The Art of Speaking  

The future of public speaking 

Public speaking is changing

YouTube /Wade Paterson

I recently attended a Toastmasters meeting at my local club (Kelowna AM Toastmasters) and I was pleasantly surprised to see a former member walk through the door as a guest.

The individual hadn’t been to one of our meetings in two or three years. After the meeting, I chatted with her and she told me she was blown away by how much the club’s meeting had evolved.

Since COVID, Kelowna AM Toastmasters adapted to become a hybrid club, which makes it possible for members and guests to attend both in-person and online via Zoom. Each week, volunteer club members set up cameras, microphones and other equipment to make this possible.

While this new hybrid environment now feels completely normal to the regular club members, the former member was impressed by the set up. Her comments made me think about what the future of public speaking could look like.

This month, I want to share a few predictions of what speakers should likely expect in the years to come.

Virtual meetings are here to stay

I think most people would agree that virtual meetings will continue to be part of our everyday lives for years to come.

Prior to COVID, many companies hadn’t experimented with Zoom and other virtual meeting software; however, the pandemic forced businesses to adapt and, in doing so, these companies realized the benefits and efficiencies of leveraging virtual meetings.

What does that mean for you as a speaker?

The first thing to keep in mind is your virtual meeting set-up. If you’re participating in Zoom meetings from home, you may want to dedicate a space that has good lighting (especially in front of you, so your face is lit up on camera), a clean background and that isn’t too noisy.

If you have a bit of a budget, you may also want to invest in a decent quality webcam and microphone, as this equipment will help you communicate more effectively.

While on the actual meeting, make sure you virtually make eye contact with your audience by looking directly at the camera lens periodically (and not just staring at the other faces on your screen).

The future will be “hybrid”

Another way the business world adapted during COVID was by making conferences “hybrid,” or essentially giving the option to attend sessions either in-person or virtually.

As a speaker, this might not impact you too much, but if you’re speaking to a live crowd and you know there’s a virtual audience as well, it is a nice touch to acknowledge to virtual audience in some way: whether that’s periodically making eye contact with the camera that feeds to the virtual audience, or potentially by mentioning them or inviting them to type in questions during your speech.

There’s no excuse for a lack of research

We currently have access to unbelievably powerful productivity/research tools, and these tools will only get better with time; therefore, speakers of the future have no excuse for not being prepared for their speeches.

A big part of this preparation process is to know your audience and customize your presentation to suit their needs. As an example, if a speaker is giving a presentation to a room full of realtors, it wouldn’t make sense to talk to them about how to impress their boss to get a promotion (because they are independent contractors and most don’t report to a boss).

In the future, the best speakers will custom-build each presentation to speak the language of each individual audience.

Speeches in the Metaverse?

When Facebook officially changed its company name to Meta, it was a pretty clear indication that virtual reality and the metaverse will likely be a big part of our future.

Recently, Lex Friedman interviewed Mark Zuckerberg on his podcast, and the interview was completely done via a virtual reality headset. While this type of medium isn’t ubiquitous quite yet, Lex’s interview gave us a glimpse of what future meetings could look like.

For us as speakers, it’s important to remember that no matter how much the technology evolves, the same public speaking fundamentals will always apply.

Body language, vocal variety, eye contact, speech structure, elimination of “umms” and “ahhs,” and the injection of humour are key principals of public speaking that are important whether we’re speaking to a live audience or speaking to a simulated avatar in a futuristic setting.

If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Wade Paterson is an award-winning Toastmaster who is passionate about Impactful Communication.

His columns and accompanying YouTube videos are focused on helping others become more confident public speakers and communicators.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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