Warren Buffet once said, “The most important professional business skill is public speaking.”
I agree. Being successful professionally is directly linked to the level of influence you have with the people you work with and serve. If you have influence, then you can create positive change; positive change is what every business wants and needs. Even college students fresh out of school understand this. According to a study by sociologist, Andrew Zekeri, “Oral communication skills were the number one skill that college graduates found useful in the business world.”
But, it’s not just success in business we’re after. It’s success in life as a whole. Our most important audience is often our family, friends, and neighbors. I was once asked to stand in front of a large congregation and deliver part of a eulogy with no prior warning. The person we were celebrating was important in my life, and I wanted to communicate that and honor them with grace and impact. I was so glad I had developed the ability to quickly organize my thoughts; spontaneously add humor, stories, and anecdotes; and manage my nerves on the spot.
Sometime in your life or work, you will be invited to speak, whether with advanced notice or impromptu. And you will either shy from the request and live out the old, tired story of being terrified and no good, or you will learn the skills in advance, welcome the opportunity, and step into the power of influence that can only come from your original voice.
The fear of public speaking is real and present at some level for all of us. Jerry Seinfeld once quipped in one of his comedy routines, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
If this is how you feel, you’re in good company. I like Mark Twain’s quote, “There are only two types of speakers in the world: the nervous and the liars.” The good news is that it’s not as hard to do as you’ve been led to believe, to feel more confident and to get better quick. There are simple, easy-to-remember frameworks for quickly organizing your message, tried-and-true ways to add simple stories, interaction, humor, and emotional color to the black-and-white of your logic. There are new and interesting ways to handle your nerves and stage-fright as well as manage your body movement to deliver confidently from any stage, platform, or place of leadership.
Whether you’re speaking to one person, a small group, or a large crowd, you want to become known for being clear and interesting when you communicate. Whether giving a speech at a wedding or a funeral, taking the lead at a team meeting, presenting your ideas at a board meeting, or speaking at a convention, you want to be influential and known as someone worth listening to.
I’ve been working on my communication skills for most of my life. I’ve coached hundreds of small business teams and thousands of professionals from all over the world to communicate in their lives and business at a higher, more impactful level. I’ve delivered over 1,100 paid presentations to audiences from 5 – 1500. Two years ago, I earned my Certified Speaking Professional credential, which was challenging to achieve, from the National Speakers Association. Only 10% of speakers worldwide hold this distinction, and I’m one of only a handful of CSPs in dentistry. I was not always a proficient public speaker, but I’ve worked on the craft and have gotten much better over time. I’ve grown to actually enjoy, if not downright love, the level of influence I can have with the groups I speak to in order to affect real and positive change. And if I can do it, you can too. I promise.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of my best tips for how to organize your thoughts, add engagement and interest, manage your nerves, and build your confidence when you have “the mic.” I want to show and convince you that understanding and learning a few small techniques can make a huge difference in how you think of yourself as a good public speaker.
Remember, communication is the engine that drives our society. It helps us form connections and relationships, influence decisions, and motivate change. Any progress we wish to make in our life and/or work is easier when we can communicate well.
You can speak well if your mouth can deliver the message of your heart.
~ John Ford