The Importance of Public Speaking

David Ashman, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






CEO positions, reporters, PR departments, and members of congress, are some of the many jobs in today’s society that require good public speaking skills.

Public speaking is all about taking your knowledge about a topic, and presenting it in an interesting way to others. It also teaches you how to collect information and organize it in a way that others can understand it.

Unfortunately public speaking is one of the hardest skills to learn, the main reason being that many people have a fear of speaking in front of others. Around 75% of the population has some level of anxiety from public speaking, according to a statistic by verywellmind.com on June 18, 2018. Because of this, many high school have been working public speaking into their curriculum.

Many classes in high schools will have students recite poems, give a speech, act out a scene from a play or book, or give a PowerPoint presentation about a topic. Also there is a wide variety of skills that are offered at high schools in the form of electives, clubs, or other extracurricular activities. These activities often include things like advanced electronics work, public speaking, medical and health, and much more. One of the most essential activities offered, is public speaking.

By learning public speaking in high school, students will have already had practice with communicating with others. This can open up new job opportunities, as putting four years of forensics public speaking on your resume can give you an edge over others when applying for a job.

Public speaking will not only effective your future, but it could have an impact in your high school career and help to get you into a good college. According to The American Debate League, “While only 50 percent of high school students in urban schools graduate, ninety percent of urban high school debaters graduate… They also score better on ACT and SAT tests, get into better colleges, and perform better once in college.”

Public speaking can also get you good jobs after you have finished college. An example is a teacher. Teachers need to be able to speak to groups of kids and their parents. This includes practiced talks that are given to the class, or “impromptu” conversations with parents. Often in lower grades, teachers will need to give demonstrations to students so they understand what they have to do. Another example of a job like this is a reporter. As a reporter, you need to be able to approach random people and ask them questions about stories or issues that you are covering. You also have to be able to get good interviews out of important individuals, such as company CEOs, political figures, and celebrities. Another example of when you would use public speaking in a career is if you are running for any political position. In an election, you are expected to give speeches that can be heard by the entire country, as well as taking questions from random citizens. Without public speaking skills, running for a political position will be challenging, as you might freeze up or simply be unable to answer a question if asked without notice.

One major extracurricular activity that helps with public speaking is high school forensics. Forensics offers the opportunity to perform in a number of different events, such as multiple, where 5–8 students perform a 15 minute re-enactment of a movie, musical, or play. Another event is sales, where students use an easel to present visuals and other information about a product, while giving an 8 minute prepared speech. Extemporaneous speaking is also a category. This event allows students to choose from three different current event topics selected at random, and pick one of them to write a speech on. Students are given thirty minutes to prepare a seven minute, three point speech.

Forensics in Michigan is ran by the Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association, also know as MIFA. Schools can enter their teams into competition and compete throughout the months of January till May. Teams usually form and start practicing in November. This gives students a lot of practice with speaking.

By competing in these events, students learn about current events, or other things that interest them. It also helps teach students responsibility. By competing in forensics events at the high school level, students will be better prepared for future jobs where they have to talk to strangers or groups of people. This also helps with colleges, as students are able to get large or full-ride scholarships if they do well in forensics, depending on what college they are attending. By participating in Forensics public speaking, students will learn valuable skills for the future.

An example of a successful Forensics team is Divine Child High School’s team. The team is open to all grades, and no prior experience is required. When students join the team, they practice almost every night in their category. The coaches for the team are made up of alumni, so those who join the team will have good teachers to hone their speaking skills. Starting in January, the team will begin competing against other schools in the area, organized by MIFA. At these tournaments, students will compete three times in the morning to qualify for a semifinal, and the final, round. These tournaments are great practice, as students will have to speak in front of groups of people, giving them practice to future jobs or presentations.

By using public speaking in high school, students are less likely to have problems with speaking in college or in future jobs. This makes students more effective, as by learning to speak in front of strangers, they are preparing themselves for the future, and giving them an advantage over others when applying for colleges or for jobs.

