Public speaking is one of the most critical skills a manager can have. Whether you’re the boss of a small business or one that has hundreds or even thousands of employees, you need to master speaking professionally in front of groups both large and small. Doing so can certainly be tough — but not improving your public speaking skills can leave you at a major disadvantage.
While some may be more comfortable with the idea of speaking in public settings than others, no one is born with the kinds of public speaking skills you need to function effectively as a leader in the workplace. Thankfully, though, these skills can be developed over time with just a bit of hard work. Here’s what you need to know about improving your own ability to communicate professionally — and why it’s a good idea to do so.
More Than Giving Speeches at Weddings
When you think “public speaking,” it’s easy to assume it’s about performance. Giving a best man’s speech at a wedding, for example, is often the first thing that comes to mind. This isn’t entirely off-base — performance is very much a component of speaking in front of a crowd — it’s also important to realize that the same skills you need to entertain a crowd while praising the happy couple are transferable to your professional life as a boss or manager.
The truth is that a major component of effective leadership is — you guessed it — communication. While one-on-one communication with employees might not seem like a form of public speaking, assuming the role of a boss is a performance in and of itself that requires professional conduct — and one that makes use of these same skills. Positive communication between workers and management is absolutely critical; research has shown that manager-worker relationships can result in as much as a 70% variance in worker engagement, and much of that can be attributed to communication.
Strategies for Improving Your Public Speaking Skills
Take a minute and think about effective public speakers you’ve seen in the past. Odds are they’ll all have a few things in common: they use conversational language, they speak extemporaneously (or appear to do so) and they stay on-message, often using anecdotes, storytelling, and examples to get their point across in a way that grabs the listener’s attention and ensures the message is sent. Other aspects, such as making periodic eye contact with the audience and employing open body language, also play a role in engaging an audience.
There are a number of ways to work on these skills and develop them over time. Simply practicing what you’re going to say so that you can speak to individual workers or give group presentations without memorizing is one method. Professional aid is also often quite helpful and can take the form of reading books and articles on the subject, attending public speaking classes, or even attending team building events with your workers to establish better rapport, which in turn will make it easier to communicate with them both individually or in groups.
The Final Word
The truth is that there isn’t one set route to increasing your ability to speak in public, or to speak with a strong, authoritative voice in a professional setting as a boss or manager. However, whichever route you do decide to take, you can rest assured that the skills you develop will help you communicate clearly and effectively with workers, clients, investors, or anyone else you encounter in the course of your professional career.