When we were kids, we could position ourselves in the back of the class and avoid raising our hands to dodge being called on to speak at the front of the class. It’s one of the most dreaded forms of communication even from an early age. But in the professional world, public speaking is a vital skill to have and to master. If you are like most people, you have some trepidation or outright fear of public speaking. I’ve seen hundreds of professionals in my career who have glossophobia, or speech anxiety, and almost always it has a negative impact on their careers.
Public speaking skills aren’t just for professional speakers. They are incredibly useful with the everyday interactions we have with clients, coworkers, managers, vendors, and colleagues. Improving your public speaking skills helps you make your case to upper management, to the employees who report to you, and to all the stakeholders in your business.
Here are a few of the specific skills you need to be most effective:
Persuasion: Every time we speak, we compete for the attention, trust, and influence of those to whom we are speaking and whoever makes up our “audience.” To build and expand your career will require the ability to persuade and win over the “crowd” when you have a new idea or initiative. To be compelling, you must know how to paint a picture that your listeners are drawn into. You must create a simple, straightforward, believable argument that persuades them to lean toward your perspective, point-of-view, or request. Because people “buy” products, services, and ideas with emotions and rationalize their decisions with logic, your skill in the area must include the expert use of storytelling, metaphors, and other emotional elements. These are learnable skills for anyone who wants to be more persuasive.
Education: If you are an expert, clinician, service provider or educator, there is important information you must convey, and typically within a very narrow window of time. Even if you do have all day to convey your information, people’s attention spans are shorter and shorter, and they simply will not give you the luxury of time. The skill of quickly organizing your thoughts into one to five “buckets” of information will help your listeners digest and understand your information. Couple this skill with the ability to add “color” to the “black-and-white” of your content and you’ll be experienced as a master educator. Creating clarity about important facts and next steps is the lynchpin of great communication.
Inspiration: I’ve had more than one great educator and leader tell me that their job is not to become a motivational speaker. And while I agree that they may not need to immolate Tony Robbins, I believe we are all called to “motivate” or inspire our listeners to action in relation to our topic, request, or content. Even if you are good at creating clarity around your topics, that doesn’t mean you inspire people to get on board or to take the next step. To carry an idea forward, you must be able to excite and enliven your peers, coworkers, and customers. How cool would it be to influence your listeners and create an environment where everyone walks out of your meeting ready to roll. Your ability to inspire others to take a step toward the clarity you create is the perfect communication combination.
Managing Conflict and Disagreements: Confidence, knowledge, and poise under pressure are essential elements of communicating your message well and establishing yourself as an expert and trusted professional. Especially if your communication is a hot topic, a controversial subject, or a leading-edge idea, you can anticipate some pushback from your listeners. Being prepared and skilled at managing different perspectives and opinions versus becoming defensive or argumentative will garner you trust and respect.
You might instruct a group on how to use a new computer program, address employees at a company-wide retreat, lead a departmental meeting, give a demonstration, or present a new business solution to a board of directors. Regardless, you’ll be in a position of leadership and strong leadership requires eloquent and effective communication.
You can learn these skills. You can manage your nerves. And you can move your career to new heights. Stop waiting and reach out for coaching. We’ve helped hundreds of professionals and we’d love to help you.
“You’re either remarkable or you’re invisible. Make a choice.”