At some point in your career, speaking well could be the single most important factor that determines your success. You may have all the potential in the world, but if your career feels stalled or you’re having a hard time finding a job, the reason may be the way you are communicating with your important audiences. You may have enormous value to add to your business or organization, but you won’t be able to bust through to the big jobs unless you can articulate your ideas confidently and effectively. I call it “speaking capital”. Everytime you address an audience, regardless of who it is, you add capital to your “bank,” your “speaking bank” that is. The more you speak to audineces, the more comfortable you will be in presenting.
What does this mean? It means mastering both the formal and informal presentation. It also means leading good meetings, conversation skills and writing, too. If you’re terrified of speaking in high stakes situations or public speaking, you may have bought into common myths about speaking. See if you recognize any of these false beliefs and then look at the realities of speaking your way to the top.
Myth #1: Only a few people are really good at speaking.
The truth is, even the greatest speakers were not born with innate speaking skills. Regardless of what you might think, extroverts have no advantage over introverts. Extroverts may love to get up in front of people, but they tend to under-prepare and therefore deliver weak, rambling messages. Introverts, on the other hand, spend all their time preparing, but they hate having an audience’s attention focused on them. I hate to admit, but as an undergraduate in college, I was the introvert that hated to speak infront of audiences, clamy hands and all.
Myth #2: If I just work really hard, someone is bound to notice.
If you are one to believe that chaining yourself to your desk and keeping your head down is a good strategy for advancing your career, good luck. When you do that, you’re simply not visible: to your boss, to others you report to, to your colleagues, or to the people who report to you.
Myth #3: My silence is respectful.
In business, people perceive polite silence as being too quiet, as if you have nothing to say. If no one on the team knows anything about you, your ideas, or what value you bring to the team, you won’t be promoted.
Myth #4: There are no opportunities for me to speak.
You might feel as if you would put a lot of thought and work into a big presentation if one came your way, but you need to seek out those opportunities, big and small, and even create them if necessary. Start with low-key, friendly audiences, like Toastmasters clubs, or volunteer to lead meetings. Whatever you decide to try, get started!
Myth #5: I don’t have time to prepare; I’ll just wing it.
I can’t express how many times I used to say this and boy oh boy did I fall on my face. There is nothing worse than being in front of a group speaking and realizing you are on the biggest tangent and don’t know how to bring it back to the group. Speaking with confidence and in a way that adds value is essential to your career success. Your presentation must have both content and style, so your delivery must be relaxed and confident.
Myth #6: If my PowerPoint is great, my presentation will amaze them.
If you read from the PowerPoint, your presentation sucked! Preparation means more than untold hours putting together a great slide show. Forget about the slides; if you outline some great, powerful ideas to speak about, place yourself in a room alone, and practice, you’re going to do well. Practicing like this is the single most important thing you can do to become a better speaker.
Myth #7: My fear is a sign I shouldn’t be speaking.
Don’t mistake anxiety about speaking for an inability to speak. Although your anxiety may feel overwhelming, it is directly related to under-preparation. Like 98% of people, your nerves are your body’s way of telling you that you’re not ready to speak yet. Rather than letting it handicap you, use your anxiety to lead you to take action, to drive you to get on your feet and practice. If you do, when you are in front of the audience, the hard work will be over, and you’ll experience how much fun you can have delivering the speech.
Though certainly common, none of these common myths about speaking are true. Anyone, including you, can become a great speaker if you’re motivated to advance your career and willing to put in the time.
Rich Dad Says: “Gain the capital you need and speak.”
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