“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy” Jerry Seinfeld
If this is you and you aspire to a leadership skills I have some bad news for you. The reality is that sooner or later you will need to speak publicly.
The ability to do so well is a highly valued skill. Look at any position description from the first step up the management ladder and you will note it will refer to in some way “communication skills”.
This means verbal and written, and increasingly “digital”. So, whether public speaking is a significant fear, or simply something that you would rather not do. If you are already a leader, or aspire to be one, speaking well is important so you need to learn it.
It is important to realise that public speaking is a multi-dimensional concept, it includes:
- Public speaking to a group – Presenting to audiences whether that is at a staff meeting, or conference, it doesn’t matter, but the ability to get up and speak clearly, succinctly and engagingly to groups of people is a critical leadership skill.
- Presentations – In some senses this is public speaking with attitude. Presentations differ in that they often involve technology, not uncommonly involve demonstrating an activity (thinking cooking shows) or selling a product. Having props to manage on top of managing to speak clearly can be a blessing or a curse.
- Talking to the media. This is a highly valued skill and still relatively rare. Sooner or later, especially given the increasing social media, 24hr news cycles, twitter, Instagram you will need to be confident in this area.
This list is not exhaustive and will differ depending on the industry or context. Training is extremely useful for developing these skills.
Unlike other leadership skills which are more nebulous and hard to define, this area is concrete and can be practiced relatively easily with a coach or part of a group of people all being vulnerable together.
Organisations such as Toastmasters and Rostrum focus on this area and are focussed on improving members’ skills in a supportive environment and are certainly worth considering.