Is Public Speaking the Most Important Skill?

May 10, 2018

Every quarter, we have a meeting at our corporate office which includes every employee, where we cover multiple topics relevant to the business.

A few years ago, we began the practice of making this an employee run meeting. Presentations are made by different individuals within the company on a rotating basis. There are many reasons we do this, but one of the most important is that it gives our folks the opportunity to engage in and practice their public speaking skills.

I learned the importance of public speaking years ago, when I realized how the success of a business depends upon the ability of individuals to deliver an excellent presentation, whether to those outside or inside the organization. The ability to deliver and communicate a message in a confident and informed manner, while demonstrating professionalism and respect for the audience, is necessary for success with clients, suppliers, and employees.

Many tend to think of public speaking along the lines of Ted Talks, the keynote speaker at a conference, or a politician or CEO standing behind a podium. Most however will rarely, if ever, engage in that level of public speaking.

At some point in your career you will be asked to stand, or sit, before an audience of one, two or many more, and make a presentation at some level. Whether this presentation is intended to convey information, convince the audience of a perspective, or encourage them to hire your firm or buy its products, the skill set required in this presentation is the same skill set used by the professionals speaking to an audience of hundreds or even thousands.

Public speaking is a skill which anyone can develop and improve, but this will only happen with training and practice. The best way to get this practice is in front of a live audience. Therefore, at my company, we provide venues for both the training and the practice and encourage everyone in the company to develop their public speaking skills.

For the development of public speaking skills, I would offer three suggestions.

Take a public speaking class. These are offered at numerous venues, often at little cost. I have found the best classes are those that use video to provide feedback.

Practice in front of live audience, starting in a safe environment. Toastmasters clubs are well-known and comfortable venues to hone public speaking skills. Years ago, I volunteered to teach Junior Achievement to eighth graders, understanding this would be a low-risk audience to develop my speaking skills.

Finally, seek opportunities for public speaking where the stakes are high. Possibly a client presentation, a company meeting with a large audience, or a community function. Putting yourself in high-pressure situations, although uncomfortable, will build confidence and a greater skill set.

Developing the skills of a good speaker will provide strong returns in growth of a personal and professional career. Ultimately, it may become one of the most valuable skill sets an individual possesses.

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