Public speaking and casual conversation have a lot in common, but they also have a surprising number of differences. You can’t just treat them the same unless you don’t mind putting people off and stopping them from taking your message to heart.
So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the ways that public speaking differs from casual conversation.
You have a specific amount of time to fill
As a public speaker, you’re generally given a certain amount of time that you’re supposed to talk for. That’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s useful because it means you can time yourself and ensure that your talk lasts for the required amount of time, but it can also be intimidating if you’re given an hour and need to create enough quality content to fill it.
You have a message you want to share
The job of a public speaker is generally to share information and influence people. In general conversation, we’re normally just shooting the breeze or catching up with the latest gossip, but conversations are free-form and go wherever they go. In public speaking, we normally have one or two key concepts that we need to cover before our time is up.
The dialog is one-way
In a conversation, we tend to take it in turns, with one person speaking first and the other listening to what they say and then responding to it. This is in sharp contrast to public speaking, in which we stand up in front of an audience and talk until our time is up. This can be a challenge purely because of the amount of time that we spend talking without a break. When we’re used to casual conversation, we often don’t realize how much time we spend listening.
You’re speaking to a larger group of people
As public speakers, we generally end up speaking to a room full of people, with sizes ranging from a couple of dozen to hundreds or even thousands. This is very different to casual conversation, in which we naturally gravitate to forming small groups. Yet again, it can be a huge challenge to deal with that many people. Psychologically speaking, it can be tough to function when you know that there are that many eyes on you.
Your body language takes on greater importance
When you’re standing on a stage in front of people, they’re watching every move that you make. This means that all of the non-verbal cues that you give off, such as the way that you stand and the expression on your face, take on heightened importance. The best public speakers are aware of that, and they go out of their way to make sure that they’re sending the signals they want to transmit.
As a speaker, you have visual aids to rely on
One of the advantages of public speaking over casual conversation is that we’re typically allowed to use visual aids, such as slides or even props. Given that you have a roomful of people all looking at you, these visual aids can be useful because it gives them something to look at and helps to make your speech more dynamic.
There’s a Q&A at the end
Most public speaking engagements include a question and answer session at the end, and this gives you the opportunity to go into further detail on the subjects that you’ve covered. It also allows you to answer any of the questions or concerns that your audience might have. This is another of the advantages of public speaking over casual conversation, because this provides a little bit of structure that you won’t find in a regular conversation.
You’re getting paid to do it
Unless you’re a radio presenter or a talk show host, it’s unlikely that you’ll be fortunate enough to be paid for having a casual conversation with someone. Public speaking is another matter entirely, because in most instances, companies and events will be willing to pay for you to deliver a talk for them. The fact that you’re getting paid to do it can increase the pressure, but it also makes it more important to do a good job and to be professional.
You have to travel there
One of the peculiarities of public speaking is that you’ll generally need to travel a lot to get to the different venues that you’re due to speak at. Granted, this has decreased slightly due to the rise of online events and the COVID-19 pandemic, but you can still expect to spend a lot of time traveling from one event to another. With casual conversations, you’ll rarely travel as far to carry them out, unless you want to catch up with an old friend that you haven’t seen for a while.
You have to dress professionally
When you’re having a casual conversation with someone, the chances are that you’re also wearing casual clothing. Jeans and a t-shirt won’t cut it for a professional engagement though, and so there’s a good chance that you’ll end up wearing a suit. This can make things a little trickier, because it can stop you from feeling as comfortable. On the other hand, it can help you to remember that you’re in a public place and that you need to remain professional.
Now that you know how public speaking differs from casual conversation, you’re better placed to understand and appreciate the differences between the two. You can even tailor the way that you speak based on who you’re speaking to and the kind of situation that you’re in.
As always, we’d love to keep the discussion going, so be sure to share your thoughts in the comments. You can also follow us on your social networking site of choice for more. We’ll see you soon!