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Is public speaking a soft skill
April 12, 2022
What are Soft and Hard Skills?
Some of us may just be confused by the question. “Soft skill” isn’t a term that everybody is familiar with, so first lets talk about soft skills, hard skills, and why you need to know about them.
Soft skills might also be called “people skills.” You might have heard sports pundits refer to them as “intangibles” when talking about draft picks or free agents. They’re the unquantifiable attributes of a person. They can’t be proven, only demonstrated.
They’re also largely subjective- you may think that someone has a particular soft skill, but others might disagree. For instance, you might think that your boss has great leadership ability, but maybe your coworkers think otherwise.
This is why they’re called “soft.” You can’t earn credentials in them and you can’t put them on a resume, but they’ll be evident during an interview anyway. Many people also go so far as to say that you can’t learn soft skills- they’re either a part of your personality, or not.
Some examples of soft skills are communication, leadership, teamwork, and creativity.
Hard skills are, by contrast, things which can be easily and objectively demonstrated. They’re completely quantifiable, and it’s easy to tell if a person has them or not. You can provide tangible proof that you have hard skills.
Degrees, certification, and work experience can all demonstrate the hard skills that you have. These are sometimes called “technical skills.” Unlike soft skills, hard skills are entirely learned, and are not innate parts of your personality.
Some examples of hard skills are computer skills, programming, foreign languages, and operating heavy machinery.
Is Public Speaking a Soft Skill?
So, the question is: is public speaking a soft skill? The answer: Yes, and no.
Public Speaking is Both a Soft Skill and a Hard Skill
Public speaking really doesn’t fit perfectly into either category. There are some things about public speaking that are unquantifiable, and there are some innate personal qualities that can make somebody a better public speaker with minimal or even no training.
You can, however, learn to be a good public speaker even if you aren’t naturally gifted at it. You can even earn degrees and certifications in public speaking that allow you to demonstrate clearly that you’re a good public speaker, and that this is a skill you’ve mastered.
You can even quantify some aspects of public speaking. You can’t quantify if a speaker was interesting or not, but you can count how many words per minute they say, which tells you if people can understand what they’re saying.
You can time how long they speak for, which tells you if they talked for too long and lost the audience’s attention. Some people would also say that you can quantify just how much you can improve your net worth by improving your public speaking skills, but more on that later.
So, public speaking is a unique skill set that can include soft skills, but it doesn’t have to.
Why Does It Matter?
Some of you are wondering why anybody would ask “is public speaking a soft skill?” The short answer is, some employers assign more value to soft skills than others.
Many employers are only concerned with your hard skills. They want to see what’s on your resume, and the interview is little more than going over what’s written there. Others, though, recognize that there can be a lot of value in a person’s soft skills, and so the interview is really all about experiencing those.
In addition, some workplaces recognize and reward the way that soft skills can enhance an employees performance. Finding ways to develop those soft skills can really give you a leg up on the competition.
Some jobs are nothing but soft skills. If you’re a salesman, your entire job is about soft skills. You’ve got to persuade people to buy your product, and successful salespeople recognize that persuasion is all about the soft skills.
Why You Should Care About Public Speaking
You may be convinced that soft skills matter, but what about public speaking? For many people, it can be hard to understand how improving their public speaking skills could matter. The fact is, being good at public speaking can make your life better no matter what your job is.
A programmer with excellent technical (“hard”) skills can earn a decent living, but one who can also speak to the client, and do it well, can earn 50% more. The ability to persuade, to deliver a presentation effectively, can be the difference between rapidly rising through the ranks and stagnating in a dead-end job.
In fact, Warren Buffet has said the one easiest way for a person to increase their net worth by up to 50% is to hone their communication skills. Public speaking may seem irrelevant, but it’s required in some form in almost every job, and the people who excel at it are really giving themselves a leg up on the competition.
You can see now that public speaking can be a valuable skill to have. It can set you apart from your coworkers and dramatically improve your career.
Which Parts Of Public Speaking Are Soft Skill?
We’ve said already that some parts of public speaking are soft skills, while others are hard skills. This is important because it’s assumed that soft skills can’t be taught, and hard skills can. That’s not entirely true, though.
Take math, for example. Some people are naturally better at math than others. They have an aptitude for it that makes math easy for them, and they gravitate towards fields that involve a lot of math.
These are the people who always loved math classes in school, and got good grades in those classes effortlessly. Yet, we would normally say that math skills are a hard skill, because they’re easily quantifiable and demonstrable.
There’s a lot of overlap, with some people having a natural, unteachable ability for hard skills who then struggle with soft skills, and vice versa. Those of us who naturally struggle with math actually have a very hard time learning that hard skill, and may never really master it.
So, you should never assume that you can’t learn a soft skill. Soft skills are just as teachable as hard skills.
Public Speaking As a Soft Skill
Much of what makes a public speaker successful are soft skills. Good public speakers are good communicators, they understand how to get ideas across clearly, efficiently, and persuasively. That’s definitely a soft skill, and some people are just born with that ability.
These people have a natural advantage, and it’s a very strong one. It’s not just an advantage in public speaking, either. Because they’re good communicators, they tend to advance far in whatever field they choose, even if they’re hard skills in that field aren’t very impressive.
For example, some of the most famous scientists in our world today aren’t the ones who’ve done the most groundbreaking research, or won a Nobel prize. Instead, they’re the ones who are the best at communicating.
