What Is Public Speaking?

Speeches & Toasts Delivered in Minutes

Before you can do something, you need to know what it is! What is public speaking? Here we'll analyze some of the more popular definitions.

  • Oxford English Dictionary. "The action or practice of addressing public gatherings; the making of speeches." This definition has some flaws, in that a public speaker need not be speaking to a public gathering - he or she could be talking at a business conference. Nonetheless, this definition does capture the essential elements of public speaking, gatherings and speeches.
  • Merriam-Webster's Dictionary. "1 : the act or process of making speeches in public; 2 : the art of effective oral communication with an audience." The second definition from Webster's touches on an important point - public speaking may be an art, and a true public speaker will be effective in his or her communication.
  • Wikipedia. "Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners." Wikipedia's definition, while overly detailed, is perhaps the most useful for understanding public speaking. First off, one must be speaking to a group of people. Next, it must be deliberate (which often, though not always, involves structure). Just shouting out to a crowd doesn't count. Finally, one must have an intent. This is the most important part of the definition. Public speaking must have a purpose.

In the end, however, these definitions don't really matter. What you say does. What is public speaking? It's what you make it.

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