When people ask me what I do, I reply with, "I'm a Speaker and Public Speaking Mentor," to which the reaction is, and I quote, "What? Public Speaking? Are you mad?”
This has made me realise and appreciate even more, just how many people are seriously terrified of speaking in public.
Public Speaking isn’t just about standing up in front of a group of people and talking. As Roger Love said, “All speaking is public speaking whether it’s one person or a thousand,” so it doesn’t matter if it’s over a coffee with a client, at a dinner party with friends or a team meeting– fundamentally our daily routines consist of all forms of speaking.
The deeper I delve into the subject the more I realise how many of us have speaking anxieties across all forms of public speaking, from common everyday social situations to general meetings in the workplace, and the less we participate the more nervous we feel as we become accustomed to feeling shy or anxious. I have spoken with many people who attend regular team meetings and they revealed that they hardly ever actually speak up or participate; so much so that if they were to ever contribute it would feel uncommon and even more distressing.
The irony is that for a skill that so many consider to be such a frightening prospect, it's an expertise that has the ability to open doors and change our lives in ways we can only imagine both professionally and personally. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the importance of Public Speaking.
I have been fortunate enough to watch some highly experienced people speak about their profession but noticed how they struggled to convey their message in an effective way. Being able to speak confidently in public can help establish us to be a more qualified expert in our field and serve as a point of difference between our competitors.
Having the skill to speak in front of a group calmly and collectively fills us with confidence and demonstrates that we are in absolute control over our subject matter. Establishing ourselves paves the way for us to become a leader, not just in our field of expertise, but also as a mentor to our team and colleagues.
A great deal of investment is funded towards marketing across all sectors and organisations, from small start-ups to large listed corporates. Marketing is a great way to promote our businesses, but no marketing is more powerful than the spoken word. When we have an audience listening to us (and providing it’s done effectively) it’s by far the most valuable way we can market ourselves and the business we represent. When we can do that, together with using other marketing tools to establish ourselves (such as Linkedin), networking and referrals, we transform ourselves into a walking, talking brand and master of our field.
Build Confidence on the INSIDE
To my surprise, I have met many people who are very confident on the outside, but vulnerable on the inside. I can definitely relate to this. I am a self-confessed anxious person and speaker. My anxiety is at its peak when I speak in front of small groups and during one on one situations - yes, that means for every single coffee, team and client meeting I have ever had and still have! Developing our Public Speaking abilities is an incredible way of building assurance on the inside and when we do that, we show a different type of confidence on the outside. The right kind of self-assurance is crucial and most people are intelligent enough to read our confidence levels over a simple 15 minute encounter. When we are confident on the inside it fills us with a sense of calm that is often difficult to find when we are outside of our comfort zone.
We operate in a world that is developing at an alarming rate and everybody is working furiously to keep up with the latest trends. In doing so, we risk losing our soft skills as our dependence on these capabilities diminish. I feel our unique human capabilities will always have a significant impact on our competencies as experts, leaders and influencers and I truly believe that whatever we do and whatever role we are in, Public Speaking is one of the most important life skills we can gain.