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What Is Public Speaking? & Why Is It Important?

This post is part of a series called Fundamentals of Public Speaking (101) Introduction Guide.
24 Quick Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

If you've been asked to give a public speech, you may wonder: what is public speaking and why is public speaking important? Those questions are quite logical if you've never thought much about public speaking before.

What is public speaking
In this tutorial you'll learn a public speaking definition and more. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

Public speaking is important in both business, education, and the public arena. There are many benefits to public speaking whether you're an individual or a business.

In this article, we'll define public speaking for you. We'll also discuss the importance of public speaking in general as well as the importance of public speaking in business. Plus, we'll connect you to some resources that can help you become a better public speaker including some public speaking examples.

Also, if you want to pursue public speaking yourself, be sure to download our free eBook:  The Complete Guide to Making Great PresentationsIt'll help you master the complete presentation process.

Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations

A Public Speaking Definition

What is public speaking? Basically, it's a presentation that's given live before an audience. Public speeches can cover a wide variety of different topics. The goal of the speech may be to educate, entertain, or influence the listeners. Often, visual aids in the form of an electronic slideshow are used to supplement the speech and make it more interesting to the listeners.

A public speaking presentation is different from an online presentation because the online presentation may be viewed and/or listened to at the viewer's convenience, while a public speech is typically limited to a specific time or place. Online presentations are often comprised of slideshows or pre-recorded videos of a speaker (including recordings of a live public speaking presentation).

Because public speaking is done before a live audience, there are some special factors the speaker needs to take into consideration. We'll touch on those shortly, but first let's take a quick look at the history of public speaking.

A History of Public Speaking

What is the history of public speaking?

There's a good chance that there's been public speaking, in one form or another, as long as there've been people. But most academics and others involved with public speaking, including those at The Public Speaking Project, trace the origins of modern public speaking back to ancient Greece and Rome. Of course, those societies didn't have any of the electronic conveniences we've got today to help with public speaking (no slideshows). But they did have a need for public speaking and developed public speaking methods that are still studied today.

The ancient Greeks, in particular, used public speaking primarily to praise or persuade others. At one point, all Greek citizens had the right to suggest or oppose laws during their assemblies, which resulted in a need for skilled public speakers. Public speaking became a desirable skill and was taught. Public speaking in the time of the Greeks was called rhetoric. Later, when Rome came to power, public speaking was used during the sessions of the governing body—the Roman senate. The Romans adopted the public speaking rhetoric methods of the Greeks. In fact, most public speaking teachers of the time were Greek.

If you fast forward to modern times, what was known as the Latin style of public speaking was popular in the U.S. and Europe until the mid-20th century. After World War II, however, a less formal and more conversational style of speaking started to become popular. Also, electronic tools became available to enhance public presentations. Towards the end of the 20th century, those electronic tools migrated to the computer and evolved into the computer software tools, such as PowerPoint, that we know and use today.

Don't be fooled, though. Even though today's public speeches are less formal, it's still important that they're well organized. More on that later. Now let's take a look at the importance of public speaking.

The Importance of Public Speaking

If you ask most people, they'll probably say they don't like public speaking. They may even admit to being afraid of it, since fear of public speaking is a very common fear. Or they may just be shy or introverted. For those reasons, many people avoid public speaking if they can. If you're one of those people who avoid public speaking, you're missing out.

Over the years, public speaking has played a major role in education, government, and business. Words have the power to inform, persuade, educate, and even entertain. And the spoken word can be even more powerful than the written word in the hands of the right speaker.

Whether you're a small business owner, a student, or just someone who's passionate about something—you'll benefit if you improve your public speaking skills, both personally and professionally. Some benefits to public speaking include:        

  • Improves confidence 
  • Better research skills
  • Stronger deductive skills
  • Ability to advocate for causes
  • And more

Public speaking is especially important for businesses since they've got a need to get their message before potential customers and market their business. Sales people and executives alike are often expected to have good public speaking skills. To learn more about some of the benefits of public speaking, review the following article:

Next, let's explore the methods you can use to become better at public speaking.

