Great project managers are great communicators. And we are often required to inform, persuade, inspire, and lead others. Let's look at how public speaking may be hurting your career and twelve ways to become a better speaker.
So, what is public speaking (also called oratory)? It is the process or act of performing a speech to a live audience.
When does this occur for project managers? Every time you lead a meeting. When you train others. Presentations to senior management. Board meetings.
There are also opportunities to advance your career outside of your day-to-day projects. I regularly speak at PMI Chapter meetings and project management symposiums (which earns me PMI Professional Development Units).
How do you feel about public speaking? According to the Washington Post, public speaking is one of our top fears (followed closely by bugs, snakes, and other animals).
Here's the good news. You can learn to be a better speaker. Yes, it takes practice, but you can improve your confidence and your skills. Consequently, you will boost your career opportunities. Here's how.
“Fully 85 percent of your success as a leader will be determined by your ability to communicate effectively with others.” -Brian Tracy
12 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking
- Focus more on your audience and less on yourself. Think about your opportunity to serve others, provide individuals and groups with knowledge, and to inspire others.
- Incrementally increase the size of the audience. Take baby steps. Start small. Incrementally ask for more challenging events with larger audiences.
- Practice at meetings. Every time you lead a meeting, you have an opportunity to develop your public speaking skills. Work on the openings for your meetings. Practice the delivery.
- Learn through teaching. I love to teach! As I have taught through the years, I have learned to be a better communicator. You too can improve your communication skills by teaching.
- Build and manage your energy reserve. I often run the day before I speak at a PMI Chapter or symposium. This helps ensure that my mind is clear and sharp. When I can, I walk 5 to 10 minutes before I speak. This helps me relax.
- Arrive early. I always arrive early to get set up and ensure that everything is prepared.
- Always take backup equipment. Your host may say they have all the necessary equipment. They mean well, but things don’t always go as planned. I always carry backup equipment just in case I need it.
- Breathe deeply. When you feel nervous, take long, deep breaths before you speak. This has a calming effect.
- Join Toastmasters. I don’t know of a better way to improve your public speaking. Give it a try.
- Watch TED Talks. And here is a book tip: read “How to Deliver a Ted Talk.”
- Smile. When I first look into the eyes of my audience, I scan the room for a few moments and smile. Positive, first impressions are critical!
- Make eye contact. During my speech, I make eye contact with one person, pause for a few seconds, rotate to another person, and continue this pattern. All along, I pretend I am having a one-on-one conversation.
It's Your Turn
Where can you improve your public speaking skills? In what ways? Identify an area or two that you will work on. Look through this list of 12 ways to improve your public speaking, and work on a few at a time.
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"Intelligent leadership, creative communication and depth of technical skill all describe Harry Hall." –John Bartuska, Director of HR–ONUG Communications