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Public speaking - Are you ready?

Settembre 2017
Vi imbarazza l’idea di tenere un discorso davanti ad altre persone? O, al contrario, siete convinti di saper perfettamente come si parla in pubblico? Molti pensano che questi corsi siano destinati solo agli oratori di professione: invece le tecniche per comunicare in modo chiaro ed efficace sono utili a tutti...

di Rachel Roberts

File audio:

Rachel Roberts
Rachel Roberts

Speaker: Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent)

Do you need a course in Public Speaking? You probably think the answer to this is no, especially if you don’t teach, speak at conferences or give sales presentations. The fact is that public speaking is about much more than that and many of us do it all the time without realizing. Learning to speak effectively in public can radically improve your communication skills. It can even improve your relationships with other people and it’s particularly important when you have to do any of the above things in a language which is not your mother tongue.

back to basics

Of course giving a talk at a conference, presenting facts and figures or taking part in an oral exam are important examples of public speaking that require special, more advanced skills. However, every time you speak on the phone, chat socially with a new group of work colleagues or fellow students, take part in lessons or meetings; every time, in fact, that there’s a break in the conversation and your voice is heard, you speak publicly.


Some shy people find these situations very difficult and embarrassing and there are techniques you can learn to overcome your nerves. Others don’t feel embarrassed but they should! They use their voices very badly, without even realizing it. I’m talking about monotonous university professors, people who regularly mumble or speak too quickly, and people who fill their speech with irritating non-verbal utterances, like ‘Er’, ‘Um’ etc.

practice makes perfect

Do you know what you sound like when you speak? A good first step is to find out. Most people when they hear a recording of their own voice speaking naturally can hardly recognize themselves. They think their voices sound ‘horrible’, they are shocked to discover that half of what they say is virtually incomprehensible and are amazed by the number of ‘Ums’ and ‘Ahs’ that punctuate their speech. And yet anyone can develop a pleasant-sounding timbre, and clear enunciation only takes a little concentration and effort until it becomes a habit. You can easily learn to do this effectively in English.


Another problem with speaking publicly is that we are often very lazy about the way we speak. When we chat to close friends and relatives we often forget about grammar, we leave our sentences half-finished and we rely heavily on body language and background information – the people we know best often know what we want to say before we even say it! This ‘lazy speech’ is not permissible when we speak in public and need to communicate information. In the case of English, this is particularly true of mother-tongue speakers who need to communicate with people who have English as a second language.

help them understand

Let me give you a very simple example. When I call my friends or family on the phone I usually start the conversation by saying ‘Hi, it’s Rachel,’ or even ‘Hi, it’s Rach’! The way I say it in English is quite difficult for most non mother-tongue speakers to understand, so if I call my Italian friends, even if I’m speaking in English, I usually pronounce my name as ‘Reicel’. If I’m meeting people for the first time, giving a talk or lecture, or trying to book a dentist’s appointment over the phone, I always make sure I say my name and surname very clearly, because I want people to be able to use them confidently if they need to ask me a question.

what’s in a name?

Let’s face it, if your name is Guglielmo Tagliabue, most English mother-tongue speakers will find it difficult to pronounce. You will certainly need to say it very clearly when you meet people, and you might even consider calling yourself ‘Gulielmo Taliabuey,’ at least when you’re in the UK. Otherwise your new friends or colleagues might not invite you out for a coffee or a drink because they’re not sure what to call you.

a vital skill

Effective public speaking is a vital skill for anyone who needs to communicate with other people and learning to do it in English can help you to overcome a variety of challenges in work, study, travel and social interaction. Over the next few months, we’ll be looking at how you can overcome your nerves and develop a clear, pleasant-sounding voice, so that you can make yourself heard and understood whenever you need to. We’ll even give some top tips for those of you who do have to stand in front of a large audience and give a public speech. 

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