How to Become Better at Public Speaking

Okay, so now that you understand the benefits of public speaking, you might be a little more interested. Still, you might think it's not for you. Maybe you gave a speech once and it didn't go well. Maybe you're afraid of public speaking. Or maybe you think you don't have a natural ability for giving speeches.

The truth is that public speaking is a skill. It can be learned. While some people may have more natural speaking ability than others, or a more pleasing voice, or are more charismatic—anyone who can speak can learn to be a better public speaker than they are right now. It just takes some know-how and some effort.

To help you become better at public speaking, we'll take a look at these four areas:

  1. Writing the speech
  2. Overcoming a fear of speaking
  3. Practicing the speech
  4. Giving the speech

We'll start with writing the speech.

1. Write an Effective Speech

The first thing you'll want to do is work on writing a well-organized, engaging speech. Because even if you've got a great speaking voice or a great deal of charisma, you won't give a good speech if your material isn't any good. The following tutorials can help you learn to write better speeches:

You'll also want to download The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations eBook now for FREE with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. Learn how to get your ideas formed into a powerful presentation that'll move your audience.

Also, don't forget to make good use of tools like PowerPointGoogle Slides, or Keynote. Having the right template for your slide deck can make a huge difference in your presentation. Here are some of the best presentation templates available:

2. Overcome the Fear of Speaking

Fear of public speaking is very real and can hold you back if you let it. If you don't feel confident when giving your speech, your listeners may pick up on that, making your presentation less effective. Fortunately, there are some techniques that'll help most people manage their fear of public speaking and become more confident.

First, let's tackle fear of public speaking. The following tutorials list some techniques you can use to overcome a fear of public speaking:

Next, let's work on improving your confidence. The following tutorial has some suggestions that can help you feel better about your speaking ability:

3. Practice the Speech

Even if you're not afraid of public speaking, practicing your speech is still an important step to having an effective speech. If you're in a rush, you may be tempted to skip practicing your speech to save time. While skipping practice may seem like a good idea, it's really not.

By practicing your speech not only do you improve your public speaking skills, but you also increase your familiarity with the presentation—making it more likely that your speech will go smoothly. This tutorial includes a handy checklist to help you practice your speech (and other tips):

4. Give the Speech

Now that you've written a good speech, feel more confident about public speaking, and have practiced—you're ready to actually give the speech. There are some tips and tricks you can use on the day of your speech to make it go more smoothly, though. Remember, you're giving a presentation before a live audience at a specific place and time. So, you've got some concerns about the speaking venue that those who give online presentations don't have to worry about. Some common concerns for public speakers include:

  • Will the audience be able the hear me?
  • Does the venue have the equipment I need?
  • Are there enough seats for all of my listeners?

Here's a public speaking tutorial with ideas that'll help you while you're giving your speech:

Public Speaking Examples

Public speaking examples are great for learning a new skill or improving an existing skill. That applies to public speaking as well. If you get the chance to listen to some top-rated public speakers, you should do it. You can observe how other speakers go about giving their speech and improve your own public speaking skills in the process.

One great source of recorded public speeches is Ted Talks, which is a series of short presentations on a wide variety of topics. Ted Talks are known for attracting world-class and celebrity speakers. You can find my favorite Ted Talks in this article: 

Make Great Presentations (Free PDF eBook Download)

We also have the perfect complement to this tutorial, which will walk you through the complete presentation process. Learn how to write your presentation, design it like a pro, and prepare it to present powerfully.

Free PDF Presentation Ebook

Download our new eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great PresentationsIt's available for free with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter.


You've just learned all about public speaking. Not only do you now know the importance of public speaking, you've also learned a bit about the history of public speaking in Rome. And, you've learned the public speaking definition. We've also provided you with some tools to help you learn how to give a public speech and even provided you with a source for good public speaking examples that you can learn from.

You should now be ready to create public speeches of your own. So, go ahead. Write that public speech and give it. You'll be glad you did!

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