on your audience and not on yourself, you will enjoy speaking from the platform just as much as you do when you talk or speak privately.

So today, I urge you to take another look at your approach to Public Speaking. Speaking is a gift that we should never take for granted. But, unfortunately, many are not so blessed. Talking, speaking, and in particular, Public Speaking, requires a purpose. There must be a “why” when you talk or speak. The only difference between speaking publicly and privately is your delivery. And the development of your delivery all begins with your breathing. Be aware that people will listen to you when you breathe life into your words when you speak. And when you breathe life into words that come from your heart, your message will land in the hearts of your audience.  

Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmasters in 1997. He is presently a member of 4 Toastmasters clubs; two in Santa Cruz and two in San Jose. He is a DTM-4. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ whose speechwriting approach is similar to his approach to songwriting.

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