Public Speaking is An Unavoidable Reality
of 21st Century Citizenship
Public speaking might be easy to dismiss if it were important but avoidable. However, in the 21st century, it is both an important and inescapable reality in all aspects of life. Translation: If you’ve been putting this class off for years or you had a lump in your throat on the way to class – public speaking will find you whether or not you are ready for it. It is an unavoidable necessity.
At our institution, we offer a nursing program that requires their students to present case studies, rotation results and reports to fellow classmates. Because all of the nursing students are additionally required to successfully complete a Public Speaking class, we have constant contact and communication with these students. As a result, it is probably no surprise to you that these students continually inform us that they underestimated the need, use and importance of public speaking in the health care field. Whether they are presenting to the hospital Board, a team of doctors, or a family unit, they are ‘on stage’ with their communication skills.
Consider the following:
- For seniors who want a job after graduation, public speaking often makes the difference in getting the job and not getting the job. In formal job interviews, employers want to know if you can orally organize your thoughts about your previous experiences, articulate why you want to work at this particular organization, and most importantly, they want to hear how effectively you can persuade them that you would be a valuable asset to their organization. In fact, research shows that the use of poise, interest (e.g. eye contact) and expressiveness are large factors of success in a job interview (Riggio, 2011).
- For public officials working within the Center for Disease Control, the expertise of recognizing life-threatening flu strains must be matched with an understanding of what information should be released to the public.
- For the shop floor manager trying to make sense of a constantly changing health code required by local governments, ongoing training is a must.
- For the executive attempting to instill hope and comfort within employees during times of economic hardship, speeches must be matched with numerous public press releases explaining new projects and their positive effects.
- For technology directors confronted with an ever-expanding online universe and an explosion in online crime, press conferences regarding cyber terrorism must be balanced with clear and accessible language for the general public.
- For criminal justice professionals assessing an archaic justice system without DNA testing, explaining justice in terms of scientific method and the technological advancement of DNA testing will require skilled professionals who can explain science in everyday language to jury members.
- For teachers who must effectively adjust their instruction to various learning styles, regular communication with students and parents is an ongoing work in progress.
- For attorneys who must write and deliver arguments to win their cases, public speaking can mean the difference between court findings of innocence and guilt.
- For artists who attempt to sell their work, creating an authentic online presence is an essential and ongoing communication challenge.
- For young people of all majors, communication is a common ingredient. For example, as part of Marine Week Chicago, Maj. Shawn D. Haney, a public affairs officer from Anderson, S.C., taught the kids in the program about the importance of communication in their future careers. As part of the meeting, Haney discussed the multiple ways people communicated. She talked about the importance of body language, written reports and public speaking. She told the students, “I really feel that communication is important to everyone no matter what you think you're going to do in life.” (BYLINE: States News Service).
- For the powerless and marginalized, public speaking is also essential. According to Kathleen Torrens, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Rhode Island, public speaking is a vital part of citizenry for all students – especially those for whom college is not an option because of financial or academic reasons. She said:
Knowing how to make a cogent, persuasive argument is important because this population should be able to stand up for themselves - whether in the courts, the school systems, or in other public forums where public advocacy is necessary to protect themselves and their families." (US Fed News, May 4, 2009 Monday 11:10 AM EST).
- For the betterment of its citizens, the city of Fontana issued the following news release:
The Mayor and City Council invite the public to register for the new public speaking class at the Heritage Neighborhood Center located at 7350 W. Liberty Parkway. The Friday classes begin Friday, June 26 from 7 to 8:30 pm for ages 18 and older. Fees are $28 for 4 weeks. Fear Free Public Speaking will enable the student to identify, overcome, and transform their fear of public speaking into an opportunity to deliver amazing presentations. Students will work to eliminate stage fright and enhance their networking skills. For more information or to register, please visit any neighborhood center or call (US State News, June 4, 2009 Thursday 12:02 PM EST).Public speaking transcends occupational differences. Whatever your particular major and however different your goals are in life from the person sitting next to you in class, each of us are constantly confronted with issues of facts, forced to make sense of these facts, and asked to provide audiences with an understandable translation of these facts. This is our modern reality. The question isn’t if you will have to speak in public, but when and how well.
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