К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2006
Автор: Платт Д.
Why should public speaking be taught at
institutions of higher education in Kazakhstan?
Consider for a moment that someone studying
in a University somewhere in the United
States right now will some
day be giving an inaugural address after being sworn in as president of the United States. It is not unlikely also that a student studying in
one of Kazakhstan’s many universities right now may some day become president
of this great nation. Perhaps another student will make a remarkable
breakthrough in science, medicine, technology, or government. In all of these
cases, these individuals would likely be requested to share their feelings,
conclusions or strategies in front of hundreds of their peers.
In addition to those exceptional individuals,
there will be thousands more who will need the skills taught in a public
speaking class to present information about products, to give testimonies for
or against individuals accused of committing crimes, or to impart knowledge to
future school or university students. Many people may scoff at the preceding
ideas, or argue that they don’t apply to them personally. If they are not
convinced, perhaps the following information will change their minds.
Today alone, more than 7,000 speakers will
stand in front of audiences in the United States to
deliver speeches . During the same twenty-four hour period, people will make
more than 30 million business presentations . In whatever career
university students choose, the vast majority of them will eventually need to
present information to a group of people. The material covered in a public
speaking course would make them better public speakers, more prominent
citizens, or at least more open-minded to the opinions and views of those around
Even with all of these examples, many
students may ask why they should decide to take, or be required to take, a
public speaking class. The answer to that question has three parts: studying
and practicing public speaking will benefit them personally, professionally,
Personal Benefits of Studying Public Speaking
A public speaking course could benefit
students in three ways.
speaking helps students to succeed in college.
speaking increases students’ knowledge.
speaking helps build students’ confidence .
First, becoming proficient in public
communication can help students gain skills important to their success in their
fields of study.
To succeed in college, undergraduates
should be able to write and speak with clarity, and to read and listen with
comprehension. Language and thought are inextricably connected, and as
undergraduates develop their linguistic skills, they hone the quality of their
thinking and become intellectually and socially empowered .
Something happens to students when they
know they will be expected to speak in front of their peers. Suddenly, instead
of just trying to scrape by with the basic requirements of the course to get
the desired grade, the course becomes a competition — for many of the
students—to see who can produce the most exciting, entertaining, or
thought-provoking speech. Many of them decide to learn rather than just
Taking a public speaking course also helps
students to learn how to think for themselves and better understand the
thoughts and ideas of others. In preparing a good public speech, the students
will need to learn to analyze research, organize worsd,
and deliver their speeches. These are transferable skills that
they can then take and apply in their other academic studies and in their
chosen careers. These skills are gaining importance in an increasingly
westernized academic climate. If students in Kazakhstan continue to “research” the way they have in the past, most of them
will never make a significant contribution to society.
Second, public speaking can help you become
more knowledgeable. According to one study, we remember:
10 percent of what we read,
20 percent of what we hear,
30 percent of what we see, and
70 percent of what we speak .
Consider for a moment two different ways of
studying lecture notes for an exam. One method is to read and reread your notes
silently. An alternative is more active and makes you a sender of messages. You
stand in your room, put your lecture notes on your dresser, and deliver the
lecture out loud, pretending you are the instructor explaining the material to
the class. Which method do you think promotes better understanding and retention
of the course material? You will not be surprised to learn that it’s the second
Speaking is an active process. When someone
speaks, they must first formulate their ideas into a message and then deliver
that message using their voice and other non-verbal communicative gestures.
Giving a public speech tests a student’s thinking skills. Author E.M. Forster
once said, “How do I know what I think until I’ve seen what I’ve said?” As
students prepare and present their speeches, they begin to better understand
what they truly believe and helps the subject matter become distinctively their
Besides the invaluable knowledge that comes
from researching and preparing their own speeches, students also benefit
greatly from the speeches given by other students through the course of the
school year. The more frequent exposure students have to public speeches, the
better they will learn how to be active listeners to others’ presentations and
class lectures, and this will further boost their learning. Being better
listeners will not only help them in school, but will allow students to benefit
in their personal and professional lives as well.
A third way that a public speaking class
can benefit students personally is that it will build their confidence. The
fear of speaking in front of a group of people is widespread. In fact, the
first edition of The Book of Lists tells of a survey that asked 3,000
Americans, “What are you the most afraid of?” “Speaking before a group” came in
first place, ahead of heights, spiders, debt, deep water, sickness, and even death .
By taking a public speaking course, most
students would be able to learn how to transform that anxiety into confidence.
Most people know someone who seems almost completely undaunted by speaking in
front of groups. Doubtless, they have learned somewhere in their past how to
cope with speaking anxiety. Edward R. Murrow, a renowned pioneer in the
broadcast industry, once said, “The best speakers know enough to be scared.
Stage fright is the sweat of perfection. The only difference between the pros
and the novices is that the pros have trained the butterflies to fly in
formation.” Students who master public speaking will be the ones that others
talk about as being fearless in front of those groups.
So far, we have discussed the three ways
that taking a public speaking course could benefit students personally — it
helps them succeed in college, it helps them gain knowledge, and it helps them
build their self-confidence. Next, we will discuss how taking a communications
class—and especially public speaking—can benefit students professionally.
Professional Benefits of Studying Public Speaking
Numerous studies have been done that show a
strong relationship between communication ability and career success.
Effective speaking skills augment students’ chances of securing employment and
then being promoted in their careers. In a 1999 report, the National
Association of Colleges and Employers listed characteristics employers consider
most important when hiring an employee. Communications skills ranked at the top
of the list .
