Technology has transformed public speaking from the domain of classically trained gentlemen projecting their voices from soapboxes in centuries past, to now where anyone with an iPhone or tablet can broadcast themselves to the world.
In spite of the digital advances, around 75% us are still terrified of public speaking (glossophobia) and will do almost anything to avoid it, preferring a cosy graveyard plot in the local churchyard to the light of public scrutiny. The other 25% who aren’t scared of speaking could probably do a lot better, especially if they’ve been schooled in the UK.
Good oral communication and presentation skills are lacking in the UK because too little time is given to such training in schools and higher education. Compare brash young Americans to their British peers, and with a few exceptions, we are a bunch of quivering, stammering wrecks compared to our confident and poised U.S. counterparts.
Talk is a valuable asset
In today’s information and technology-driven age, good public speaking skills are central to excelling personally and professionally. As a business coach and trainer for Carol Barwick Learning and Development (CBLD)., I understand the value of good communication. If you can nail public speaking and good oral communication, so many other doors open to you, both in your career and outside of work.
Those who train, rapidly outclass their co-workers because good public speaking is a rare and sought after career commodity. Whether your venue is the House of Commons; a major conference centre; or perhaps even your bedroom (as popularised by casual vloggers on YouTube), the art of good communication lives or dies on some key foundational truths.
How you communicate literally ‘speaks volumes’. We can all talk, but like a diamond in the rough, only those who know how to cut it will make it sparkle.
Back to basics
One piece of advice I give to every speaker is “be authentic”. People aren’t as interested in your vocabulary as in the sincerity of your words. Your speech is as much about what the audience sees in your body language as well as hearing—(love her or loathe her, Greta Thunberg has been coached to do this well).
If an audience feels connected to you when you are presenting, they will more readily absorb the information shared. Good presenters learn how to slow down, stay calm and breathe because being in control physically is as important as being in control mentally. If you are well rehearsed and your presentation is structured around why you are giving it and how you want the audience to feel about the message, you are at a clear advantage before you start.
Question is, are you as prepared as you could be?
Learning the secrets and expert fixes to improve your speaking and presentation skills are covered in my comprehensive Public Speaking training courses, but the following TRUE or FALSE (T) or (F) statement checklist will affirm your current level of competency and if you have Churchillian oratory potential! Answers below:
- You have so much great information to share and want to tell the world. (T) or (F)
- You grip your notes or lectern like a life buoy on the Titanic. (T) or (F)
- You have been asked to give a speech next week and feel excited about what you are going to say. (T) or (F)
- You get dry mouth, tense muscles, clammy hands and turn bright red or deathly pale when making a presentation. (T) or (F)
- While you are presenting you focus on your audience with lots of eye contact. (T) or (F)
- Your pulse rate increases significantly before you speak. (T) or (F)
- You understand and can empathise with your audience. (T) or (F)
- You get complete mental blanks during your speech. (T) or (F)
- You like to write and have a talent with words. (T) or (F)
- You talk really quickly and stutter more than normal during your speech. (T) or (F)
- You’re an entrepreneur who enjoys self-improvement. (T) or (F)
- The last time you stood in front of an audience was playing the donkey in the school Nativity Play in 1989. (T) or (F)
- You get positive, unsolicited feedback from strangers after you speak. (T) or (F)
- The audience looks uncomfortable when you speak and look down at their feet. (T) or (F)
- You avoid reading your slides verbatim and use them only as reference points to illustrate your words. (T) or (F)
You answered TRUE to all EVEN numbers and FALSE to all odd numbers:
You like public speaking a little less than the idea of execution by guillotine. You ‘throw a sicky’ on the day of your intended presentation while your colleagues take up your slack. You need to overcome your fears by learning some simple relaxation and great presenting techniques. You are no Churchill, but you do have the potential to make a competent presenter at work and do a decent wedding speech with the right training.
You answered TRUE to most of the EVEN numbers and FALSE to most of the odd numbers:
You think you’re terrible at public speaking, and although it makes you anxious just to think about standing in front of a group and talking to them, you scrape by in spite of the butterflies you hide during your presentations. Your colleagues think you are a good presenter; but you know you need some added pzazz in your techniques, especially since you sometimes have the desire to speak—the first sign there may be a great orator inside of you. Thankfully the technical details of speaking can be taught and learned. Ask me about training for you and your staff.
You answered FALSE to most of the EVEN numbers and TRUE to most of the odd numbers:
Your mum was a bit pushier than most, making sure you got to be Mary or Joseph in that school nativity. She did well, because you got used to standing up in front of other people and now you get spontaneous praise from strangers who watch you present. Your career has undoubtedly benefited from your ability, but don’t rest on your laurels— you could learn more, including the latest trends in presenting and get to grips with new technology. Let’s discuss my Public Speaking training programme for leaders and managers.
You answered FALSE to all EVEN numbers and TRUE to all odd numbers:
Looks like you’ve had some Hypno-Coaching from me, or been on one of my Public Speaking training courses before or you’ve natural, raw talent and can grip an audience with your presence. Is your name Jonathan Ross? It’s about time you gave other members of your team a chance to upstage you though. They’ll appreciate you giving them the opportunity to learn a few tricks of the trade. Please ask me about training for your staff.