Public Speaking Is Not A Soft Skill, It’s A Life Skill

By Briohny Williams | Delivering Presentations

Apr 02

Public Speaking Is Not A Soft Skill, It’s A Life Skill

I looked around, and all I saw were zombies. You know the kind – head down, walking slowly, eyes fully focused on.. their phone. 

OK, maybe not the walking dead exactly, however, if you’ve walked down a street in any major city at lunchtime, you will know how difficult it is to cut a straight line between point A and point B without dodging people distracted by a phone. 

Catching up on messages, making plans or checking the latest news, there are not many places we go without our phones these days, technology has made so many things so much easier.

Online shopping delivered to your door at a time you choose? Yes, please!

Talk to your family on the other side of the world, without paying a cent? Essential.

Pay bills, book plane tickets or build a website on your lunch break? Absolutely amazing!

You may have come to the point where you prefer to send an email than pick up the phone - it's faster, right? Or maybe you've been putting off a meeting or have even missed out on a job because of the video presentation round?

So you've got all the knowledge but don't have the communication skills to share it? That's a missed opportunity for you, and an absolute shame for those who need to hear it.

There are moments in your life when the best way to get your point across, lead others or get the job done is to speak to people. It's time to come out from behind the keyboard and speak face-to-face (even if that face has to be on a screen).

Why Public Speaking Is Still Essential Today

The ability to educate, inform and inspire is prized in the age of information. Knowledge, and the ability to communicate knowledge, in a rapidly changing and shifting world is a new form of currency. 

Warren Buffett agrees. You’ll often find him quoted when it comes to the value of public speaking, and as he is the third wealthiest person on the planet (at the time of publication), he is considered an authority in investment. When it comes to investing in yourself he places an exact value. 

“The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now — at least — is to hone your communication skills” - Warren Buffet

There are plenty of studies on how our communication skills are eroding, even in children, due to the advancement in technology. You will read that the constant distraction of technology is dulling our social skills and our ability to read emotions in others.

On the flip-side lies the argument that technology can enhance our communication, you just need to be aware of how to do it. We can connect people on video over great distances for free or next to nothing, it’s hard to remember what it was like making a call from a phone booth or sending a postcard - if you’ve lived through that time at all. 

Not all leaders and small business owners have got the memo either. It wasn't that long ago a manager within a blue-chip financial firm told me not to worry about including soft skills of any type in an analyst development program... they just need the technical stuff, OK? (I did my best to control my eye-rolling reflex.)

These arguments will no doubt carry on, and likely mature as we begin to understand the long and short term effects of how we are interacting, consuming and learning through technology.

Wherever you sit on that argument, clear communication is vitally important for businesses to thrive. So unless you’re considering a life of solitude on a mountain-top.. no, wait, there are even blogging monks now. There will always be circumstances where you will need to stand up, and speak up.

Where Your Communication Skills Matter The Most

Wherever you are in your life right now I’m sure there are times you remember where you didn’t speak, but wanted to. There are undoubtedly times that you spoke, but the right words only came to you after the heat of the moment.

Whether you’re in school, going for a job interview, interacting with friends and family, trying to sell an idea, service or product or leading a team, it makes sense to prepare for important moments where you want to have the right words, in the right way, at the right time. 

And by the way, the manager I mentioned before did come to me some months later for speaking rehearsals before a big event. I did not utter the words "I told you so" but my point was made.

It is not enough to simply read about training for a marathon, you need to run! Communication skills are like other skills in life. You have to practice them to get better.

There is no “perfect” speaker or one singular way to get your message across. There is a long list of things that people don’t necessarily love, though, and it pays to understand the fundamental building blocks of good communication and public speaking.

Do you know what your audience is interested in hearing about? How clear is your message? Do you engage your audience with confidence and credibility? What about tone of voice, volume, body language and more? 

Culture can also play a big part in what is considered polite or, to use eye contact as an example, assertive vs aggressive communication.

Creating a level of self-awareness around your communication style and potential blind spots can be what you need to turn an apathetic audience into raving fans, which in turn builds your public speaking confidence.

How To Move Past Worry and Inaction To Improve Your Speaking

  1. Do your homework when it comes to potential employers, clients, and even new friends from around the world to ensure your communication shows positive intent and consideration for their personal, company or country's culture (even if you don't get it perfect!).
  2. Practice speaking in low-risk situations to build your skills over time and put yourself in situations where you can “stretch” by trying new techniques on for size.
  3. Gain feedback and self-assess where your development areas are to create a plan for building your skills in these areas.
  4. Be authentic and tackle fears and anxiety by working from the inside out. Reframe your fears into focusing on helping your audience, so you can be your most effective self when you are communicating.
  5. Trust your instincts and be open to feedback. You will feel you are communicating effectively when you see the reaction from those around you. 

If you need help building your speaking skills and confidence please get in touch here.

We can easily create a plan that has you focused on the key things that will make a difference to meet your business goals by getting very clear on what your audience need to hear, how this overlaps with your business goals and expertise, and the support you need to deliver those messages. 

For more speaking skills tips, training and strategies make sure you check out the FREE online community Public Speaking for Entrepreneurs and share your progress with a supportive group who are developing their structure, storytelling, and impact alongside you!