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The Need for Public Speaking Skills in a Digital Age

2 minute read

Carol Mae Whittick, Toastmasters International explains why high level public speaking skills are crucial for successful communication in today’s digital age. 

Speaking is not only limited to live stages. The new platforms include webinars, video conferencing, podcasts and social media. More notably, the power has shifted to the audience who previously endured uninspiring keynotes and now, often literally, have control in the palm of their hands, poised to swipe or click away if the messaging does not resonate. As their expectations are higher, speakers in addition to conveying their ideas, need to interact with their audience, answer questions, engage in discussions, welcome and respond to feedback. 

Once published, digital messaging is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, to a worldwide audience who can inconspicuously engage with brands, consume their content, compare and contrast them with others within that sector before deciding whether to become a patron. Compelling digital communication is no longer the preserve of brands with the biggest budgets which has thankfully levelled the playing field. However, with so many more people adding to the noise, the ability, stand out and to captivate with words is more important than ever. 

Demonstrating leadership and credibility

An impactful public speaker demonstrates leadership and credibility, is persuasive and has the ability to build trust, connections and community. When creating digital content it is also wise to consider the proximity of the audience. Their screens will be in their personal space giving them the ability to scrutinise the vocal nuances, facial expressions and body language of the speaker. With this in mind, it is wise to consider studying the craft of public speaking to learn the tools used by the experts in the space.

Founded in 1924, Toastmasters International is entering its 100th year. This worldwide organisation teaches public speaking skills and has embraced the digital shift by providing its training online as well as in person. Members can follow its education program called Pathways, which as well as learning how to create engaging talks also helps build self-confidence, leadership that translate to a competitive advantage in the workplace, both on and offline. 

Short form videos

The club meetings provide a supportive environment for people to practice public speaking in a structured way with others, who offer positive support, mentorship and evaluation. Over time members develop their unique style, and learn to incorporate higher level skills like, nonverbal communication, vocal variety and humour. Each meeting includes the infamous Table Topics where members are invited to speak for 2 minutes on an unknown subject. While this prospect may seem daunting, mastering the ability to be succinct and engaging is prized in this day of viral short form videos and diminishing attention spans. 

As the digital age rolls on and we navigate engaging with the emerging technologies, of Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and the unknown inventions of the future, the survivors will be those who continually improve human skills technology will struggle to authenticity replicate. Mastering public speaking is safeguard against being superseded. 

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