How Public Speaking Can Improve Your Career (and tips to help you)
Do your palms get sweaty and your heart races just thinking about having to speak in front of an audience? If so, you aren’t alone – 74% of people have a fear of public speaking. This makes it the #1 phobia – greater than the fear of dying, spiders (my biggest fear) and darkness.
If so many people have this fear, why in the world would I say public speaking can improve your career? Because it is often done so poorly, that it is an easy place to shine (if you take the time to learn some public speaking skills).
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you speak in front of hundreds of people (at least not yet). But wouldn’t it be great to speak at a staff meeting, sharing your thoughts with confidence instead of a shaky voice or keeping your genius to yourself?
Even though I’m one of the minority of people who enjoys public speaking, I’m constantly looking to improve my skills. Here are some tips that have helped me become a confident and engaging public speaker.
1. Listen and Learn
One of the best ways to become a good public speaker is to listen closely and watch others. Take note of what resonates with the people in the room. When do they tune out? What makes them sit up and listen?
Each time I speak at a conference, I attend as much of the conference as I can before I speak. This gives me a chance to size up the crowd, listen to their questions (so I understand what interests them) and, most importantly, learn from others. We each bring our own personality and style to speaking, but this can be refined by watching and learning from other speakers.
2. Hit the Mute Button
Since 80% of communications is non-verbal, body language is key to connecting with an audience (no matter how small). And the best way to dissect body language is to watch someone speak with the sound turned off.
Think about some of the great speakers – Barack Obama, JFK, Oprah. Now close your eyes and imagine them speaking. They don’t just stand at the podium with their arms at their side. Rather they are experts at making eye contact, leaning in, using their body to express emotions.
3. Get Help
While this should go without saying, I’m amazed at how many people don’t take the time to learn public speaking skills. And practice them!! There are so many ways you can improve your public speaking. You can take a course online, join Toastmasters, or ask your organization to bring in a corporate trainer (as you are definitely not alone in needing some help improving your public speaking skills).
While being a good (or at least comfortable) public speaker takes time and practice, there are some nice side benefits. As you start getting clear on your message, use body language to connect with your audience, and share your thoughts more freely, people will take notice. Why? Because we have all sat through so painful presentations that we sit up and pay attention to the good ones.
This is such an easy way to shine and get noticed in your career. Yes, it means putting in the work to overcome a fear. But it is work that will pay high dividends.
And guess what? It allows you to share your genius in a way that connects with others. You won’t walk away from a presentation thinking, well I bombed that one, worrying about what people think about you. Rather, you will know what you had to say had impact.
Don’t worry, being a good public speaker doesn’t mean giving one hour presentations. US President George Washington gave a 135 inauguration speech – which was likely more powerful than presidents who droned on and on.
I encourage you to think of ways that you present in your career (staff meetings, formal presentations). How long is your average presentation? Who is your typical audience? What are your greatest public speaking fears and weaknesses? Instead of trying to perfect speaking in front of hundreds, start small. Look for ways to improve speaking to your core audience and go from there.
If you’re looking for extra help, you can download my How to Present Like a Pro training video and step-by-step guide. It will help you get clarity on how to create an engaging presentation, know how to connect with your audience and help you gain the confidence to go from boring to engaging.
If you have any questions or are struggling, send me a note. I’d love to hear from you.