How To Be A Public Speaking Superteacher


Note: Yesterday’s post focused on the importance of content in a presentation.  Today’s post relies heavily on those ideas.

After I discovered Dr. Carol Dweck’s work last summer, I felt like my perspective on teaching public speaking and presentation had been neatly summed up with the “fixed” and “growth” mindset concepts.  Check out Dweck’s RSA presentation below:


I teach a subject that allows me to see the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset on a daily basis.  I teach college courses on public speaking and presentation.  One course is a basic, 1000-level introduction to public speaking, and one is a 3000-level advanced presentation course.  A student can come into those classes with an excitement and love for attention from a crowd, with a naturally charming personality that translates to strong delivery.  But public speaking isn’t just about delivery and whether or not you can perform well in front of people.  Public speaking is about hard work to deliver a message in a way that will resonate with an audience.  And because content – not delivery – is the most important part of public speaking and presentation, even naturally charming people cannot do well in my class unless they work hard on their content.

Let’s consider two students.  Student A is a shy, timid young woman who would much rather sit in the back of the room hidden in his laptop than speak in front of a group of people.  Student B is an outgoing, charismatic, confident young woman who loves to share her ideas in front of a large group of people.  Because she is nervous about speaking, Student A spends quite a bit of time preparing her content.  She comes to meet with me in my office.  She sends me her outline for my feedback.  She practices and rehearses with her family and friends.  Because she is excited about speaking, Student B spends very little time preparing her content.  She relies on her charm to win over the audience because her dazzling personality often wins people over in everyday conversation.  She decides she’s just going to “wing it” on speech day because she is so often told that she’s a great communicator.

Student A has worried so much about meeting her audience’s needs that she presents engaging, insightful content using strong, effective visuals.  Her delivery isn’t perfect; she can work on movement and eye contact.  However, she has built up her confidence through practice and preparation.  Student B, on the other hand, has worried so little about meeting her audience’s needs that her content is disorganized, confusing, and selfish.  Her audience finds her delivery confident and exciting, but her message doesn’t resonate.  Student A’s desire to work, to grow, helps her, and public speaking is a subject where thoughtful, hard-working people will always win.

Consider Steve Jobs.  He was not always the most powerful communicator.  A growth mindset works well in the field of public speaking because, quite simply, the amount of work you put into your presentation has a direct correlation with how successful with your speech will be.

If you plan on being a public speaking superteacher, it is important to cultivate that growth mindset in your students.  Begin by studying Carol Dweck’s work.  You can also check out Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk; Duckworth’s ideas about grit are highly influenced by Dweck.

Why do you think so many public speaking instructors cultivate a fixed mindset?  What can we – the presentation revolution – do to push the growth mindset?


3 thoughts on “How To Be A Public Speaking Superteacher

  1. Moral of the story: practice without skill > skills without practice.

    Two quick questions:

    1. How much more important is content than delivery
    2. Where can I find resources that help in developing resonating speeches?


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