Now there is a movement out there that proposes that public speaking be optional in high school. This is mainly due to the anxiety and stress many students feel when they are forced to speak in front of their classmates, as students are often required to present a project or discuss a topic in front of the class. A lot of students feel that they shouldn’t be forced to do things that are uncomfortable to them, and many are uncomfortable with public speaking. While many do feel that this is a good option, it isn’t. Most jobs require you to interact with strangers, such as being a cashier, working at a restaurant as a waiter, and many more. If you do not have any public speaking experience in high school, these jobs can be challenging, as you may freeze up or stumble more than others who do have experience with public speaking.

While many students do get anxiety over speaking in front of their peers and teachers, it is important that teachers make students practice these skills during high school. During high school, many students will get their driver’s license, allowing them to gain access to more job opportunities. Having public speaking experience in the early years of high school can bring benefits when applying for a job in junior and senior years. By giving class presentations, reciting poetry, discussing a novel, explaining history, and participating in class discussions, high school students learn how to feel comfortable speaking to people, and the ability to keep a conversational tone while doing so. When applying for a job, it is a good thing for managers to hear that you are not afraid of speaking to customers about any issues or questions that they have.

Public speaking in high school can only benefit students. Despite it causing stress among some students, it is necessary to learn good communication skills before going into college or applying for a job, as without this experience, others who do will have an edge over you when applying for college or interviewing for a job. By practicing public speaking in an activity like forensics will help you in the long run, as speaking in front of others, while uncomfortable at first, will ultimately benefit you. With forensics, you can practice your skills with your teammates, allowing you to become a better speaker.

One major extracurricular activity that helps with public speaking is middle/high school forensics. Forensics is competed on a nation level, but in Michigan, it is run by MIFA (Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association). Schools can enter their teams into competition and compete throughout the months of January till May. Teams usually form and start practicing in November though, so it gives students a lot of practice with speaking to different coaches. By competing in these events, students learn about current events, or other things that interest them. It also helps teach students responsibility. By competing in forensics events in the middle to high school level, students will be better prepared for future jobs where they have to talk to strangers or groups of people. This also helps with colleges, as students are able to get large or full-ride scholarships if they do well in forensics, depending on what college they are attending. By participating in Forensics public speaking, students will learn valuable skills for the future.
Forensics allows students to compete in a number of different events, and you can even compete in more than one of them in some cases. By competing in forensics, you have the opportunity to not only improve your speaking skills, but to also meet new people in your event. There are twelve events, plus two rotating events each year. There are two main categories: Public Address (PA) and Interpretation (Interp). These categories include events such as…
Interpretation: Six Events
Dramatic Interpretation – In this event, students select a serious or humorous part from a play or a dramatic script. Multiple characters, and the use of monologues, is encouraged, but not necessary. This event is five to eight minutes long.
Prose Interpretation – In this five to eight minute event, students choose a humorous or serious selection from a short story, novel, memoir, biography, or autobiography. This is typically performed in a first person narrative, with multiple characters.
Poetry Interpretation – In this event, students choose one or more selections of humorous or serious poetry. Using one theme, one poet, or one time period is often used, but not required. This is a five to eight minute event.
Storytelling – In Storytelling, students select a piece of children’s literature to perform in five to eight minutes. This piece must be memorized, and numerous characters are preferred.
Duo Interpretation – In Duo Interpretation, two students choose a movie, novel, play, or musical to present in seven to ten minutes. Stools, chairs, and blocks are usually used to help immerse the audience into the story.
Multiple Interpretation- In this event, a group of five to eight students selects a movie, novel, play, or musical, and creates a fifteen minute reenactment of it. Most groups in this category use stools, chairs, or blocks to create scenery, also referred to as ‘blocking.’ Every year the theme is rotated from a musical piece to a non-musical piece, allowing students try different things.
Public Address: Six Events
Broadcasting – In broadcasting, students are given a thirty minute preparation period to edit a five minute broadcast new copy. In addition to editing what they are given, students are responsible for writing a one minute original editorial response. This is a five minute category.
Extemporaneous (Extemp) – In this event, competitors are given an envelope of questions (Usually eight to ten of them) and draw three of them randomly. From there, students select the topic they like the most, and are given thirty minutes to write a four to seven minute speech on the topic. These speeches usually consist of three main points, and one to three sources in each point that include statistics, or add to the speaker’s credibility.
Impromptu – In impromptu, students are presented with a quote, editorial, resolution, or visual cue. Students have six minutes to both prepare and give their speech. All students receive the same quote, unlike Extemporaneous speaking.
Informative – In informative, students explain a chose, unique subject with both a prepared speech, and a works cited page. Visual aids are used, and presented on an easel. This is a five to eight minute event.
Oratory – Students in oratory alert audience members to a threatening danger, strengthens their devotion to a cause, eulogizes a person, or presents a solution to a problem in a five to eight minute prepared speech. A works cited page is required.
Sales – In sales, competitors choose a product or brand that they think has potential, and create a 5-8 minute minute speech on it. Students in this event use easels to present, using boards decorated with images, the brand’s logo, or any other photos that are important to their speech.
There are also rotating events in MIFA. Every year, one event from Public Address and one event from Interpretation are chosen to be 9/10 events. This means that only freshmen and sophomores can complete in these events. There is still an open Divine of these, but the two do not interact, and are treated as two different categories. These 9/10 events give new competitors the opportunity to compete against people of their skill level, and not seniors who have been doing the category for three years. This also makes it so that there are fourteen events instead for twelve at tournaments.
MIFA hosts many tournaments throughout the year, usually at large, class A high schools. These tournaments take place on Saturday, and start at 8:00 in the morning, and typically end at around 6:00 each night. All contestants compete in three preliminary rounds to begin. After this, there is usually an hour allocated for lunch. Once semifinal postings are up, typically hung on cafeteria walls or posted online, contestants will report ASAP to their rooms, where judges will be waiting. After competing in Semis with around eleven other competitors, students have the opportunity to relax until finals. Once these posting are up, there are only six students (Or groups, if in Duo or multiple) left. Once all competitors arrive the the correct room, as well as all spectators and judges, the round will begin. After finals, awards will begin shortly. Each categories finalists will come up to the stage by event to receive awards. Eventually, school-wide sweepstakes are announced. The better a school’s competitors do, the more points they get. After the awards ceremony, students will pack up their props or any other materials they brought, and are free to leave. Competitors will then receive critique sheets, which contain the scores and comments left for them by each judge. After this, competitors will spend the next week preparing for the next tournament. To learn more about forensics tournaments and events, check out this video by Walled Lake Western High School!

