Answered by Traci, Hiring Expert at Accenture, on Wednesday, July 13, 2016
The ability to speak in public, whether that be to just a small room full of peers, or in front of a larger audience, is something that not everyone loves to do, but with a bit of practice and preparation, everyone can do.
- 1. First and foremost, for even the most skilled public speaker to do a great job, they have to be prepared! Speaking to your small team and speaking to a large group is going to be a struggle the entire time if you have no idea what you’re talking about, so make sure you spend a bit of time getting to know the subject matter. This way, even if you stumble, which even the most skilled do, you’ll be able to pick right back up because you’ll know where to go next.
- Know your audience! This is probably overlooked by those speaking to a group more than 90% of the time. Who are you speaking to? With your current message, is what you’re saying going to go over their head? Is what you’re saying going to offend someone or make them feel inferior? If you are the subject matter expert, have you sufficiently explained the topic so that everyone will understand? There is no faster way to lose the attention of your audience than to forget this while preparing.
- The best speeches or oral reports are not read off of a sheet of paper. I know it may make you feel more comfortable having something in front of you to read, but it will also ensure that you sound like a robot and stare down the entire time. If you know you need this in front of you, by all means do, but put your thoughts in bullet form instead of full sentences. Take the bulleted idea and allow yourself to explain it, just like you would in conversation, and it will sound immediately more natural and engaging.
These are just a few tips, but a great place to start. To answer your other question, it is quite important that you are good at public speaking while in meetings with co-workers and during presentations. Do you have to be the best there is? No. Think about this though. If you’re being asked to present to your team or even a larger body, you’re being asked to do so because someone is either giving you a chance to do so and be heard, or because someone thinks that what you have to say is important enough for everyone to hear. Make sure that you take that chance and show that you can well articulate what it is that you’re working on or have been asked to present, because it will be remembered. It shows that, not only have they hired you because you are smart and talented, but that you can take that intelligence and skill and share it with others!
• Lastly, public speaking ability really can further your career, but let me say this. This by no means applies to every industry, company, position, etc. You need to feel out the culture of the company you have joined of currently work for. As you observe others speak, especially those in positions of authority, are they speaking very formally? Informally? Do they make jokes to lighten the mood, or do they stick to the facts in a more serious way? This will and should inform how you can begin to shape your speaking style. In general, when you have the chance to speak in front of your team or a larger body, you never know who is listening. Every time you get the chance to publically assert yourself in the workplace, be mindful of this. There is no better way to get the message out that you are a super star than by telling everyone in a public way!