American Colleges and Universities, there are a core set of skills that are necessary “both for a globally engaged democracy and for a dynamic innovation fueled economy” (Rhodes, 2010, p. 10). In the category of “Intellectual and practical skills” public speaking is listed as one of these core skills. This is not particularly surprising given that communication skills are critical for intellectual development, career trajectory, and civic engagement. Public speaking is universally applicable to all types of majors and occupations and is seen by U.S. employers as a critical employability skill for job seekers (Rockler-Gladen, 2009; U.S. Department of Labor, 2000). No matter what your ambitions and interests are, developing speaking skills will benefit your personal, professional, and public life.
People don’t just give presentations on the job and in classes. At times we are called upon to give speeches in our personal lives. It may be for a special event, such as a toast at a wedding. We may be asked to give a eulogy at a funeral for a friend or loved one. As a part of volunteer work, one may have to introduce a guest speaker at an event or present or accept an award for service. Chapter 17, “Special Occasion Speaking” by Scholl will help you to prepare for these brief but important speeches. Developing the skill to give these types of speeches can help us to fulfill essential roles in our family and community.
Another great personal benefit of public speaking is that it builds self confidence. It’s no surprise that speaking in public is scary, but by engaging in the activity you will build self-confidence through the experience. Chapter 11, “Speaking with Confidence” by Grapsy ( in this book) will give you advice on how to minimize speech apprehension, and the advice can be used in many other social situations as well.
Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all. ~ Norman Vincent Peale
TV announcers, teachers, lawyers, and entertainers must be able to speak well, but most other professions require or at the very least can benefit from the skills found in public speaking.
It is believed 70% of jobs today involve some form of public speaking (Aras, 2012). With the recent economic shift from manufacturing to service careers, the ability to communicate with others has become crucial. Top CEOs advise that great leaders must be able to communicate ideas effectively, they must be able to persuade, build support, negotiate and speak effectively in public (Farrell, 2011). The chapters on “Informative Speaking” and “Persuasive Speaking” can help readers understand how to write presentations that enhance their leadership skills. But before you even start a career, you have to get a job. Effective speaking skills make you more attractive to employers, enhancing your chances of securing employment and later advancing within your career. Employers, career counselors, and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) all list good communication skills at the top of the list of qualities sought in potential employees. According to NACE’s executive director, Marilyn Mackes, the Job Outlook 2013 Report found that employers are looking for people who can communicate effectively (Koncz & Allen, 2012). Monster.com advises, “articulating thoughts clearly and concisely will make a difference in both a job interview and subsequent job performance” (McKay, 2005).
Learning about public speaking will allow you to participate in democracy at its most basic level. Public speaking is important in creating and sustaining a society, which includes informed, active participants. Even if you do not plan to run for office, learning about public speaking helps you to listen more carefully to and critically evaluate other’s speeches. In fact the “Listening Effectively” and “Critical Thinking and Reasoning” chapters in this book by Goddu and Russ will help you to develop those skills. Listening and critical thinking allow you to understand public dilemmas, form an opinion about them, and participate in resolving them. The progress of the past century involving segregation, women’s rights and environmental protection are the result of people advancing new ideas and speaking out to others to persuade them to adopt changes.