 

An example of a Forensics team that does this is the Divine Child High School Forensics team. The team is open to all grades, and no prior experience is required. When students join the team, they practice almost every night in their category. These practices are all individual practices, so it will just be you, your category partner, and a coach. These practices are fit around your schedule, so if you play a sport, or have other commitments, you can still practice. Practices typically last anywhere between one to two hours, with groups categories like multiple lasting longer than limited prep categories such as impromptu. The daily practices are always a fun, social, learning experience. The coaches for the team are made up of alumni, so those who join the team will have good teachers to hone their speaking skills.
Starting in January, the team will begin competing against other schools in the area, organized by MIFA (Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association). At these tournaments, students will compete three times in the morning to qualify for a semifinal, and eventually final, round. These tournaments are great practice, as students will have to speak in front of groups of people, giving them practice to future jobs or presentations.
“The more educated you are, the more comfortable you may be with speaking in front of others. In one poll, 24% of college graduates expressed a fear of public speaking, compared to 52% of respondents who had a high school diploma or less” ( https://www.creditdonkey.com/fear-of-public-speaking-statistics.html ).
One important thing that the Divine Child High School Forensics team does it the Forensics Showcase. Every year in April, the DC Forensics team puts together it’s showcase event. This event allows students to show off their skills to both friends and family. At the showcase, students come into the DC auditorium, along with any friends or family that they brought with them. After this, the head coach, Mrs. Tar, calls out the team parents and coaches for their hard work. Then, the team is introduced, and all members are recognized. Once this is over, students and their guests go to classrooms to present their category. Two Interpretation events and two Public Address events are usually in each room. This gives students the chance to practice their skills with a large audience without the stress of a tournament. After all students speak, everyone can go to the DC cafeteria to get food and drink. Then, students clean the rooms, and everyone goes home.

