How will public speaking save your career?
Whether you are attending a job interview or making your point during a team meeting, public speaking is a skill required by all career professionals.
Often, career progression comes down to an employee’s skills as a communicator. Being able to communicate confidently can
- secure a lucrative deal,
- make problems clear ensuring colleagues take action or
- present technical data to non-technical stakeholders, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
At a personal level, being a strong public speaker increases authority which has a positive impact on your career progression
On the other hand, for many people, being the center of attention in a team meeting or job interview is scary. Anxiety or fear can be the bullet that kills any hope of career advancement.
If you have the ambition to be successful in your career, you must overcome your fear of public speaking.
To become less fearful, and therefore increase communication confidence, follow these 3 steps.
Predict questions; plan answers
The fear of being put on the spot is terrifying, this is one of the reasons most career professionals detest the job interview.
This same concern also happens in the world of work. Team meetings are dreaded because employees hate being in the spotlight – especially when they struggle to think on the spot
Predicting meeting questions is as easy as predicting job interview questions. In a job interview, the job duties and job criteria are the basis of the interview questions. In a workplace meeting, the agenda will highlight any potential data you need to prepare to give.
A proactive approach helps with preparation. Don’t simply attend a meeting, instead, break down the agenda, think about current issues and deadlines, know your boss so you can predict their behaviour and questions.
Be ready, be prepared, and you will feel more confident.
Engage your audience
Audience engagement is part of the basic strategy when speaking to entertain on stage.
Career professionals don’t learn public speaking to entertain or motivate. Their goal is to deliver information, present data and ideas and clearly communicate projects or processes.
Even in the workplace, audience engagement can help reduce public speaking anxiety.
Imagine being in a team meeting. The boss, after reviewing last quarter’s targets, is angry ‘how many customers did you sign up for?’ he shouts from across the desk.
In meetings, when asked an unexpected question, most employees feel under attack. When being attacked the mind resorts to instinct – either fight or flight. In-flight, the employee cant answer, they feel stuck, lost. They slouch down, trying to hide behind under the table.
When in ‘fight’ mode, employees will often deflect the question by ‘blaming’ others. None of these options has a good ending.
A confident speaker will engage their audience. When asked the target question, the employee turns the tables around and asks the employer for ‘specifics’ – do you want to know about the customer numbers for last week or the whole month?
By asking a professionally framed question, the boss now has to choose which ‘specific’ they require. The goal here isn’t really to get a specific answer, instead, you are buying time. Allowing your nerves at being shouted at, to calm down. While the boss is choosing their response to your answer, you now have time to structure your own reply.
Public speakers do this all the time. When they lose themselves in a speech, they simply stop and ask the audience a rhetorical question. As the audience ponders the question, the speaker has a few minutes to breathe, relax and allow their prepared speech to return to them.
Control the meeting
Most team meetings follow a similar structure, the chair asked questions based on the agenda and team members only speak when spoken to.
To increase confidence become the meeting influencer; get other people to speak.
When the chair is discussing agenda items, ask questions and invite other people’s opinions. This creates conversation (and a more productive meeting) but also allows you to speak just enough to feel confident (and increase confidence) while generating valuable conversations.
This tactic creates power, even though you don’t actually do that much! Because you become the key mover – helping to get other people’s ideas and opinions, you are seen as being valuable. It’s like being a conductor for a large orchestra.
Imagine the chair is talking about a new data system they are thinking of installing, you could ask:
- What are the pro’s and con’s of the system?
- Will there be any disruption to business as usual?
- How long until the system is operational?
In addition, you can get other people involved?
- It would be good to hear Michelle’s opinion as I know she worked with a similar system in her last job?
- (to IT lead) Do we know how long it will take to install?
- Has anyone used this system before?
The goal here is to ask a short question – and practice your public speaking skills – to generate a conversation.
Speaking confidence comes down to preparation and practice.
Preparation can include preparing questions to ask, or answers to predicted questions.
Preparation can include practicing techniques to destroy the natural flight or fight response when you’re back in a corner.
Practice comes in the form of speaking; asking questions, getting specifics and encouraging others to speak.
To improve workplace communication you dont need to be an inspirational speaker, you aren’t required to make long speeches to create a mass movement. You dont even need to be entertaining.
The workplace speaker’s goal is to be, and to be seen, as a more confident speaker.
To be a confident public speaker you have to speak confidently in public.
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