Public speaking is an important skill. It lends itself to leadership, influence and is sought-after in the art of communication. It is also quite a rare skill to possess, and in an age of ever-increasing digital technology, not many people intentionally nurture it. The same is true for the next generation of students. According to our education research, less than half of parents (47%) believe students are extremely/very equipped with presentation skills.

Parents believe students are equipped with presentation skills

With contracting attention spans and a greater expectation of how information is communicated and displayed, public speaking and presenting is a rare yet important skill. Here are three questions to ask yourself to distinguish a great public speaker and spot top talent on the stage.

1. Is the delivery engaging?

A large part of what makes a great public speaker is the delivery. As our attention spans continue to decline, even the best and most profound message can fall on deaf ears if the delivery is not engaging. Elements that come in to play with delivery include effective and confident use of technology, body language, use of visual aids like slides or stories and the very effective (when used appropriately) use of humour. Delivery is how a message is communicated and is a powerful indicator of a great public speaker.

2. Does the speaker communicate with confidence and passion?

As any great speaker knows, the art of public speaking is heavily linked to confidence. If the speaker is confident, the audience is put at ease, which is an important part of engagement. Passion is also linked to confidence. If the speaker is communicating with infectious excitement and displays confidence in their subject matter it can make for a powerful presentation.

3. Does the speaker convey authenticity?

Throughout a presentation, audience members are constantly evaluating a speaker’s credibility. Audience members (often subconsciously) bring questions like “why should I listen to this person?” and “what makes them credible in this area?” when listening to a speaker. Great speakers are often likeable, funny, warm, easy to relate to, at times vulnerable and convey a sense of trustworthiness. If an audience can connect with a speaker in one or more of these ways, then they are more likely to engage with the speaker’s message.

Engagement is difficult, time is precious, people are busy and our contracting attention spans makes it harder than ever to cut through the noise. But a great speaker can overcome these barriers through their delivery, confidence, passion and authenticity. If they can nurture and develop these prized presentation skills, then they can make for top speaking talent.