Does public speaking matter in 2009?

I find YouTube fascinating from a “how much things change yet stay the same” perspective.

We love to talk about how different the world is than the pre-internet days of say 1989, but when I look at YouTube I see lots of video of people speaking in public. Lectures, talks, monologues, etc. Yes, it’s true, today it’s online and you can watch for free and at home, while in your underwear, but its the same thing: one person, talking to a crowd, or straight into the camera, about something you want to hear. For all our tech, we’re still very fond of the most low tech thing there is: a monologue.

And then we have events. People pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to go to TED, corporate offsites, full day courses, professional conferences, team meetings, awards event (e.g. Academy awards) or even to high school or college, all events centered on having one person speak to many. Look at the agenda of any large event: it’s a series of talks and lectures. One of the biggest news stories of 2007 and 2008 was Randy Pausch, and his last lecture and the story behind it.

I’m convinced public speaking, the ability for one person to communicate well to many others, is just as important today as its always been. Maybe even more important. Powerpoint and Keynote are everywhere. Lectures certain have limitations, but it hasn’t stopped the world from depending on them. It still is a primary use of all the technologies we have, and is still a form of communication people want to consume.

What do you think? Is public speaking more or less important now than it was a decade ago?

(fyi: my next book is about public speaking).

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