Public Speaking Skills

by | Feb 2, 2019

Public Speaking

In the course of meetings, presentations, conferences and so on, you will have to speak in public to audiences both large and small. Studies have shown that public speaking is the number one fear that most people have, while death is only number three. As someone once joked, this means most people would rather be in the coffin than give the eulogy over it.

However, this does not have to be the case. There are many ways to practice public speaking in order to become better at it and do it with more confidence and effectiveness. It is just a case of being willing to put in the time and effort to practice until you are perfect.

Or, if you are not perfect, at least you can do a much better job than you are doing at the moment – if you feel that this is a personal weakness that needs to be addressed in order to become a better communicator and leader.

Conveying Confidence

One of the reasons why it is so important to be a confident presenter is that if you look and sound confident, your audience will feel confident in your message, and that you are telling them the truth and not covering up anything.

Going back to the example of having to indicate that lay-offs are imminent, people will feel much more confident about the future of the company if you sound positive about this being a necessary development for the strength of the company going forward. If you sound hesitant, nervous, or unsure about the need to take these steps, your audience in turn will also grow nervous.

Inspiring Your Audience

Great leaders inspire people to follow them. Julius Caesar would have never been able to cross the Rubicon and become the leader of the Roman Empire if he had lacked confidence or shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Well, maybe it will work out.” Instead he said, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

In every company, there will be certain leaders who set the tone and who people look to for inspiration. Even if you are currently working in a job that has no leadership responsibilities at the moment, it is still possible for you to set the tone and take the lead on projects and initiatives.

If you are willing to do so and can inspire people to follow you, it will be easy to demonstrate your leadership potential, and use what you accomplish as concrete examples of real achievements when it comes time for your end-of-year review or you decide you want to ask for a raise.

For all these reasons, face-to-face communication is key to getting things done and sharing a common vision for what the company is supposed to be like. Phone calls can help as well.

Effective Communication over the Phone

Conversations on the phone can be a fast way of getting things done, but they can also leave room for confusion if you’re not clear about what you want to discuss at the start, and what the outcomes are of that phone conversation.

It is great to chat, but sometimes you might go around in circles. You might also end up seeming to agree to a particular action step, only to find that the person you were speaking to forgot that part of the conversation. This means you might expect something important to get done, but it never materializes.

The best way to handle phone conversations is to plan them ahead of time as much as possible. If you have to make any “cold calls” – that is, call people you don’t know in an effort to try to do business with them, determine their level of interest and ask for a follow-up call at a set time that works for them, and/or an email address where you can contact them.

Don’t try to push ahead like a charging bull. You might just get a no as a result and end up with no opportunity to have a meaningful conversation. People are busy, especially journalists. If you are trying to pitch a story to them, for example, and you ring them when they are on deadline and try to launch straight into your pitch, you will most likely get a “no, and don’t call again.”

On the other hand, if you call and ask if it is a good time to talk and whether they are on a deadline, they will see that you understand their working conditions and time constraints. If you then explain that you would like to pitch a story, ask when would be a good time to call back and whether they would prefer the phone or email.

If you schedule a follow-up call, be organized. Jot down talking points prior to each call. Check them off one by one. Make notes as needed.

If you are worried you might miss something, use dictation software such as dictation.io. While it is true that you will only be able to record your side of the conversation, in this way you will at least have your side of things. You can take notes about what they say as needed.

Once the conversation is over, review your notes and type them up so they make sense. Once you are sure you have an accurate summary of what was discussed, send an email thanking the person for their time. Send a copy of the notes that you have made.

In particular, highlight any action steps, deadlines, or follow-ups that need to be taken. In this way, you can ensure that you are on the same page about what was said. You can also ask if there was anything you missed or anything else they wanted to discuss. Ask them to add it to the email, or arrange another call.

Once they have offered their input, you will end up with a shared document and “paper trail” containing all of the most important points that were discussed in the phone call. You can then use that to track progress, create a new contract, update an existing one, and so on.

This is a nice transition into the importance of written communication as part of your overall leadership strategies. Let’s look at this in the next section.