In another study, 1,000 randomly-selected
human resource managers were asked to determine the “factors most important in
helping graduating college students obtain employment.” Oral communication
skills came in first with written communication skills in second and listening
in third . The researchers ended by saying:
From the results of this and the previous
study, it appears that the skills most valued in the contemporary job-entry
market are communication skills. The skills of listening, oral communication
(both interpersonal and public), written communication, and the trait of
enthusiasm are indicated to be the most important. Again, it would appear to
follow that university officials wishing to be of the greatest help to their
graduates in finding employment would make sure that basic competencies in oral
and written communication are developed. Courses in listening, interpersonal,
and public communication would form the basis of meeting the oral communication
It seems obvious that if this excerpt is
true, the most important subject that could be taught at a university would be
communications. A public speaking course, taught correctly, will teach the
crucial skills of public speaking and listening, which, in turn, will help students
obtain good employment after graduation. Is this not the goal of most universities?
A survey of 500 executives found that
speaking skills “rated second only to job knowledge as important factors in a
businessperson’s success” .
Another survey found that while on-the-job
public speaking only took up about six percent of managers’ and technical professionals’
time, it nevertheless ranked as more important to job performance than did time
spent reading mail and other documents, dictating letters and writing reports,
and talking on the phone .
It is my understanding as well that there
are very few public speaking courses offered in universities in Kazakhstan. As relationships between Kazakhstan and the United States continue to develop, these skills will be
increasingly valuable—especially those who understand western thought and
American methods of speaking. The student in Kazakhstan that receives this fundamental training will have a distinct advantage
over the peers in his or her professional life, be it local or international in
Public Benefits of Studying Public Speaking
One of the most fundamental parts of a
democracy is the ability and desire of citizens to freely discuss events that
transpire in their lives. Public speaking is an important part of creating a
society of informed and active citizens. Kazakhstan, for the most part, has the ability. What I have struggled to find so
far is the consistent desire of the citizens to publicly discuss the things
that most bother, concern, or frustrate them.
In discussions with some of the more
educated people in Kazakhstan, I have learned that even most of them
blindly pay the taxes they owe with no knowledge of what is being done with
their money. These are the attitudes that need to be changed. These are the practices
that must be stopped for the people in Kazakhstan to realize their full potential as a democracy. Public speaking can
open students’ minds to a realization of what they have. They will be more able
to share their thoughts with others in their communities and be able to
understand the different ideals of foreigners that they encounter.
People that learn how to speak publicly
will be the ones that someday may stand in front of a city council and secure
funding for an orphanage, or be able to help the elderly to gain access to
higher pensions. The student that learns these skills may be the future police
officer who informs residents of a crime-ridden area and what they can do to
protect themselves. They will likely be the leaders in their communities, and
if taught well, they will use their knowledge and advantages for the good of
their communities and improve societal communication.
In order to accomplish any of these tasks,
the individual will need to use the power of the spoken word to address a need
or invoke a particular audience response.
In this paper we have discussed briefly the
importance of communications and public speaking in the classroom. We have
discussed how a public speaking course would benefit university students in Kazakhstan personally, professionally, and publicly. Is it worth
the work it would take to set up these programs?
In my experience teaching at the Kazakh
American Free University in Ust-Kamenogorsk, I have seen many students take hold of
the information they have received in their public speaking classes and improve
themselves with it. No longer will most of them be too concerned about
addressing an issue, or an audience, because all of them have done it. Most of
them have developed the confidence and experience necessary to share their
opinions and make their voices heard. All they need now is a subject they can
feel passionate about and an audience willing to listen to the arguments they
have to share. They are far from perfect, but as the great American poet Ralph
Waldo Emmerson once said, “All the great speakers were bad speakers at first”.
And these students are much further along than the vast majority of their
peers. In my opinion, yes, it is worth it.
If more students in Kazakhstan could be prepared in such ways now, the future of
this country would most certainly be thrilling. The first step is to convince
more people that communications in general, and specifically public speaking,
is critical to their students’ growth and education. The next step would be to
set up programs and find qualified teachers to impart the knowledge and light
fires in those students. The final and most enjoyable step would be to sit back
and watch those fires burn .
“For One Reagan, You Can Get Many Mikki Williamses,” Wall Street Journal 30 January 1992: A1.
“Critical Link between
Presentation Skills, Upward Mobility,” Supervision October 1991: 24.
George L. Grice and
John F. Skinner, Mastering Public Speaking, 4th Ed. (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2001) 5.
Ernest L. Boyer,
College: The Undergraduate Experience in America (New York: Harper, 1987) 73.
Cited in William E.
Arnold and Lynne McClure, Communication Training and Development, 2nd Ed. (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland, 1996) 38.
Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace, The Book of Lists (New York: Morrow, 1977)
Planning Job Choices:
2000, 43rd ed. (Bethlehem, PA: National Association of Colleges and Employers,
Jerry L. Winsor, Dan B.
Curtis, and Ronald D. Stephens, “National Preferences in Business and
Communication Education: II.” Speech Communication Association Convention, Marriott
Hotel & Marina, San Diego. 26 Nov. 1996: 17.
This survey was
conducted by Communispond, Inc., and is reported in “Executives Say Training
Helps Them Speak Better,” Training: The Magazine of Human Resources Development
October 1981: 20-21, 75
Roger K. Mosvick and
Robert B. Nelson, We’ve Got to Start Meeting Like This! (Glenview, IL: Scott, 1987) 224.
Much of the information
in this article was based on the ideas and references of Mastering Public
Speaking 4th ed. by George L. Grice and John F. Skinner (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn
& Bacon, 2001) 4-7.
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2006