Public speaking is an essential skill if you want to be a well-spoken, confident, and influential person. Developing mastery as a speaker will increase your overall well being and success in life and it will open up exciting opportunities for you and the people around you. Here are the life changing benefits of public speaking.
A few years ago, I was contacted by a 32 year-old woman, let’s call her Flo, who explained she had a serious fear of public speaking. She was looking for help. We chatted for some time and I asked her to tell me a bit about her life and what might have happened to cause this fear. As it turned out, she explained that she was ‘booed’ at the front of the classroom by both the teacher and the students when she was 10 years old and in 4th grade.
As a result, she had developed an overwhelming fear of public speaking. And very sadly, she had carried that fear with her for 22 years. It had stopped her going for high-level job interviews. It had stopped her speaking out in meetings. It had stopped her from speaking up when she noticed something wasn’t working. It had stopped her behaving confidently in social situations. It had stopped her being a bridesmaid for her friend (in case she had to do a speech). And she had turned down the offer of Godmother to her friend’s baby too. There was absolutely no way this woman was ever going to put herself in a situation where she had to speak in public ever again.
Yes it was shocking, vile behavior from that teacher. I can’t begin to imagine why another human would ever do that to another person, let alone a young child. Pity help the teacher who thinks it is ok to treat any of my kids like that! I’d be around at that school in a flash with a lesson in humanity.
Well guess what? It’s more common that you think. In fact, I speak with around twenty people every year who tell me stories of their senior leaders taunting them, swearing at them, even throwing things at them when their public speaking doesn’t go well. It happens in team meetings, at conferences and even unbelievably in the boardroom.
Of course my first piece of advice to these people is LEAVE! Don’t work somewhere that encourages or even condones this kind of behavior. My second essential piece of advice is to tell them that it’s definitely something that can be fixed. Anyone can be a great public speaker. It’s just about knowing what to do and doing it. You need to enroll yourself in a credible program where you learn the art and science of public speaking and start speaking up and influencing people!
So yes, this story ends well. Flo did attend my 2-day Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass and weeks later had the chance to deliver her first public speech to a group of 120 people at an industry conference. That’s a big audience when you’ve avoided it all your life. Flo was inundated with people shaking her hand and congratulating her and telling her that she was the best speaker on the day! She called me to say, “I did it!” Since then she’s been promoted 4 times, set up her own business, taken on volunteering roles to help others and speaks regularly at events. She’s the godmother to a different friend’s children and has been a bridesmaid three times (and delivered a speech on all three occasions). What a result!
So what’s the moral of this story?
There are so many life-changing benefits of public speaking that you may not realize at first thought. And even if you’ve never thought you needed this skill it’s worth thinking about the possible positive impact of improving this area of your life.
Here are just a few:
You’ll look and feel more confident. You simply won’t believe how much more confident you’ll feel in both your work and home life once you master the art of public speaking. When you understand how to structure your thoughts and articulate your points with clarity, and people actually start listening intently when you speak to them it’s such a huge buzz!
Also, accomplished public speakers know how to hold themselves so they don’t distract themselves with their body movement. And they also know how to breathe so the voice is projected confidently and with ease. Just imagine how much more confident you’ll look and feel when you’ve taken control of all these aspects. You’ll lose any tendency toward awkwardness and carry yourself more confidently in your life.
You’ll get more Involved. Often people feel like once they’ve mastered their public speaking they can do anything! When you believe in yourself you’re way more likely to jump in when an opportunity to take any sort of risk arises and ‘seize the day’. Certainly Flo who I mentioned at the start of this article found she put her hand up and participated in things once she mastered the art of public speaking. She’s ‘in life’.
You’ll move better. When you learn all about your body and the impact that your gestures, posture and movement have on the effectiveness of your message you’ll learn to move with enhanced grace and elegance. In turn this gives you the vibe of success that is obvious to everyone around you.
