Public Speaking Skills – Key to Your Success

In an age where people who work at adjacent desks communicate with each other by email, it seems counter-cultural the way presentations have become so de rigueur throughout business and industry. And yet, they really have. Outside work as well, there are endless speeches to be made – at the golf club dinner, at the opening or launch of your new book/album/exhibition, at a landmark birthday party, at a public meeting about the new by-pass, at the parent-teacher association or the parochial church council meeting… Not to mention weddings. Or even funerals.

This leads me to Jerry Seinfeld’s joke. It’s been quoted so often it’s almost a clichĂ© but, in case you haven’t heard it, here it is:

When he puts it like that it sounds ridiculous, but many studies have genuinely shown that, for vast swathes of the population, public speaking ranks in the top three worst nightmares, to be avoided if at all possible. My mission is to change that!

Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

If the idea of addressing an audience turns you to jelly, you are by no means alone! However, there are several measures you can take to alleviate your anxiety and improve your public speaking skills.

Firstly, don’t ignore or avoid public speaking. If you always duck the task of making the departmental presentation or proposing the toast at a gathering, you’ll never get the chance to face down your fear. Worse still, if you’ve got a speech or presentation looming and you’re trying to pretend it’s not there in the diary, you’re compounding your fear with every day that goes by. With sufficient preparation and practice, you can give a talk you’ll be proud of and your fear will dissolve.

As described in other posts, fear of public speaking is often not much more than (a very real and nasty) fear of the unknown. With some training in public speaking skills, this fear soon erodes. Alongside teaching you the practical techniques, I can offer support as necessary with the psychological side – it’s all part of the coaching.

If you’re terrified at the prospect of giving a speech or presentation, it can be hard to imagine ever not being, but you may be amazed what a difference it makes once you really know what you’re doing.

How to Acquire Red-Hot Public Speaking Skills

There are three elements to successful public speaking:

1. Develop your content in a way that will be easy to deliver, as well as having maximum impact on the audience. Depending what you’re working on, see How to Write a Speech or How to Write a Presentation.

2. Prepare yourself psychologically. See Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking and Expanding Your Comfort Zone.

3. Work on the core skills of practical preparation, practice and delivery.

Public Speaking Skills to Do You Justice

Public speaking skills are often conflated with general competence

Whatever the context, make sure your public speaking skills do you justice

Although not being very good at public speaking is not actually an indication of how brilliant we may be at anything else, there seems to be a widespread assumption that good speakers are competent in general and bad speakers are not. For this reason, if not for any other, it’s definitely worthwhile learning how to speak well in public.

As business psychologist Adrian Furnham points out in this Sunday Times article, “However talented, or indeed talentless, one is, it is possible to acquire skills. The young curate has to master the 10-minute sermon, the aspiring MP the soapbox speech to the crowd, and the chairman the annual address to the shareholders’ meeting”.

Don’t allow your presentation skills to let you down! At work, so many people get themselves embroiled in dire presenting, simply by emulating their colleagues. The ‘death by PowerPoint’ routine is entrenched. Nobody likes it or thinks it’s effective but everyone does it because everyone does it. A Canadian presentation consultant conducts regular surveys of what audiences find annoying about PowerPoint presentations. The results are illuminating and apply just as much on this side of the pond.

Even without PowerPoint, if you’re making a speech, don’t settle for writing a script and reading it out. You can do so much better! The world is full of lousy speakers: for your sake – and your audience’s – work on those public speaking skills and do yourself justice.

To give yourself the best chance of success, book some personalised coaching. If you’re not in a position to do that right now, my ebook Loving the Limelight will give you all the tools you need to develop excellent public speaking skills.