If you’ve been following the blog and podcast this month, you’ll know that we’ve been exploring visibility, personal branding and profile-raising as ways of future-proofing your career. An integral element of all these activities leads us into this week’s topic – public speaking. If the very mention of those two words brings you out in a cold sweat, you’re not alone. The fear of public speaking (or glossophobia to give it its fancy official name) is believed to affect up to 75% of the population! While some people will try to avoid public speaking at all costs, experiencing panic-type symptoms like sweating, shaking hands, a racing heart and a dry mouth, for most of us it manifests as an unpleasant feeling of reluctance and nervousness before and during the event – and a huge feeling of relief afterwards!
As we’ve discovered this month – taking ownership of your future by defining who you are and what you do, and presenting and promoting that well, is key to progressing in your career and strengthening your position at work. However you may feel about the idea of public speaking, giving presentations and chairing or speaking up in meetings is a non-negotiable part of making yourself visible and succeeding in a senior role. It may well be that a tiny proportion of people are naturals at doing it – but the rest of us need to learn it as a skill and practise it well. If you want to have better career opportunities and rewards, and a greater chance of achieving the work/life balance you desire, overcoming your reluctance to speak in public is essential.
If you tune into this week’s podcast, I will be sharing practical tips from my own personal journey to becoming confident at public speaking. (Believe me, it’s worth persevering!). In the meantime, read on for six pretty convincing reasons why you should bite the bullet, and speak up!
1. It increases your visibility and memorability.
The obvious one – and the most important. When you’re the one on the stage with the microphone, you’re the one that people (including senior management) will see, hear and remember. It’s as simple as that!
2. It differentiates you from your peers and brings you more opportunities.
As we have seen, so many people are nervous of public speaking. Even at a senior level, many people will speak when they absolutely have to – but do not actively seek out public speaking opportunities. If you can overcome your fears, learn and practise the skill, and intentionally search out public speaking opportunities, it gives you a massive advantage over those who are not doing the same. You’re the one who will be at the forefront of your boss’s mind when opportunities and promotions arise.
3. It helps you grow in experience and confidence.
If you cast your mind back to my blog, 8 reasons to embrace the joy of growing, you’ll know I am a big proponent of the growth mindset. Doing what you are afraid of doing, embracing challenges and ‘dancing in the discomfort’ is the way to learn new skills and expand your horizons. The more you try, the more you learn, the more you grow, the more confident you become, the more you achieve, the better you perform, the happier you are. What’s not to like?
4. It hones your expertise.
When you are presenting on your topic of interest and specialism, you become more focused in your approach. Having to present yourself as an expert makes you research, prepare, learn and absorb information much more thoroughly; therefore, the more you submit yourself to public exposure, the more expert you become. The greater your expertise, the more valuable you are to your employer.
5. It promotes your personal brand and extends your influence.
Your expertise and your ability to confidently project it, is your personal brand. When you seek out opportunities for public speaking, you are promoting your personal brand to hundreds of people each time. When you speak persuasively in front of others, you are building a bigger and bolder picture of yourself as a confident and knowledgable specialist in the minds of your colleagues, managers and other industry influencers. The more influence you have, the more likely you are to be able to effect change within your team/department/company or negotiate for what you want in terms of work/life balance and flexibility in the future.
6. It develops your people skills and relatability.
Through public speaking, you are exposing some of your true character to your audiences. The more they see of the real ‘you’, the more human and relatable you become to others, and in turn, by learning what works when you present, you develop empathy and emotional intelligence. By understanding nuances of communication and what it takes to connect with people, to inspire them, make them take action, or even make them laugh, you are developing invaluable social and leadership skills which will pay dividends for your future career.
Don’t let the thought of public speaking continue to fill you with dread and hold you back in your career. It really is just another skill that can be learned and practised – but one that is so important if you are to achieve your career potential. Check out this week’s podcast episode #42 and learn how to become a better and more confident public speaker.