Public speaking won't kill you. In fact, it may boost your career prospect

By Robert Half on 29 April 2019

From client training to management meetings, the ability to speak publicly comes up in all walks of business and yet a huge proportion of workers are scared to stand up and take to the stage.

For some, public speaking is an unavoidable part of the workplace, involving business presentations, conference speeches, training workshops and client pitches. Many of us will need to stand up in front of an audience and speak at some point in our lives.

Why you should squash the fear

Being able to communicate clearly and put your points across to an individual or a group of people is an important skill, and probably one that you’ll use throughout your career. Whether you’re presenting new products to clients or explaining procedures to colleagues, there are dozens of ways you could be called on to speak up.

Developing your public speaking skills is also a great way to make yourself a more desirable prospect for the next position or promotion. If you’re willing to step up and take on presenting or speaking opportunities, you’ll quickly make a name for yourself as a ‘can do’ employee or a future leader.

If you present at conferences or training events, you’ll be able to showcase your skills to a wide range of industry professionals. As well as opening yourself up to more networking opportunities, you’re positioning yourself as someone with the right qualities to become a leader.

How to face the fear of public speaking

Do you feel anxious every time someone asks you to give a presentation? Are you terrified of standing up in meetings? Does the thought of talking publicly fill you with dread?

Then here are 3 ways to help you shake off a few of those fears.

1. Make the most of your adrenaline rush

If you get a massive rush of adrenaline before standing to speak, don’t worry. Instead of taking this as a cue to panic, look at your energy spike as a positive and find a way to channel it into your performance. The easiest way to do this is to keep your mind focused on the positive outcomes of your talk – how well it will go down, how good it will feel to have communicated your point – and banish negative thoughts.

The ability to marshal and use your adrenaline positively is as useful in a job interview as it is at a company meeting or training session.

2. Think about the way you present yourself

It’s the words that are coming out that are important, so why worry about your posture? Well, the way you stand and how you present yourself can have a big impact on your delivery.

As Amy Cuddy explained in a fascinating TED talk, our minds and bodies have an intimate connection which means that when one is influenced, the other often is too. Adopt a powerful stance – legs firmly on the ground, chin up – and the confidence will carry into your words.

This tip is perfect for helping you with a speech on stage or at the head of a boardroom table and it's also handy in smaller, more intimate settings. Got an annual review coming up? Remember to sit straight in your chair and make eye contact.

3. Get to know your material beforehand

The best way to ace your next public speaking engagement is to make sure you have a good idea of what you’re going to talk about. This might mean writing your entire talk out verbatim (that’s fine, just don’t keep your eyes down on the page when you’re presenting), or it might mean making some notes or flash cards to guide you.

When you’re giving a talk or presentation for the first time, this step is essential. Once you’re very familiar with a subject, you can skip writing out your whole speech. But it’s still smart to say some sections aloud to yourself beforehand.

The simple act of running through your speech helps you memorise and feel comfortable. If you get stuck on stage or start to feel nervous, this memory will help guide you back into the moment. This is also an excellent tip for preparing for interviews or Q&As – don’t just dream up answers beforehand, go over them with a friend or practice them out loud.

Becoming a great public speaker

Contrary to what you might believe, public speaking won’t kill you.

If fact, with the right training, attitude and tips, it might even become something you enjoy – and by investing in your public speaking skills, you make yourself a more confident and suitable candidate in your field.

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