A public speaking thought for the day – confident learner Vs. nervous learner

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Interesting thoughts last night that I need to get written down some where, hence the blog post.

I’m rapidly approaching the conclusion that there are two very distinct types of person when it comes to developing public speaking skills.

1. The speaker who has the confidence and personality, but not the speaking skills. (The confident speaker)

2. The speaker who has a greater awareness and knowledge of public speaking technique, but does not have the confidence to stand up and find their voice. (The nervous speaker)

The confident speaker is likely to jump in at the deep end’ and develop their speaking skills by speaking in front of an audience repeatedly, improving and refining their skills as they go – learning on the job!

The nervous speaker is unlikely to dive straight in, and will take the time to learn, understand and perhaps develop in private, their own public speaking skills. It is for this reason they have a greater knowledge of speaking technique – they take the time to absorb and learn before getting involved.

I believe that the nervous speaker actually benefits from being in the presence of the confident speaker, as they learn from viewing the confident speaker’s exploits, failures and successes.

How does the confident speaker learn, other than by doing? The confident speaker can also learn from a mentor, an audience that they can present to in a more private setting.

I think these two personality types provide a good basis for a day of public speaking training. Having a group with both personality types in, means that the confident speakers can get the session moving by ‘learning by doing’ whilst the more nervous and analytical learners can view and absorb their experiences, before participating later in the session.

The lesson above for nervous speakers attending training is not to be intimidated by the confident learners – they’re doing you a favour!

So where are my thoughts headed now?

I would be interested to see how the confident and nervous learner types synchronise with traditional models of personality type. At its most basic I think we can model this as ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’, but can this be taken deeper?

Can we ever class different types of character when it comes to public speaking, as the social, technical and opportunistic aspects of developing public speaking skills are so different for every person on the planet?


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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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