It’s that time of year again when we reflect on the year we just had and plan for the year ahead. In the Western world this means making New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions often center around things like changing habits and improving some facet of ourselves. In this post I go over why you should make learning public speaking a New Year’s Resolution.
Why learn public speaking? I see two common motivators. Improving your career prospects is probably the most widespread. This may even be reactionary, i.e. you’ve had to speak for work/school and it didn’t go as well as you hoped. You might be reading this in July instead of the start of the new year, but everything still applies. The other motivation to learn public speaking is simply improving ourselves. Regardless of your motivation, there are many benefits to learning to speak in public.
I’m writing this post largely from the point of view of someone who is starting from a fear of public speaking as this is so common. However, many of the points below are applicable to those with basic public speaking abilities.
Improve Your Career
Chances are that at some point in your career you are going to have to speak in public. Why not do it well? Change that terrible requirement into an opportunity. If you are prepared it will be.
You’ll stand out: It’s said that 70% of all people fear public speaking, i.e. just like you currently, they avoid it. If you are in a ‘technical’ area, many may have general socialization issues, let alone speaking in front of people. You’ll be one of the few who dares take the stage or even just speaking confidently with others looking. If you really work at it and become decent at public speaking, you’ll stand out like a shining star.
You’ll be more visible: Public speaking involves the focus on you. This means bosses, clients, colleagues are more likely to remember who you are. Chances are you are going to have to do this at some point, so work on it now so you can make the right impression.
Public speaking is associated with leadership: It is usually considered one of the skills leaders need to have and often one of the skills that is part of corporate leadership programs. You’re likely to be associated with leadership just based on the fact that you can speak in public. Naturally, the better and more professional you can speak to an audience the more this is likely to help.
Colleagues will be in awe of you, or least have a bit more respect for you. This might not be overt fawning, but those who fear public speaking will definitely be jealous. People, skilled or not, will respect you a bit more for your ability, especially if you show introverted tendencies elsewhere.
You’ll be better at delivering your message: In order to learn to speak well in public you’ll need to learn how to organize your thoughts. You’ll need to learn how to present your ideas in a way that people get the message. These skills go for selling yourself and your ideas as well as pitching the companies product or presenting the 3rd quarter results.
Improved networking: The saying goes “it’s who you know, not what you know”. Public speaking can help you build a network. If you are the one to present at a conference, you’re the one who’s going to be building their network. That one act leaves you in the minds of many peers and even potential bosses. Even speaking engagements that are seemingly separate from your career path can lead to an expanded network; you never know who’ll be important in the future.
Some people choose to learn public speaking simply because they want to improve themselves. Generally this centers on one thing, recognizing that you have a fear of public speaking and desiring to challenge yourself and remove that fear. If you aren’t crippled by a fear of public speaking, you may just want to improve your skills. Not only is this a way to push ourselves, but it can also have positive effects in other areas of our lives.
Facing your fears: Facing fears is pushing our own boundaries. It is a catalyst to growth. There are endless quotes from wise people to why facing your fears is good. If you need motivation do a little search and you’ll find inspiration.
Increase your self confidence: Facing your fear of public speaking can help your self confidence greatly. This of course is true of speaking in front of a group, but it also tends to hold true in other social contexts. The confidence that you can express yourself, that you can sway others with your words, should not be overlooked.
Be more comfortable in social settings, particularly involving strangers: As your self-confidence increases you’ll find that you can be comfortable in other social settings. The psychological processes are similar in most social anxieties, so by learning to speak in public you’ll also learn how to handle social anxiety in general. This means situations that felt a bit overwhelming, e.g. social events or networking events, will become comfortable and eventually even enjoyable.
Spillover effects: Many of the skills required for public speaking have spill over effects in other areas of your life. Here are a few examples:
- helping you with organizing your thoughts. This is part of any successful public speaking. You have to organize your thoughts.
- dealing with criticism. Without feedback it is hard to improve. We simply don’t know what we need to work on. Dealing with feedback, i.e. criticism, is a skill that is helpful in our lives outside. Once we learn how not to react completely defensively, we can grow.
- standing tall and confidently. This is a typical part of speaking. Learning how to stand tall and not fidget for public speaking will spill over into your daily life.
A public speaking resolution
Whether your motivation is improving your career prospects or self-improvement, there is a lot to be gained by learning public skills. If you make it your New Year’s Resolution or simply a new goal, you are sure to reap benefits and those benefits will go well beyond the stage.
New Year’s Resolutions have a tendency to fail, for various reasons. Something as challenging as public speaking is no exception. I will do a new post soon on how to keep your public speaking resolution. The main thing is to define your goal and make sure it is achievable. Then make sure you find a way to make it actionable; public speaking requires practice.