How different is “public speaking” from “talking”?
Probably not as much as you think!
What Is Public Speaking, Anyway?
You can think of public speaking as “anything that’s not private,” but the big difference is that public speaking generally has a goal.
When you make a “speech,” comment in a meeting, argue a position, or deliver a message, you’re likely to have a particular outcome in mind. You want your listener to do something — buy your product, sign up for your program, agree with your values — or do something differently.
When you just “talk,” on the other hand, it’s more open-ended. You may have a general goal — to have fun with friends, or gripe about the day’s frustrations — but you’re not actively working toward a set result.
What Actions Distinguish Public Speaking from Talking?
To accomplish a public speaking goal, you might take some or all of the following actions, which rarely figure in “just talking.” You might:
- Plan what you’re going to say in advance
- Practice saying it in advance
- Speak more clearly, to be easily heard
- Speak more slowly, to be easily heard
- Speak with more confidence or authority than you’d use in casual conversation
- Watch for your listeners’ reaction, and emphasize the points that seem to be persuading them
Your listener won’t necessarily realize that you’re taking any of these actions — but whether or not they’re aware of your thought process, you’ll know that you’re in public speaking mode.
Practice Public Speaking by Acting Like a Public Speaker
If it’s true that the actions I’ve listed distinguish public speaking, then it’s also true that, each time you practice doing one of these things, you’re practicing a public speaking skill.
In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that, each time you practice doing several of them, you’re practicing giving a speech.
So the next time someone in your life (a spouse, friend, colleague, parent) proposes doing something you don’t want to do, don’t just say, “Naw, I don’t feel like it!”
Instead, seize this chance to practice your public speaking skills by making your response into a little “speech” a set of words that are intended to persuade, not just a reaction to what the other guy said.
How Public Speakers Use Their Bodies
- Straighten your posture
- Look your listener in the eye
- Speak slowly and clearly, and
- State your position with confidence (whether or not you’re feeling confident, you can sound that way!)
Be sure, when you do this, that your message is clear. Try saying:
“I’d rather not get pizza for dinner. I need to eat some vegetables, and you probably do, too.”
“You’ve seen that movie twice already. Tonight, let’s watch what I want to see.”
“I understand that you need this work tomorrow. I’m going to finish it from home.”
Public Speaking Isn’t Magic
Keep it simple, clear, and focused; just state what you want with authority.
Your delivery — and your expectation that people will listen — will elevate these everyday comments to persuasive mini-speeches.
And there’s a double pay-off to this action: Not only will you get more comfortable using basic public speaking skills, but you’ll get probably get more of what you’re asking for, too!