Confidence in Public Speaking

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Authors: Paul Nelson and Judy Pearson

Publisher: Self-improvement

Reviewer: Goke Ilesanmi


Ability to speak confidently, clearly or effectively in public in very essential to our career advancement and/or business success. This explains our choice of this book entitled “Confidence in Public Speaking” for review this week. It is written by Paul Nelson and Judy Pearson, great  scholars and communication experts. Nelson is the dean of the College of Communication at the Ohio University, Athens and has co-authored six editions of this book and six editions of “Understanding and Sharing: An Introduction to Human Communication”. Pearson is the director of the Northern Virginia Graduate Centre in Falls Church, Virginia, and a professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She co-authors the two books above, authors or co-authors six other textbooks, and authors two trade books.

These authors say every activity of their lives is communication of a sort. They, however, add that it is through speech that man asserts his distinctiveness from other forms of life. According to them, when someone is unable to say what he or she means clearly, through either nervousness, timidity or foggy thought-processes, his or her personality is blocked off, dimmed out and misunderstood.

Nelson and Pearson assert that business, social and personal forms of satisfaction depend heavily upon a person’s ability to communicate clearly to his or her fellow men what he or she is, what he or she desires and what he or she believes in. These authors say in this book, you will learn the practical guide to electrifying public speaking; how to develop a better speaking voice; what it takes to make a good speech; and effective communication skills.

Structurally, this text is segmented into 13 chapters numbered in random alphabet, that is, chapters A, C, F, G, H, I, L, M, N, O, P, Q and T. Chapter A (that is, one) is entitled “Developing confidence”. According to these authors here, “Public speaking holds a number of personal advantages for you. First, you will gain a high degree of self-satisfaction. Second, you will become more confident. Finally, you will become more sensitive.”

They say professionally, you will benefit from your study of public speaking for three reasons. First, public speaking will help you immediately to achieve your occupational goals by helping you earn higher grades in college. Second, its skills will help you secure  employment. Third, it will help you advance in your career. “Learning about public speaking also has implications for our culture and society. Civilised people have been using public speaking as a primary mode of communication since people emerged from caves. The Greeks and Romans honoured people skilled in public speaking, as we still do today. Public speaking is valued because it is necessary if we are to live in a civilised world,” they assert.

In this chapter, these communicators also examine concepts such as the principles of freedom of speech; similarities between public speaking and interpersonal communication; fear of public speaking, calming high communication apprehension, etc.

Chapter C (that is, two) is entitled “Listening”. According to Nelson and Pearson, “Organisational leaders and personnel directors view good listening skills as a vital part of employee competence. In one recent study, business managers who were to rank the skills that were most important for them identified listening as most important.” They say  if you ask a classmate if he or she listens well, the likely response is “Yes”. They add that this assumption is not supported by research. These communicators say if you feel you are an effective listener, you probably do not attempt to identify ways to improve your listening, but if you feel you are not an effective listener, you may have resigned  yourself to being inadequate in this area.

“One of the reasons you may fail to improve listening is that there are few alternatives available.  Studies show that most of your communication time is spent listening, followed in order by speaking, reading , and writing,” submit these authors. Nelson and Pearson also identify the difference between listening and hearing here. According to them, “Hearing and listening are separate activities. Hearing is a physical function you are able to perform unless you suffer from physiological damage or cerebral dysfunction. On the other hand, listening is a selective activity that involves the reception, selection, organisation, and interpretation of aural stimuli. You can hear if your ears are normal, but listening is far more complex. Indeed, it involves our senses, as well.”

In chapters F, G, H, I, L and M (that is, three to eight), Nelson and Pearson examine concepts such as the speaker; the audience; selection of a topic and purpose; finding information; speech organisation and outlining; and speech introduction and conclusion.

Chapter N (that is, nine) is based on the subject matter of language in public speaking. According to these authors, “It is important to consider the issue of language and cultural sensitivity in any communication context, but it is particularly crucial in public speaking. In our culturally diverse world, we must take care to be sensitive to language that could be viewed as exclusionary or hurtful to audience members. You need to know how people prefer to describe themselves and the language that is acceptable in communicating with people in a diverse world.”

In chapters O, P and Q (that is, ten to 12), these communicators analytically X-ray concepts such as speech delivery; presentational aids and informative speaking.

Chapter T (that is, 13) is entitled “Persuasive speaking”. According to them here, “Persuasive speaking is a message delivered to an audience by a speaker who intends to influence audience members’ choices by shaping, reinforcing, or changing their responses towards an idea, issue, concept, or product.” They say everybody is a consumer of persuasive messages each day. They add that as often as not, when the telephone rings or the door-bell chimes, you are confronted with someone who wants something from you. “Television and radio programmes are punctuated every few minutes by advertisements. Magazines and newspapers are filled with flashy ads designed to sell. The mall, the town square, and even the grocery store, are designed to sell products and services,” stress Nelson and Pearson. According to them, today, more than ever before, the media and other people compete for your attention, your money, your time, your vote, or your membership, with many large corporations being at war with each other for popularity and profit.

Conceptually, this text is rich and fantastic. Stylistically, the efforts of these authors are commendable. Apart from the logical, didactic and sequential presentation of the concepts, the language also yields itself to easy comprehension. This is expected given that they are communicators themselves. Nelson and Pearson use detailed analyses and employ graphics and pictures for visual reinforcement of understanding. There are also practice exercises to ensure active reader participation. However, the random alphabet in which the book chapters are numbered may look creative, it is somehow confusing.

If you want to master the art of public speaking, this book is a must-read for you.

GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.

Tel: 08056030424; 08055068773; 08187499425

Email: gokeiles2010@gmail.com

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng

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