Learning to give a speech is probably one of the most important skills one can develop. And it's really not that difficult if you're willing to put in the time. There are plenty of consultants and coaches around who will drill you on the various techniques of speechmaking, but for some reason most people won't take the time or make the effort. It seems they're embarrassed or even fearful of the prospect of getting up in front of a crowd and talking. That seems to be the one hurdle keeping so many people from learning something that can give a big boost to one's career. The ability to communicate skillfully and effectively with your colleagues and customers is critical to being a good leader.
All our great leaders have been terrific communicators. Look at some of our most popular presidents. John F. Kennedy was a superb speechmaker. Ronald Reagan was given the nickname "The Great Communicator" because of his skills. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was an outstanding orator and will be remembered forever for his "I have a dream" speech. The evidence is all around us. Speaking and speechmaking skills are essential for anyone who either wants to be a leader or is already there. How many truly effective leaders do you know who go around mumbling their words or giving lousy speeches? Probably very few. But again, I don't see a lot of people rushing to learn how to be better public speakers. That's too bad.
I subscribe to the Speechwriter's Newsletter, published by Lawrence Ragan Communications. In a recent issue the editors quote Jack Pyle, a former speechwriter for Dow Chemical and Shell Oil. They identify him as a consultant and advocate of face-to-face communications. He also trains executives and employees on how to listen and speak better. He makes a compelling case for taking lessons in public speaking: "There is nothing that will propel you up the ladder of success faster than speech training, because suddenly you have become more convincing and persuasive. When you're talking about your ideas, maybe trying to get the boss to agree to give you more money for a project, your ability to be convincing and persuasive is often the key in whether or not you get it. Even with an idea that's not very good, if you're really good at talking about it you can often get it approved over someone else who's got a much better idea but doesn't know how to talk about it."
Salespeople who want to make an impact on a customer or prospect must learn everything they can to become better speakers. And they should practice time and again. Even practicing in the shower helps. Showing your spouse the presentation you're going to give the next day also can be very effective. Like any other skill, whether it's learning a new sport or how to play a musical instrument, practice makes perfect. Why do so many people fall on their faces when they're called on to give a talk or presentation? They probably don't realize how important communication skills are, or if they do they simply won't take the time to rehearse what it is they want to say.
It is within everyone's reach to communicate more effectively, but it takes discipline and a willingness to learn. It can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, but the more you do it the better you get at it, and the stress level will drop dramatically. If you can't find a coach, get some books on the subject. There are plenty available and most of them are good. It'll take lots of hard work, but in the long run you'll separate yourself from the pack. That should give you plenty of incentive.Speak out,
Charles S. Lauer