You’ll be more fearless. We know that public speaking is right up there with the greatest fears. The other two are spiders and death. A friend of mine was terrified of spiders. She went to the Taronga Zoo program in Sydney that specialises in ridding yourself of arachnophobia. Once she cured her fear of spiders, she thought to herself, “right o, I’ll conquer my fear of public speaking now too”. In overcoming your fear of one thing, you end up believing in yourself more, which may end up in overcoming your fears in a number of areas of your life. You may even go parachuting or bungee jumping!
You’ll be healthier. To be a great speaker you need to breathe properly. The breath is linked to managing your nervousness, clarity of thought, and powerful projection of the voice. And of course diaphragmatic breath is essential for good health in general. In fact when you breathe correctly you’ll improve blood flow, increase your energy levels, improve your posture, reduce inflammation, detoxify the body, stimulate the lymphatic system, and improve your digestion. That’s got to be the way to live right?
You’ll be better informed. The research you often have to do to write a compelling speech is thorough and will result in you becoming better informed about your world. This makes you a more interesting person to be around and a more credible colleague on a project.
You’ll have more clarity. Public speaking will help you clarify your thinking about a matter. The skills you use to refine a speech will help you to work out what you believe, what’s important to you and what’s not. You’ll be more aware of your own opinions and the opinions of others. This will make you a more interesting conversationalist and a more interesting person to be around at work.
You’ll embrace brevity. No one likes a wind-bag! You know, that person who raves on and on about stuff? Winning toastmasters talk about writing a speech and then halving it. In other words, get rid of all the extra stuff that’s just staff and not helpful in your point. When you know how to construct a winning speech it will inform the way you structure your thoughts and subsequent arguments in all areas of your life from home to work, no matter the number of people in the meeting or conversation.
You’ll inspire others. Being able to inspire, influence and persuade a group of people is an increasingly valuable skill set. Not to mention the buzz you’ll get from being a thought-leader in your area and actually helping others. Making a contribution to the lives of others is surely one of the main reasons for being. To be able to lift others up is valuable for them and also gives our lives meaning in return.
You’ll create more opportunities for yourself and others. When you’re a confident speaker you’ll be more likely to create other speaking opportunities for yourself. You will have the ability to take what you know and turn it into educational sessions, or facilitate groups, or speak at conferences. You’ll even find you offer to speak up at weddings and important personal events and ceremonies. You’ll be seizing the opportunity to speak, embracing circumstances as they arise and you’ll be helping others all at the same time.
You’ll be seen as credible. When you can speak in public you’ll stand out from the crowd. I can’t tell you how many people I meet who say, “public speaking, no way!” “I’ll leave that to someone else”. Well the person who is speaking out the front (or who is proud to say what they think around the meeting table) is the person who is going to receive the credibility for the idea and the praise if it’s a good one! Make that person you! Public speaking not only enables you to stand out from the crowd (literally), it is a key differentiator of talent in any increasingly automated workplace. The confidence that you get from being about to speak means you no longer have to delegate it to others, you can take the credit for your own awesome ideas yourself!
You’ll achieve mastery in general. When you learn the art and science of public speaking you’ll find the skills you’ve mastered actually translate across many areas of your business and life. For example, you may not realise that you use the same model for writing a speech as you would for writing an email, Board paper or business proposal. You use the same rapport building skills in a speech as you would when negotiating or making new friends. You use the same technique for managing objections in a speech as you would to deal with conflict with your boss, colleagues, partner, friends or children. You most definitely use the skills for structuring a speech when answering questions in a job interview. And these days it’s common for a formal presentation to part of many job interview or assessment centre processes so the employer can check you have excellent oral communication. Finally, you use the same skill towards the end of a speech to call your audience to action as you would to close the sale in a sales meeting. My clients who come to me for presentation skills training tell me how delighted they are to have (in addition to becoming great speakers) also ‘accidentally’ dramatically improved their close rates in meetings.
I encourage you to give speaking a go and I wish you every success on the journey. Happy presenting!