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What is Public Speaking ?

We live in a societal setup wherein individuals interact with each other in various ways. They connect on issues that are important to them as well as for everyday communication. Life cannot be lived in silence. Some amount of verbal communication takes place between persons, and this communication dons different garbs depending on the nature of the conversation. A parent-child conversation differs from a leader - group discussion, but both involve ‘speech’. Amongst the various forms of communication, there lies what is popularly known as ‘public speaking’.

The history of public speaking goes back to the early days of civilization wherein the tribe (community) leader gathered the members together for announcements or judgements pertaining to the community. The leader spoke to the community (i.e., the public) and this was termed as public speaking. The orators of Ancient Greece were the most popular public speakers in their time. Thus, most often, people who are in a leadership position, and have the confidence to air their views in public, resort to public speaking.

This form of speech is simply ‘speaking in public’, i.e., one individual speaking to a large group. Here, public could mean any group of people. It could be a group of strangers gathered together for some purpose, or a group of students, or the community at large.

Wikipedia has aptly defined public speaking as ‘the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners’. In every speech, there must be a person who is speaking, person/s who is listening, and a topic that is being spoken about.

Public speaking is usually a monologue wherein a person delivers a speech, which could be as simple as an announcement, or a long lecture, or an intensive political speech. Public speaking is generally unrestricted in the sense that the speaker can speak his mind and view his opinions to the gathering. This does not mean that the contents of his speech are to be accepted by all, but that he has the freedom to say what he wants to.

Public speeches are those vocalizations that are freely available as they are meant for the public. Anyone belonging to a particular place or community can listen to the speech. These are dialogues that are delivered in the public domain.

However, this term is often used within organizations and schools as well wherein the person delivering the dialogue is a public speaker, but the audience is restricted to members of that particular organization or institution.

Similarly, religious discourses or school debates also come under the definition of public speaking since there is a single person delivering a speech at a given time.

Public speaking can be both formal and informal. In the first form, speeches are based on topics that are widely researched and are structured properly. Every point is followed by another so that the content flows systematically. Often, formal speeches are accompanied by other presentation modules such as graphs, charts, or videos that substantiate what is being said. Formal speeches are usually made in the workplace or educational institutions.

Informal public speaking is that when a person from a group of people stands up to give a speech. Though there is a distinct thought or view that forms the key message in the speech, the dialogue delivered may not be very structured. The words are spoken as they flow through the mind. Such informal speeches are made on the spur of the moment.