The half-life of most 21st-century job skills is just five years, according to research by the Deloitte professional services network. That little tidbit translates to workers needing an entirely new skill set every decade or so.
What don’t become dated during that time, however, are soft skills such as teamwork, adaptability, leadership and communication. In fact, Deloitte says soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030.
Public speaking skills are one of the soft skills needed to excel in almost any career field.
The art of public speaking isn’t used only for public speeches and debates. It’s a valuable career skill that greatly impacts the ability to effectively deliver presentations, contribute to meetings, facilitate training, communicate with colleagues and customers, as well as a host of other professional tasks. Learning how to improve public speaking skills can offer workers a leg up on their competition and help them advance in their careers.
“Strong communication skills enable employees to not only become better public speakers, but also better listeners who can be relied upon to give valuable comments and recommendations,” Gary Schmidt, former international president of Toastmasters, told U.S. News and World Report.
“Employees should always be prepared to present their ideas with their boss, board member or colleague. Public speaking groups provide a supportive environment for learning communication skills that are increasingly valuable in the workplace.”
Yet fear of public speaking plagues a substantial number of workers, and poor public speaking skills are even more common. In a 2014 survey by Chapman University, more than 25 percent of respondents said they feared speaking in front of a crowd.
Whether you are overcome by anxiety at the thought of public speaking, or you just aren’t a very good speaker, public speaking is a soft skill that can be developed at any time. If you want to advance your career by learning how to be a more effective public speaker, you’ll want to check out the following public speaking tips:
What public speaking skills should you know to advance your career?
The art of public speaking encompasses a variety of skills, and it’s important to know exactly what you need to improve. To advance your career, be sure and refine the following skills:
- Know your audience before speaking to it. You wouldn’t give the same presentation to a group of scientists and a group of preschoolers. Learn as much about your audience as you can before composing your presentation.
- Articulate your speech to ensure your message can be understood. A talented public speaker will not only pronounce each word clearly and concisely, but they also will speak at the right volume, use proper grammar and avoid filler words like um and uh.
- Engage your audience to hold its attention. Remain aware of your presentation style, which includes qualities like vocal tone, facial expressions, body language and timing. Appropriately address the audience directly, pepper a presentation with humor, and tell stories to make the information come to life.
- Create effective visual presentations to visually engage audiences. Traditionally, learning to use PowerPoint was essential for delivering effective business presentations. Public speakers now have all sorts of alternative presentation design tools at their disposal, and knowing how to skillfully use cloud-based software like Beautiful.ai can vastly improve business communication.
- Improve your composition skills to improve your public speaking skills. To create a professional presentation, an employee must know how to write a professional composition. A skilled public speaker will be able to cover all talking points rationally and in a logical organization, while the information remains accurate and easy to understand.
10 tips for effective public speaking
1. Be brief
The average attention span of your audience will fall somewhere between five and 10 minutes, so when possible, keep your presentation short and succinct.
2. Be prepared
Know your content and prepare for the unexpected. Ensure you can deliver your presentation even if you lose your notes. Rehearse answering various questions that might be asked, and practice ignoring distractions like faulty lighting, outside conversations and loud noises.
3. Be yourself
Public speaking is about communication, not performance. Be yourself. If an audience perceives a speaker as fake or insincere, it is unlikely to trust the message. Show enthusiasm for your topic, but make sure it’s genuine, not overly rehearsed.
4. Tell your story
Stories are a great way to invoke emotion among the audience, which is a powerful persuasion tool. Make your presentation personal. Capture an audience by telling your own story, or if not, by explaining how a story emotionally affected you.
5. Manage anxiety
Before making a presentation, schedule at least a few minutes to get your bearings and reduce anxiety. Try whatever works for you, whether it’s just some deep breathing, meditation, taking a walk or listening to music.
6. Be self aware
Don’t be so focused on what you’re saying next that you are caught unaware of what you’re saying now. Verbal crutches— filler words such as “uh,” “um,” “like” or “so”— are so common that few realize just how often they use them. In fact, the average speaker uses these words every 12 seconds, but according to Quantified Communications, their optimum frequency is a fifth of that. Be aware of how often you use verbal crutches, as well as any other nervous tics you might inadvertently display during a presentation that might distract your audience and hurt your credibility.
7. Practice and record
The best way to improve your public speaking skills is to practice. Of course, you want to practice until you know the content, but you also want to practice so you can fine-tune your delivery. Record your presentation and watch it back, paying attention to volume and articulation issues, as well any unconscious use of filler words or other nervous habits. Record yourself again and keep practicing in this manner until you have mastered your speech.
8. Seek feedback
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your public speaking skills. Whether it’s your co-worker, your spouse or your mother, others might observe ways you can improve that you otherwise would have missed. Plus, practicing in front of others helps prepare for your actual audience.
9. Don’t rush
One of the worst public speaking bad habits is rushing through a presentation. A message spoken quickly is a message likely misunderstood. Practice speaking slowly and clearly, and don’t hesitate to strategically pause in between points.
10. Go remote
As more employees now work remotely, public speaking via Zoom, Skype and other video conference tools has become the new norm for many businesses. When virtually presenting, be sure to keep your eyes on the camera, not the audience, and articulate even more than you would if speaking in person.
Developing better public speaking skills to advance your career is only half the battle. Becoming an expert speaker won’t do much good if those new skills aren’t showcased. Be sure you mention your skills in your resume and cover letter, and don’t hesitate to share them during your job interview or performance review.