Whenever I hear someone say something to the effect of "I don't need to learn how to give a speech" they may as well be scraping their nails down a blackboard. When most people think of public speaking, they cringe. They associate it with doing something they loathe or relate it to professions they loathe such as politicians, instructors or sales professionals. The bottom line is that you should care about public speaking because out of all the skills out there that you can improve, you'll get the most mileage out of improving your public speaking skills.
Now you may think to yourself "my job doesn't require me to speak to groups" or "I don't see how I can benefit from speaking to groups." The truth is that you can benefit from becoming a better speaker even if your job doesn't require you to speak to groups, you're self-employed, you're unemployed, you work for a charity or you're a stay at home parent. If you're not convinced, perhaps you can relate to one of more of these reasons:
1: The skills necessary for public speaking are transferable to other forms of communication.
People that speak well to groups speak well to individuals. If you can get a crowd of 100 people excited about your topic, imagine what you can do when speak one on one. Everything from researching your topic, crafting your words, ensuring that you speech meets the goals you set for it and your speech delivery itself will all help you in other areas of communication. Here's a short list of other communication skills that you'll automatically improve when you become an effective speaker:
- Interpersonal skills
- Conflict resolution
- Change management
So if public speaking doesn't appear to help your career, perhaps one of these other skills will.
2. Public Speaking is the number one social fear so mastering it puts you ahead of your competition.
In a competitive world where people are vying for every possible advantage over their competition, mastering this critical skill will help you tremendously. Job candidates are stronger when they can demonstrate that they can communicate with groups. Business owners that can speak directly to groups of clients with confidence come across as more capable.
3: It improves your overall confidence.
When you've done your research, prepared a speech and successfully delivered it, it's a natural high. You've done it! You've overcome the obstacle, conquered the fear and you feel like you think you can do anything. Firewalk seminars have the same basic effect - you thought was impossible and that gives you the confidence to do other things you previously thought you couldn't do.
4: It opens new doors for you.
I can go on and on about the people I've met through my speaking - some have become good friends and others I've done business with. If you work for a company, giving presentations on your products gives you valuable face time with the higher ups. If you own a business, speaking to groups puts you in front of potential clients. You can't connect with people if they don't know you're out there.
5: People perceive you as an expert.
Giving a well delivered speech makes you appear to be an expert in that topic and gives you instant credibility. If you weren't an expert, why else would have been asked to speak?
6: You can increase your income by speaking.
Many speakers are paid for delivering a speech - do a web search on speakers bureaus and you'll see that there are people you've never heard of that make in the five to six figure range for a two hour speech.
If being a paid speaker doesn't interest you, consider the fact that many high paying jobs require some public speaking. If you manage dozens of people, you'll have to address them as a group from time to time. If you're the head of a large or public company, you'll occasionally have to speak to the media, your employees, your shareholders or the public.
7: You can reach more people with your message.
If you are in any position where you're trying to sell something or get others to take action, speaking to groups will allow you to reach more people. Whether you're campaigning for a politician, raising money for an important cause or selling the latest and greatest widget, speaking to large groups is the fastest way to reach more people. Commercials during the Super Bowl sell for substantially more than ads on a local television station because more people are watching. You can reap the same type of benefit without the cost by taking your message and bringing it to groups rather than individuals.
8: You'll feel better about yourself.
In addition to the confidence boost that we've already covered, people who speak to groups typically have higher self-esteem than those who don't. We all hit bumps in the road on the way to becoming an experienced speaker, but we quickly learn that anytime we hit bumps, they are nothing more than bumps.
Although in my experience, one of the most powerful benefits of giving a speech is when people say things like "you inspired me to push myself outside of my comfort zone" or "your words have changed my life." When I first began to conquer my own fears of public speaking several years back, someone who watched me grow as a speaker told me that witnessing my growth inspired them to overcome their own fears. It's hard to feel bad about yourself when people complement you.
9: You'll learn more about your topic.
In order to give a speech on a topic, you need to understand it inside and out. This requires a significant amount of research which can range from the old fashioned method of searching through books and periodicals to interviewing experts in the field to putting substantial thought into our own experiences so we can work them into our talk. And once you've done your research, you have to organize it and then create a speech from it. This entire process requires you to think a lot about the topic and a bonus benefit from it all is that you'll be able to speak intelligently about that topic in conversation.
10: You'll gain the respect of others.
When I was involved with Toastmasters International (an organization focused on public speaking), I sat through many discussions where people cited their newfound speaking expertise as the primary reason they were getting more respect from their loved ones and colleagues. Again, since so many people fear public speaking they tend to look up to those who aren't afraid to give a speech.
I truly believe that so many people miss out on things that would make their lives more fulfilling because of their fear or hatred towards public speaking. If you're finding that public speaking is an obstacle preventing you from getting what you want, then consider making an effort to address it. You can overcome anything if you want to bad enough.
© 2008 James Feudo
James Feudo is a speaker, author and trainer specializing in communication skills. James has developed a series of programs to help people improve how they communicate with themselves, others and to groups. You can learn more about James at www.jamesfeudo.com and visit his blog at blog.jvf.com where you can sign up for free tips delivered to your email inbox.