Public Speaking: essential business skill

The room falls silent; thirty-two people focus their attention on the speaker wanting to hear how they are going to benefit from the speaker joining their business network. A “seat” in the network is reputed to be worth on average $20,000 per year – worth having.

It’s a bake-off, a competitive situation. It shouldn’t be like this. The assessment  should really be made on the skills, qualifications and reputations of the contestants – and more importantly what they are going to bring to the network. But how can we tell? We’ve had references, information, and their publicity material. But now it’s come down to this – their trades skills are worth squat. Can they speak to us in a way that convinces us that they will be the right one?

Now, it’s only their public speaking skills that matter. Are they articulate, confident (at least seeming so), a bit humorous, witty even and, ultimately, likable?

To some people these abilities come naturally – but to most of us they require development, practice, honing. Practice – that repetitive, boring part of the learning curve that we have to go through before we reach mastery.

What happened?

We had a fair idea who we wanted – but the speaking let him down. A fine tradesman I’m sure he is. A capable and useful member of our group he could probably have been. But his speaking let him down – and when that’s all there is to ultimately judge by then that is what happens. Unfair perhaps, illogical perhaps – but that was the reality.

Public speaking is an essential skill. In professional and business life it comes up again and again. It isn’t necessary to be a great orator – but it is necessary to be able to confidently and clearly express oneself to a group.

There will be times when your “customers” will be real people listening to you speak. Can’t speak? Then you can’t serve all your customers.

Are your speaking skills up to the level you need? You could do a lot worse than join a Toastmasters Club. There are arguments that Toastmasters emphasises rhetorical style over authentic communication – but I don’t know of an alternative that matches for cost and time. The supporting manuals cover the material very well and the range of speaking skills one experiences – meeting chair, evaluator, grammarian, speaker, table topics master – cover many different aspects of speaking. Not to mention “table topics” – delivering an impromptu 2 minute speech. All of this happens in a safe supportive environment of people at various levels doing the same thing – and having fun to boot.

When the $20,000 opportunity comes your way, will you be able to step up to the mark?

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