Understanding the value of public speaking

Posted 10/30/17

“You cannot not communicate.” Some of us communicators live by the above statement. Whenever we engage in interpersonal communication endeavors, even when we don’t verbally exchange …

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Understanding the value of public speaking

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“You cannot not communicate.” 

Some of us communicators live by the above statement. Whenever we engage in interpersonal communication endeavors, even when we don’t verbally exchange messages we are still communicating, even if only through body language. 

When I give a public speech, my hands and body move in coordinated ways that are both predictable and understandable by most Americans. I am constantly engaging in communication. In fact, we are all  constantly communicating. 

Thousands of years of human evolution have helped people be better communicators through sheer necessity. 

By communicating well, rewards are given and achieved. If a speaker fails to communicate eloquently, he will inevitably be judged and possibly punished for his own speaking pitfalls. It pays off to communicate well, that’s for sure. 

We often see evidence of the former by critically investigating those individuals who hold a position of leadership. Anyone who is given the privilege to lead others must communicate effectively in order to both establish rapport and earn credibility. Being a great communicator is a requirement if one is to lead people; it comes with the territory, if that makes sense. 

I am not seeing evidence that younger people have bought the idea they must be able to communicate interpersonally. What I often see is this youthful obsession with smartphones and the need to text and engage in mediated environments. 

There is nothing necessarily wrong with communication via text messaging, if used in moderation. The problem is that all these “fake” communications maybe are causing more problems than good. 

Are our smartphones destroying a generation of fine speakers?

In the end, I think they are. 

In order to be a great speaker, you need to do what great people do — practice! In order to speak well, people need to write well, I would argue. 

A cable TV giant has made a prediction that, because of technology, America is going to become a nation of adults who have the writing skills of an 8-year-old. Because of the smartphone, I wonder how our children are going to end up speaking in the future. 

My prediction is that the levels of communication apprehension among adults will increase exponentially over time, because pupils aren’t practicing enough public speaking in order to reach competency. How good is all this technology, if our sons and daughters lose the ability to eloquently give a eulogy? 

Cleveland has a lot to lose by having its youth handicapped by technology. When we fail to communicate interpersonally, we lose an opportunity to influence others. If you can’t influence, you will be influenced. Doesn’t that go against your own model of leadership?       

Mastering the art of communication is an ideal that should be achieved by us all. When I was in college, everybody was obligated to take a class in public speaking. I am glad I had to.

This speech class, along with the two other acting courses I took in the theater department, have served as a foundation for studying and developing my own style of communication which I literally use now five days a week, multiple times a day.  

As a person who makes his living speaking to others on a college campus, I cannot afford to lose this public speaking skill set unless my goal would be to teach courses for an online educational institution. I have no desire to join such organizations. 

I have taught in a number of universities where public speaking wasn’t a requirement for graduation. However, classes in micro-computing are often mandatory for students.

I don’t have anything against students taking courses involving new technology, but failing to recognize that not partaking in a course in speech might have unintended consequences to a student’s life concerns me.

When we train our kids to speak better, without technological distractions, they inevitably become better speakers. Students versed in public speaking have a better chance of advancing in an organization, which can lead to a financially rewarding career. 

Be one of them! Put that smartphone away, and get into a class in public speaking.

You won’t regret it!  

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(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book, “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at luiscalmeida.info.)

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