Is the Art of Public Speaking Lost on Millennials?

Art of Public Speaking Lost on MillennialsOlder generations sometimes lump the entire next-generation into a stereotypical group. For instance, you’ve likely heard the negative stereotypes about Millennials: they are lazy, entitled, late-bloomers… the list goes on. However, there are also positive traits that many Millennials share that make them an asset in the workplace, including their teamwork skills, efficiency, and desire for career and professional development. This is why it is surprising that Millennials shy away from public speaking and don’t value it as a finely tuned art, necessary for career success. Most of the time, speech class in college is dreaded – or in best-case scenarios, it is seen as a chore. Why?

Breaking down Millennials and public speaking

One reason Millennials do not value public speaking is the rise of technology-fueled communication. Instant message systems like Slack are typically more emoji than art. Millennials often prefer text messaging to face-to-face interactions; because of this, body language cues are often lost on them, and result in miscommunications.

Because of their technologically connected world, Millennials may see plain old-fashioned public speaking as an outdated method of communication. Many Millennials are used to viewing Slideshares, reading articles, or watching YouTube videos to receive and process information – not listening to speakers.

As mentioned before, Millennials are team-oriented beings. They thrive in groups, and were taught in cooperative learning situations in school. Public speaking is inherently not a group activity that encourages much socialization – therefore, it may not be a skill they naturally gravitate to.

Finally, Millennials thrive when given consistent, public, positive feedback. Most grew up in environments where they received trophies just for participating, and may carry over this mindset to the workplace. They need to continue to feel valuable in every situation and see how it contributes to their overall growth.

When presented with the idea of public speaking, Millennials think of stodgy men in suits stoically memorizing a speech and practicing it in front of a mirror. This doesn’t exactly fit with their vision of praise, collaboration, consistent feedback, and heroic contributions.

The truth is, public speaking is much more than rehearsing in front of a mirror – it is an integral skill to learn for professional success. Public speaking can put you in front of the right audience, get you noticed by important connections, and allow you to spread your message to an attentive group.

How to get Millennials to value public speaking

To engage the younger generation in the art of public speaking, it is time to change the stigma surrounding the practice and show the clear benefits it can have on Millennials’ careers.

Most successful people in business and leadership positions are fantastic public speakers. Why? They are recognized by their bosses for their excellent communication skills. Millennials value promotions, titles, and being given more responsibility (especially when it’s in public), so touting this fact will garner more interest.

To break the stereotype of sitting in solitude, staring into a mirror and practicing a speech, we should be spreading awareness of new techniques for preparation. Millennials can invite their family and friends to help them practice, making rehearsal into more of a social gathering.

Millennials can also appeal to their interest in technology by practicing to their iPad and recording it so they can study their inflection and hand movements. By doing this, they can compare their performance and gestures to their favorite performers, TED speakers, and YouTube stars.

Though Millennials may have forgotten the lost art of public speaking, they can help regain it through reframing it in terms of the social and technological constructs they’re familiar with and reap its benefits for their professions.


Author: Doug Staneart, Date Published: 09/15/16

Doug Staneart is the CEO of The Leader's Institute. LLC and founder of the Fearless Presentations class. He is author of Fearless Presentations, Mastering Presentations, and 28 Ways to Influence People.

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