April 16, 2024

The Value in Embracing this Fact: Public speaking is a skill

Public Speaking , Instruction , Presentation Tips , Public Speaking Fear

"I'm just not naturally good at public speaking."

We meet so many people in our work who begin their conversations with an apology along these lines.

Yes, some people seem to be born with a knack for standing up and engaging audiences. 

That talent is a gift. But you can give yourself an even more important one by recognizing the undeniable truth: Public speaking is a skill.

For shy or reluctant speakers, embracing this notion is a game changer. Here's why.

You can learn to do it.

Once you absorb that public speaking is set of skills, you can start to master them—just as you might learn to play tennis or speak another language.

You can identify the skills you already have, in order to make the most of them. (And yes, every speaker comes with strengths, whether they realize it or not.)

You can also start to work on developing the presentation skills you need to fill in gaps, so you can build confidence and be more effective.

Feedback is not about you but your skill.

When you view public speaking as a skill, feedback and coaching are easier to accept and apply. 

In our experience, when we tell ourselves we're naturally horrible at this "talent" other people have, it feels as if we are flawed. Feedback is painful, because it feels personal. Viewing our speaking as an acquirable skill rather than an innate quality makes it easier to hear where we're not perfect, so we can improve. 

Think of it in terms of other skills we might seek to develop. If you took a beginning pottery class, for example, you would not expect to know how to throw a perfect pot on your first go at the wheel. You'd expect to try, get instruction, then try again—without chastising yourself that you are a failure who will never be any good. 

Everyone can improve.

As you develop your skills in public speaking, you'll also be able to identify the skills others are using to be successful.

Our students can soon appreciate that even those seemingly "gifted" speakers are using techniques they've also learned. Our students also can spot ways in which gifted speakers might improve.

Perfection is not the goal

These are some of the many truths we've learned over the decades:

  • There are no perfect speakers.
  • Great speakers are always looking for ways to learn and improve.
  • With experience and practice, every speaker will find their best methods.
  • Sometimes the best speaker is the one who began as a reluctant speaker, because that speaker’s motive is the purist—to give an audience information they need. 

Learn more:

Find our tips for shy speakers here.

Want to build your skills? Use our how-to guides for step-by-step instruction.

Can using a lectern help you be a better speaker? Explore the topic here.

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