What is Public Communication?

Public communication is the process of addressing a group of people for a specific period. Public communication contexts encompass speaking in the classroom (e.g., reporting), in the workplace (e.g., presenting meeting results), in the community (e.g., persuading community members to join a clean-up drive), and at social events (giving a toast at a wedding celebration).

Effectively communicating in public speaking situations is a crucial life skill, comprising various other skills such as adjusting your message to your audience, critical listening, evaluating and identifying reliable information, and organizing and presenting ideas effectively, among others. The most effective public speakers can influence change, establish leadership, and inspire people to action.

There are three purposes for speaking in public, namely, to inform, to persuade, and to entertain. Here, we will discuss the nature of public communication, the ethics of public speaking, and communication apprehension.

Nature of Public Communication

Several characteristics distinguish public communication from interpersonal communication, such as conversations and interviews (in Bulan, et al., 2002).

Role Stability

While in interpersonal communication, it is common for speakers and listeners to switch roles; in public communication, the speaking and listening roles are stable. The speaker remains the speaker, and the audience remains the listening group.


The level of language used in public speaking is generally more formal; however, there are instances where speakers use conversational or oral styles.


There is commonly a physical and psychological distance between the speaker and the audience. Some speakers have to deliver a speech onstage, relatively far from the audience. Some speakers deliver their speeches through mass media.


The speaker must devote much time to planning and organizing the speech. Planning involves choosing the topic, determining the purpose for speaking, and analyzing the audience to deliver a speech that accommodates their needs or interests.

Audience Diversity

Audience analysis is necessary to adjust the handling of the topic, language use, style of speaking, and delivery to a wide range of listeners with different backgrounds, interests, and motivations for listening.

Less Feedback

While listeners also provide feedback to the speaker in a public speaking situation, this is commonly expressed through nonverbal gestures and facial expressions.