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 lunch time, 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’s 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 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 (or let’s be honest, whenever no-one’s looking..)? Absolutely amazing!
However, 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. Face-to-face.
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,” Buffet says.
Why public speaking is 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.
There are plenty of studies into 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.
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 everyone to consider and take action on. So unless you’re considering a life of solitude on a mountain-top.. no, wait, there’s even blogging monks now. There will always be circumstances where you will need to stand up, and speak up.
Where your communication skills matter 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 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.
How to move past worry and inaction to improve your speaking
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.
Culture can play a big part in what is considered polite or, to use eye contact as an example, assertive vs aggressive communication. Do your homework when it comes to potential employers, clients and even new friends from around the world.
Practice, build your skills over time and put yourself in situations where you can “stretch” new techniques and try them out for size.
Gain feedback and self-assess where your development areas lie and create a feedback loop where you can quickly determine what you want to change and address it.
You will feel you are communicating effectively when you see the reaction from those around you. Be authentic and tackle fears and anxiety by working from the inside to out, to transform fear into focused energy, and help you be your most effective self when you are communicating.