These are the scientists who can take complex scientific ideas and communicate them in a way that anyone can understand. What’s more, they make it interesting. They can present these ideas in TV shows or books that we all love to read. They become the go-to scientists for major news outlets that want a scientific opinion on something.
That doesn’t mean they’re bad scientists, or that they don’t have any hard skills at all, it just means they’ve figured out how to leverage their soft skills in a way that has advanced their careers much farther than hard skills alone could do.
How To Learn A Soft Skill
Learning a soft skill isn’t as hard as you might think. It really just requires practice. In that respect, it’s the same as learning a hard skill. Some people are not naturally gifted communicators, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn to improve their communication.
Usually, it’s as simple as learning to condense what you’re trying to say into as few words as possible, and then figuring out why your listener should care.
That’s really all public speaking is- communicating an idea efficiently, and in a way that gets the listener to care. Anybody can learn to do that. The key is practice.
The best part is, there are countless organizations that exist only to help people learn public speaking and communication. Groups like Toastmasters have devoted their entire existence to helping people improve their public speaking.
Public Speaking As A Hard Skill
Things like communication and persuasion are soft skills, but there are hard skills involved in public speaking, too. Good public speakers have well-developed research skills, and they’re good writers. They have to be, in order to prepare their presentations well.
Often, the best public speakers are good because they’re speaking about a hard skill they’ve mastered. They can communicate about it effectively because it’s something they’ve studied and earned credentials in. So, your hard skills may actually enable you to speak better.
Why Public Speaking Skills Are Valued
You may still be wondering why you should care about public speaking at all. If your job doesn’t require frequent lectures or speeches, it’s understandable if you’re still not sold on the idea of public speaking as a valuable soft skill to have.
Public Speaking Is More Than Speeches
People tend to think of public speaking as something you do in auditoriums, in front of large crowds. Or in a lecture hall full of students. But public speaking really refers to all kinds of speaking outside of normal conversations.
Giving a presentation at work is a form of public speaking, and the same skills that make a great speech are what make a great presentation. A sales pitch is public speaking, too. You may not be a salesman, but you probably still need to make a sales pitch from time to time.
Almost every profession requires some public speaking skills from time to time. A good speaker can make a mediocre product or service look enticing, while a bad speaker can make a great product or service seem uninteresting. Employers know this, and so they value good speakers.
Public Speaking Skills
Now that you understand the critical importance of public speaking skills in any profession, we’ll take a look at the specific skills that are needed to make you a good public speaker. Some of these are considered soft skills, but all of them are learn able and teachable.
First and foremost, people need to understand what you’re saying. Public speaking is not the same thing as having a conversation; many speakers go wrong at this point. They treat their presentation or speech as just another conversation, and as a result, they’re boring and uninteresting.
You have to enunciate clearly, speak loudly and slowly, and use proper grammar. If English class wasn’t your best field of study in school, you may need some help here. The goal is to sound professional and authoritative. A good tip is to speak slowly enough that it sounds too slow to you. Since you’ll probably be a bit nervous, a speed that seems too slow to you is probably just right for your listeners.
The way you say things matters just as much as what you’re saying. You have to draw your listeners in, and keep them interested. The tone of your voice should change throughout the speech, as well as the volume. Nobody can pay attention to a monotone.
Your body language and facial expressions are also important. Don’t stand perfectly still, with a blank expression on your face. Use your hands when you talk, look around at the audience, make eye contact, and smile. Let your body do some of the communication for you.
An engaging presentation style can make almost anything seem interesting, so there’s never an excuse for a boring presentation.
Know Your Audience
If you’re pitching a new pharmaceutical to a group of doctors, they’re going to be interested in the technical details. If you’re trying to encourage a group of patients to ask their doctors for the same product, giving them a bunch of technical details is going to lose their attention, and fast. You will need to know how to appeal to your audience.
Know who you’re talking to, and adjust your presentation accordingly. Some audiences will want a bit of humor, and some won’t. Some will want lots of technical details, and some just want to know the big picture. Know your audience and you’ll better at public speaking.
How To Demonstrate A Soft Skill Like Public Speaking
Employers are looking for soft skill now, but it’s still something that’s hard to demonstrate. Public speaking is a soft skill that can make you very attractive to potential employers, but only if you have a way to let them know you can do it.
Put It In Your Resume
Your resume should always include some sort of “special skills” section, and this is really where you want to highlight your soft skills. If you’ve been working on your public speaking skills, be sure to mention that here.
You can simply list “public speaking” or you can be more detailed if you have particular skills in lecturing, training, or PowerPoint presentations. Each is a valuable and sought-after skill.
Bring It Up In Your Interview
Soft skills are best demonstrated in person, and if you have good communication skills they will be clearly evident during your interview. Still, it’s a good thing to mention. Most employers will ask about your strengths, or what special skills you think you’d bring to the job. This is the time to mention your public speaking skill.
Be sure to take about specific experience, as well as any specific credentials. If you’ve taken classes on public speaking or been involved with public speaking groups, you definitely want to mention that. It might just be the deciding factor when they’re choosing between you and another candidate.
Is public speaking a soft skill? Hard and soft skills are categories with a lot of overlap, but public speaking is probably more on the soft skill side of things. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to be great at it, and learning public speaking can be a huge help to your career.