 

The Divine Child High School Forensics Team competes in the State competition each year, and has won for the past seven years. States this year were held Friday May third, and Saturday May fourth. The Divine Child team left for the tournament after school on Thursday at 4:30. The team arrived at their hotel later that night, and ate dinner. Afterwards, all competitors presented the first minute of their pieces. After some more talking and an experiment of what happens when you put M&Ms in bottled water to see if they would dissolve, the team went to bed, and prepared for an exciting day.
The schedule for day was simple. Odd and even modules rotated, giving competitors time to rest, and judges time to get to their next module after submitting their score sheets. Module one stated at 12:30, with module two starting at 2:00. Module three began at 3:30, followed by modulefour, starting at 5:00. The final two modules, five and six, started at 6:30 and 8:00 respectively. Competitors in module six ended the day at around 10:00 at night. A lot happened during the day, and it was very eventful.

The team left early in the morning on Friday to get to the tournament and claim some space for the team. The team ended up making camp at a closed restaurant on campus, with multiple booths and tables for competitors to both sit and sleep in. Coaches and parent volunteers brought snacks and drinks for the team. Competitors took time before the first module to get clothing checks from the head coaches, Mrs. Tar, Mr. Bonk, and Ms. Calka. Competitors also rehearsed their speeches, usually in front of other team members to practice their eye contact and presentation. Fifteen to twenty minutes before the first module, all those competing went to find their assigned rooms, while everyone else stayed behind to continue preparations.
Because of the time gap between modules, many competitors in even modules took the opportunity to grab lunch at one of the shops on the first floor. A few competitors from the Divine Child team (Including myself) got Chick-fil-A, while others got burgers or salads at coffee shops. After lunch, module two competitors signed out with coaches, and headed over to their rounds. Soon after, module one competitors returned. Many went to eat lunch, just as the previous group had. Throughout the day, competitors gave their best: Selling products, discussing and explaining current events, performing literature, and much more. By the end of the day, the Divine Child team was tired, but excited for the following day.
Saturday morning was a bit confusing for the Divine Child team. The modules for different events started at different times. This meant that some students had to wake up at 4:10 while their roommates slept in until 5:00. When the students in the even modules arrived at the school, most of the competitors in the odd modules were at their rounds. Students set up at home base, and went to their rooms. Most students went to their rounds ahead of time, while others in limited preparation categories set up in their respective prep rooms. Once the rounds began, the campus turned quiet, as no one wanted to disturb the rounds. Once both modules were done, many competitors went to find lunch. Everyone waited for the semifinal postings, which would determine who moved on, and who was left behind.
Luckily for the Divine Child team, number of the team made it to semifinals. This was where completion really began. Everyone wanted to be a state champion of their category, and the Divine Child competitors were no exception. With encouraging teammates, parents, and coaches behind them, Divine Child students hurried to their rounds, as being late meant disqualification. Thankfully, no one was disqualified, and all the DC students made it to their rounds on time, and ready to compete. After the semifinal rounds were complete, competitors were able to return to their teams to relax and wait for final posting. Divine Child competitors took this opportunity to hang out with friends, eat and drink the food provided by the team, take a nap, or interact with students from other schools. After much waiting, postings were up, first on large sheets of paper hung from the railing (These would be given out to the champions later) and next on MIFA’s official website. The Divine Child students who made it were congratulated by their coaches and their teammates, but had to quickly leave for fear of being late to their round.
Two hours later, finals were all said and done. Students returned once more to their schools, tired but excited about the awards ceremony to come. This was a busy part of the day for Divine Child students, as the cars had to be loaded up before awards began. This meant packing up any extra luggage and team supplies, as well as the many stools, blocks, and easels used by the team to compete. The team supplies and personal baggage had just been packed up when the teams were invited to a large auditorium-like room to attend the awards ceremony. The team took a rushed team photo, and then ran up two flights of stairs to the ceremony, which was about to begin.
The awards ceremony was huge. Rows of chairs were arranged to form 4-6 large blocks of seating area. The middle two blocks, which were in front of the podium, were for the finalists. To the left and right of the podium were the trophies, with interpretation on the left, and public address on the right. Hundreds of students piled in to find seats with their teams. After everyone was settled, the director of MIFA appeared on stage to give some announcements. Then, the awards began. One interpretation and one public address category were called up, and one of each was “on deck”. After five (And sometimes, six) of the competitors were given their trophies, the state champion of the category was announced. They stepped forward, smiling, laughing, and in some cases, crying. They accepted their trophies, as well as the large sheets of paper that were used to post finals. They were also presented with a small cord to wear on their graduation day. After thirty or so minutes of individual awards, it was time for the school-wide sweepstakes.
The Divine Child team was excited, but also nervous, for the sweepstakes awards to be handed out. On one hand, they could win the trophy and bring it home for another year, but if they lost, a seven year legacy of championships would be over. After class C and D sweepstakes points were announced and trophies were dispensed, it was t8me for class B. The Divine Child team waited in anticipation. And then it came; the announcement that Divine Child High School had won the class B state championship for the eighth year in a row, and by over three hundred points! The team cheered loudly as the head coaches walked up to the stage to collect the trophy, and the silver plate that came with it.

