The short answer is a resounding yes! You don’t have to give speaking engagements at business conferences or a commencement ceremony. Just making a sales pitch to the CEO and Marketing Director of your biggest customer is public speaking. Have you ever watched a town council or school board meeting and wished you could stand up and make a point? Speaking to or in front of any size group of people is public speaking. Regardless of the location, the purpose of your talk or audience size, you are speaking to the public. Most business professionals have or will have the opportunity to practice their speaking skills in front of more than two people or somewhere other than a staff meeting.. It’s unavoidable for the majority of jobs and for every business owner. Even with the advanced communications of today, there is no substitute for verbal communication.
Is it Just Me?
There is a name for it…. Glossophobia. The Fear of Public Speaking. It is quite common for the average person to have a fear of speaking in front of others. It is estimated that 75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety/nervousness when it comes to public speaking. Just the thought of stepping on the stage with other people watching can make some people physically sick. The only way to cure the fear is to practice and be prepared for your subject. According to the Harvard Business Review, here are the five best ways to combat this fear:
- You Must Be Prepared – Know your material or subject well
- Try To Be Real – Face your fears, they may be overblown
- Don’t be Afraid to Be Vulnerable – Be honest about your subject good or bad, people can spot a pretender
- Be Present – If you are engaged with your topic, others will be also. Speak from your heart.
- Be Generous – You are there to impart knowledge and/or help
Regardless of your topic, according to Forbes, you need to know your audience. Is your purpose to inform, teach or motivate? Your entire appearance will depend on how well you do your research.
How do I Improve My Speaking Skills?
Before you walk up to the podium, it’s always a good idea to practice your speech in front of people you are comfortable with. One recommendation is to record yourself for review later. This will give you a good idea of how long your speech will be and what may or may not fit in the time you have allotted. There are numerous professional groups dedicated to this important business and personal skill. Toast Masters is arguably the premier avenue to learn how to speak in public. That is the entire focus of their group after all. Inc. Magazine also has a great list of opportunities to learn without breaking the bank. No matter what course you take, learning to speak in public is critical for every business professional. The one thing most speakers will agree on is this: It Takes Practice.
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