Top Five Things I’ve Learned from Teaching Public Speaking (for almost a decade!)

Apr 26 / EMILY VAJJALA, PH.D.





I think that title speaks for itself! 
Let’s get right into it. 

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1. Public speaking anxiety is very real.  

I was, unfortunately, aware of public speaking anxiety before I taught public speaking, having faced those nerves myself.  But as an instructor, I’ve watched students so fearful of public speaking that it triggers a fight of flight response.  A significant portion of my job as a public speaking instructor is working with nervous speakers to make them comfortable enough to speak. 

2. Developing strong content is often neglected.  

Most people come into public speaking courses thinking they are just going to learn to project their voice and deliver with confidence.  Which begs the question, “Deliver what?”  Research and writing skills are arguably the most important of the speech making process, but people get hung up on delivery and fail to recognize the importance of quality content. 

5. Public speaking is fun! 

Don’t you think?  If you answered no, I get it.  I used to be terrified of public speaking.  But with practice and, in my case, tons and tons of exposure, you learn to love it.  Public speaking is an opportunity to be creative with developing content.  It’s an opportunity to talk about something you love.  It’s an opportunity, as an audience, to learn about and hear perspectives that you never considered.  I love public speaking. 

3. The most important thing I teach is not speaking at all.  It’s actually listening!   

Unless you’re the President of the United States or a motivational speaker, chances are you will listen to more speeches than you ever deliver.  Developing strong listening skills, which includes critical thinking, is vital.  I call this audiencing.  We audience almost all the time, whether as a speech audience, or when we are audiencing a television show, commercial, social media… even billboards.  We audience far more than we’ll ever speak, and audience skills, which are tied to critical listening, are the most important skills I teach (in my occasionally humble opinion). 

4. Emotion is not your enemy. 

But you need to be aware of your emotions and how they influence your speech and your audience.  Some students over-rely on emotional appeals in persuasion, while others try to take emotion out of their speeches all together.  These are two very different strategies that highlight the same problem: As humans, we don’t know how to recognize, manage, and cope with strong emotion.   

I could talk about each of these things in much more detail… In fact, we at the Communication Leader Academy are developing a public speaking arc just for that! 



Want to learn how to manage your nerves? Build strong content? Audience? Manage emotional appeals? Look for our Public Speaking Arc, coming soon!

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