After much celebration, the team lined up to take photos. After these were finished, the Divine Child team proceeded to go back down to home base to get their equipment. After a quick sweep of the area to ensure nothing was left behind, the team, and their trophy, walked outside to the bus. The bus ride to the restaurant was full of excitement, with competitors singing, telling stories about their experiences, and having a good time. The bus ride was long, but the excitement of winning made it seem faster. Once arriving at the restaurant, the team was presented with a buffet with countless foot items. Team members partied and danced to music played over the speakers of the restaurant, and some of the coaches even joined in. After a night of fun and excitement, the team boarded the bus to go home. By the time they arrived, it was close to midnight. Everyone said their goodbyes, grabbed their luggage, and headed home, excited about their victory.
The Divine Child High School Forensics team has had many great experiences over the years. The team has won numerous championships, as well as winning may individual tournaments. It’s a great experience, both to hone your public speaking skills, and to make new friends. There are countless schools, both high schools and colleges, that have their own forensics programs. In college, scholarships can be awarded because of forensics experience. Forensics is one of the best ways get better at public speaking, so it’s worth asking about. The opportunities that it can create, and the experience that it provides, are invaluable in life, and the many alumni from the Divine Child team who return to coach is a testament to that.
Public speaking can also get you good jobs after you have finished college. An example is a teacher. Teachers need to be able to speak to groups of kids and their parents. This includes practiced talks that are given to the class, or “impromptu” conversations with parents. Often in lower grades, teachers will need to give demonstrations to students so they understand what they have to do. Another example of a job like this is a reporter. As a reporter, you need to be able to approach random people and ask them questions about stories or issues that you are covering. You also have to be able to get good interviews out of important individuals, such as company CEOs, political figures, and celebrities. Another example of when you would use public speaking in a career is if you are running for any political position. In an election, you are expected to give speeches that can be heard by the entire country, as well as taking questions from random citizens. Without public speaking skills, running for a political position will be challenging, as you might freeze up or simply be unable to answer a question if asked without notice.
By using public speaking in high school, students are less likely to have problems with speaking in college or in future jobs. This makes students more effective, as by learning to speak in front of strangers, they are preparing themselves for the future, and giving them an advantage over others when applying for colleges or future jobs.
Now there is a movement out there that proposes that public speaking be optional in middle/high school. This is mainly due to the anxiety and stress many students feel when they are forced to speak in front of their classmates, as students are often required to present a project or discuss a topic in front of the class. A lot of students feel that they shouldn’t be forced to do things that are uncomfortable to them, and many are uncomfortable with public speaking. While many do feel that this is a good option, it isn’t. Most jobs require you to interact with strangers, such as being a cashier, working at a restaurant as a waiter, and many more. If you do not have any public speaking experience in high school, these jobs can be challenging, as you may freeze up or stumble more than others who do have experience with public speaking.
While many students do get anxiety over speaking in front of their peers and teachers, it is important that teachers make students practice these skills during high school. During high school, many students will get their driver’s license, allowing them to gain access to more job opportunities. Having public speaking experience in the early years of high school can bring benefits when applying for a job in junior and senior years. By giving class presentations, reciting poetry, discussing a novel, explaining history, and participating in class discussions, high school students learn how to feel comfortable speaking to people, and the ability to keep a conversational tone while doing so. When applying for a job, it is a good thing for managers to hear that you are not afraid of speaking to customers about any issues or questions that they have.
Public speaking in high school can only benefit students. Despite it causing stress among some students, it is necessary to learn good communication skills before going into college or applying for a job, as without this experience, others who do will have an edge over you when applying for college or interviewing for a job. By practicing public speaking in an activity like forensics will help you in the long run, as speaking in front of others, while uncomfortable at first, will ultimately benefit you. With forensics, you can practice your skills with your teammates, allowing you to become a better speaker.
Cameron Bonk is a three year team member of the Divine Child High School Forensics team. He currently coaches basketball at Divine Child, as well as coaching team members.
Did you use your forensics experience to apply to jobs?
-Definitely, I applied to become a resident advisor at Eastern Michigan, and heavily relied on my experience as a core group member and captain on the team.
Did you use this experience in a college interview?
-Yeah, learning how to be a public speaker was a huge part of my experience. As many people know, public speaking is one of the top fears for almost everybody, even death with some people. So very much so I used my public speaking skills in college.
Did you receive any scholarships because of forensics?
-I did, I actually received a scholarship to be on the eastern michigan forensics team my freshman year.
Has this public speaking experience helped you in life?
-Oh yeah. Just being able to speak whenever the opportunity is need whether it’s my job, my professional life, or just out in public, yeah it’s helped me.
Do you have any advice for students about public speaking?                  —No matter how difficult it may seem at the beginning, the journey far outweighs any of the struggles you will have, and to just keep pushing through it and know that you’re doing something that not many people are able to do.
There’s a movement going on discussing how public speaking shouldn’t be mandatory in school due to the stress and anxiety students get over it.

