Why You Must Develop the Skill of Public Speaking

I'm attending the Dynamic Communicators Workshop this week, which I found out about via Ken Davis, the founder. I'm hoping that it will make me a better speaker.

For years, I've avoided public speaking, because I've been afraid. Of what, I'm not exactly sure. And isn't that how fear always operates? By veiling itself in mystery?

It's time that you and I both faced some myths about this irrational fear.

Public Speaking Photo
Photo by Hakan Dahlstrom (Creative Commons)

Even though I was an accomplished actor and debater in college, I've avoided public speaking since I graduated, because I believed some common myths about it. Not to mention, I was just plain scared.

A lot of people are afraid of speaking in public. The problem? They're believing lies.

Here are some of the myths I believed about public speaking (maybe you're prone to some of these, as well):

MYTH #1: Public speaking doesn't do any good

With all the empty promises offered by politicians and movie stars in our world, it's not uncommon to have your guard up against public speaking.

It has been misused by people in power. And many of us have been unfortunately disappointed with mere words.

MYTH #2: Talk is cheap

This is, in fact, true. Kind of. Words without action ring empty and hollow.

So, why, then, bother saying anything at all — be it from a stage, a blog, or on television?

Isn't it better to simply sit down and shut your mouth?

MYTH #3: Writers don't need to be speakers

Writers write. Speakers speak. 

Leave all that presenting and wooing to people who are gifted at it. That's what I thought. I was a writer. Not a speaker.

If I ever published a book, I would just have to hire Sean Connery or Morgan Freeman to do the audio. (I was gunning for Freeman.)

I doubted I could ever be talented at public speaking, that I could ever be a great speaker. And so, I disqualified myself before ever really trying.

I was wrong. Public speaking is both an art and craft. And like any skill, it can be developed.

This has been incredibly empowering — to realize that just because I wasn't born with a microphone attached to my lips that I can, in fact, become a better speaker. To counter the lies and myths I've believed, I'm learning some amazing facts about public speaking:

FACT #1: Public speaking can change the world

In fact, it already has. Many times over.

If you saw The King's Speech, you know what I'm talking about. From politicians to religious leaders, the world has seen how speakers can make a difference — for good and for evil.

Hitler mobilized a movement of racism and hatred in the early twentieth century with emphatic public speeches, and Martin Luther King, Jr. undid a lot of that work in the same century with the same gift.

From Jesus to Gandhi, we have already seen the potency of public speaking. Communication can change the world.

FACT #2: Words are powerful tools

As I've said before, words matter.

Modern society has made words cheap. We've thrown away extensive vocabularies in exchange for pop culture idioms and cool catch phrases. But words can still motivate and mobilize. The spoken word may, in fact, be the most powerful medium we have.

Your words (when accompanied with action) can have an incredible impact. Don't use them lightly.

FACT #3: Writers must become better public speakers

In today's economy, writers must develop their platforms.

And now, more than ever, public speaking is an essential skill for authors. Speaking engagements are a great way to grow your audience, sell books, and gain influence.

In my limited experience, I've already seen how important it is to use this skill to share ideas and network.

Since a recent local speaking engagement, I've had the opportunity to guest post on multiple blogs, many of which came about through my Podcamp talk.

So I'm excited (and scared) to develop this skill of public speaking that will benefit me as a writer and communicator.

If you'd like to follow along this week, I'll be posting my thoughts on the DCW blog daily. You can also follow the event on Twitter and Facebook.

Do you think public speaking matters? Why?

Recommended reading: 10 Tips for Public Speaking