Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Learning and Instruction


Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Robert Burns

Second Advisor

Mathew Mitchell

Third Advisor

Noah Borrero


The purpose of this study was to explore expertise development in professional speaking from the perspective of deliberate practice. A convenience sample of 10 elite and 12 experienced professional members of the National Speakers Association participated in 30-60 minute phone interviews in which they described behaviors and activities that contributed to their skill development in speaking and what factors motivated them to pursue excellence in their craft. The group of elite subjects averaged 62.9 years of age (SD = 8.03) and 34.9 years (SD = 7.78) of professional speaking experience. The experienced group had an average age of 53.3 years (SD = 13.14 years), and an average of 22 years (SD = 12.42) of professional speaking experience. Interviews were recorded and transcribed.

Bricolage analysis of the interview data resulted in the identification of 16 potential deliberate practice activities and 9 factors that motivated professional speakers to engage in skill development activities. A follow-up questionnaire with a total of 65 items was administered in order to obtain measures for frequency of engagement, perceived relevance to expertise development, and perceived effort required to engage in each of the 16 activities. The questionnaire also included 9 items on motivation, a 5-item life-satisfaction scale, and 3 biographic questions. Eighteen participants completed the follow-up questionnaire (response rate of 82%).

Five themes emerged from the data that are indicative of deliberate practice in professional speaking: community, attitudes, self-development and learning, experience and repetition, and self-monitoring and feedback. Four types of motivational factors appeared to support deliberate practice engagement among professional speakers: passion, temperament, supportive environment, and practical necessity. No statistically significant differences were observed between experienced and elite professional speakers in their deliberate practice behaviors, motivation for deliberate practice, and life satisfaction ratings. The frequency, relevance and effort scales in the questionnaire instrument possessed strong reliability measures (Cronbach's alpha = .85, .86, and .84, respectively). Implications for deliberate practice research and public speaking pedagogy are discussed.