Do you think public speaking should be mandatory?
-I don’t think necessarily mandatory, but I don’t think we should shy away from something just because people have anxiety over it. I think coddling the situation won’t help them in the long run. Just seeing the benefits in my own life, I was not only on the forensics team, but took speech class while I was here at Divine Child. The benefits and the experiences that I’ve taken from it that I’m still able to apply to my own life far outweigh any of the anxieties I once felt.
So overall, you would say that doing forensics in high school was a benefit to you?
-Oh 100%, I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today without it.
So you would recommend forensics to students?
100%.

 

Public speaking can lead to success in life. If you know how to communicate with others, you can work better with teams, be more effective in helping customers and voicing ideas to managers, and so much more. Another way that public speaking helps you in life is in scholarships, as many colleges are looking for people to fill the open slots on their forensics teams.
Another benefit of public speaking in high school is potential college scholarships. One of the ways to earn these scholarships is through the NFL (National Forensics League) or the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA). The NSDA offers around 195 scholarships to colleges around the nation, according to their website ( https://www.speechanddebate.org/scholarships/ ). These scholarships are for public speaking clubs/teams such as with topics such as speech, debate, policy, and parliamentary debate. These scholarships can earn students over $10,000 toward colleges that accept the scholarship.
Aside from competing in the NFL or NSDA, many colleges will offer scholarships not associated with these organizations. This means that if you competed in high school forensics, or are interested in joining the forensics program at that college, you have an opportunity to earn scholarship money. One main difference between college and high school forensics is that in college, you can compete in any event, with any piece, that you want. In high school, you can only compete in one, or sometimes two, due to the fact that you can’t make it to rounds. Doing forensics in high school and college (And maybe even in middle school) is a great way to practice public speaking, and there are many reasons to do so.
Overall, public speaking can only benefit those who practice it. As we’ve seen today, public speaking can help get new job opportunities, and better succeed at those jobs, it can help you to prepare for college, increase your knowledge on certain topics, and give you access to scholarship opportunities. While many people do fear public speaking and some even want it banned from schools as a requirement in class, it will benefit you. If you have no public speaking experience going into your first job, it will be a challenge to learn it on the fly. If you already have this experience, you can better communicate and interact with those around you. Public speaking is an important skill, and not something that we can ignore.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email