Think of the greatest leaders you have ever studied throughout history. Not big on history? Then just think of the best manager you’ve ever had and what set them apart from all the bad managers. Chances are the defining quality that made them great was their ability to speak. The ability to communicate effectively is so powerful, yet it is an area of expertise in which many people fall short.
In fact, if given the opportunity, most people would avoid public speaking at all costs, no matter how large the benefits. But passing up the opportunity to speak would be a huge mistake. Believe it or not, public speaking is not a talent most people are born with but rather a skill that can be developed and perfected over time through experience.
Of course, at the start of your career, you can’t be expected to be a master speaker, but that shouldn’t deter you from starting your path to perfection. To help guide you through this process, we recommend you read “Speak Up with Confidence” by Jack Valenti. This book provides several tricks people can practice to become better speakers. Each reader may find their own value each tactic, but here were my 3 main takeaways:
- Preparation is Key: Your days of “wingin it” are long gone. That method may have worked for those college presentations you put together the night before they were due, but you’re now presenting in a professional environment and making it up on the fly just won’t cut it. People can always tell when you’re prepared so when it comes to presenting you’ll want to know exactly what you’re going to say before hand. The trick is to write down your script and rehearse over and over and over again until the presentation is burned into your memory. NEVER read directly off a powerpoint slide, but in the case that you lose track of where you were supposed to be in the presentation, the words on the slide can serve as a friendly reminder of the speech you’ve already committed to memory. The extensive preparation may seem like overkill, but no one ever got penalized for being over prepared. If anything, you’ll be rewarded and admired by your piers on your professional skills and knowledge.
- Timing is Everything: Ask any great comedian, they’ll tell you the most important part of a joke is the timing. The same goes for any speech. The timing in a speech is essential when delivering a joke, emphasizing points, or simply keeping the audience’s attention. Timing is also important in regards to speech length. The general rule is “The shorter the better”. If you’re only given a certain amount of time to speak, then make sure you stay within that time frame. Your audience will love you for not rambling and keeping them on schedule. Also, people have short attention spans, so keeping it short may keep them engaged the entire time.
- Don’t worry about stage fright: A majority of the population has a fear of public speaking, so don’t sweat it if you do, too. This book provides examples of many of the great speakers and how they also suffered from the same stage fright many of us experience. One notable example was the legendary John F. Kennedy who he recalls shook while presenting. We all experience stage fright so there’s no need to let it deter us from speaking. Instead, we should use it to drive us to become more comfortable and perfect the art of speaking.
We all have the ability to become excellent public speakers. Developing these skills will require a lot of preparation and practice, but your career will benefit from your sacrifice. Not sure how to begin? We do. Read “Speak Up With Confidence” by Jack Valenti and start putting his teachings into practice. You never know, before long you could become the next greatest orator of our generation.