Discover more from Adastra Speech - Thinking About Speaking
You're Always Doing Public Speaking
“Public speaking skills” usually makes people imagine standing in front of an audience giving a speech.
A more accurate description would be “speaking in public skills.”
People come to me to improve their speaking skills and although they don’t usually specify “public speaking skills” their descriptions of the speaking situations they want to improve are mostly about speaking in public situations. In other words, situations that involve speaking to people that they don’t know very well or may not know at all, not to friends and people who know them well. Colleagues blur the line, some people you work with may be good friends and some are just people you are friendly to but don’t really know well. This is why speaking at work and in professional situations can be the most tricky of all situations.
If you don’t think you do very much public speaking as part of your job, or you don’t consider it important, I think you’ll reconsider after hearing some descriptions of how public speaking skills play a role in the careers of people who aren’t out pitching their start-up company to venture capitalists or using speaking opportunities to promote their business. These are experiences from people in a variety of fields at various stages in their professional careers.
I asked some of my clients how public speaking skills affect their careers and here are some of their answers. None of these people mentioned speaking English with a foreign accent, but they all do. They came to me to continue to improve their speaking skills not just because of the accent, but because they see speaking and communicating clearly as an important part of their current position and their future career.
I participate in many group meetings (usually online). It's not exactly "public speaking" but a bit like it and you have additional problems. It can be more difficult when you don't have all the non-verbal messages, the connection might be breaking, and most people are not native English speakers, so it's important for me to try to speak clearly, so people can easily understand me. Otherwise, I get scared and try to not speak at all.
When we are younger and just starting out in our careers, the focus is often on our technical skills and how hard we work. This remains true when we advance in our career but you'll find that the ability to communicate clearly, to influence and to have a "presence" in the public setting, become the most critical success factors for executives.
I have talks at conferences and I want people to understand and possibly get involved in the project. So in a way, scientists who are good speakers might get more collaboration.
I sometimes have to teach, the topic might be difficult and people might get lost, so I want to do everything I can to be confident (so it seems I know what I'm talking about), but also friendly (so it seems I understand others’ problems). And of course, I want to engage people, so they do the exercises, ask questions, etc.
A big part of my job is actually meeting with investors and potential collaborators where I pitch our corporate deck to external parties. The ability to tell a compelling story and address questions clearly and concisely are so important to convince others that your company is worth investing in or is worth working with. Without this, it'd be hard to move up the career ladder...consider CEOs of companies - the ability of him/her to speak well influences how we view the company.
Opportunities to be on panel discussions help raise your profile and help people recognize your expertise and see you as a subject matter expert. In this way, public speaking is important for "self-advertising."
The first impression really matters. Speaking skill is typically the first thing that we "judge" people on and vice versa when we meet someone for the first time. So it's good to think about how you come across, how you introduce yourself, have an elevator pitch ready.
If working in Fortune 100 companies, this is how you will be known by people outside your own team. Public speaking even includes asking questions in town hall meetings, or cross-learning sessions. By raising your hand and asking concise well-presented questions, you are creating your own brand and creating future job opportunities. Big companies are all about network and public speaking is free advertisement.
If you work in a mid-size company, public speaking involves hosting or participating in cross-team projects. An articulate way will build others' confidence in you. This makes your job to influence people easier.
I work with an array of people from different socio-economic and professional backgrounds. People communicate very differently based on their background and sometimes I have to be the moderator or facilitator between these different points of view. In this line of work, I need to listen, quickly process, and identify common ground among these people, and then share this information with them in a language that can be understood by everyone. This is all on the spot. If I am unable to express ideas clearly and concisely, those people will not see these common ground or identify ways to move forward with a project as a group rather than individuals with their own interests.
At the end, people work with people they trust. You can only trust someone you understand and you know where she/he is coming from. Trust is behind every partnership I or my company has established.
When employers have the opportunity to invest in their employees, speech improvement lessons are the number one way to increase understanding and engagement among colleagues, teams, and departments within a company and facilitate collaboration, visibility, and possible investment from outside the company.
It doesn’t matter if someone speaks with a foreign accent or not, communicating clearly is a skill that takes practice for speakers of all languages and accents. I specialize in foreign-accented English and can offer insight and specific feedback and resources that a generalist can’t. When someone finds me, they have been looking for a teacher who is a good match for their speaking goals.
When an employee requests funding for this kind of specialized instruction, some employers think it’s coming from “I want to get rid of my accent” but they’re missing the bigger picture that the employee sees and lives daily. It’s coming from, “I want to speak in a way that is easily understood by a variety of listeners” and “I want to express myself more easily.” This is something I wish was more widely understood. I guess I’ll keep trying to communicate it more clearly.