The ongoing coronavirus crisis has confined many of us to our homes and has created a lot of uncertainty in our lives. But there is one thing I know for sure--it will eventually pass and you'll be right back out there building your career, pitching your idea, or starting a business.
Take this opportunity now to build a fundamental skill that you'll need to stand out in the workplace--public speaking. Why public speaking? Because Warren Buffett says it's the one skill you can build today that will increase your value by 50 percent, and you can do it from home.
1. Watch one TED Talk a day.
Set aside 18 minutes a day to watch a TED Talk. With tens of thousands of TED and TEDx talks delivered over the years, the TED.com website is your source for education.
While most people watch TED talks for the content, I'm suggesting you also watch for presentation style. After all, many TED speakers--especially the speakers at the annual TED Conference in Vancouver--work with coaches. You can see the result of that preparation.
One thing to look for is what TED calls the "through-line." When a speaker first comes to a TED coach, they're often rambling and there's no clear connection among the examples or statistics in their presentations. They are taught to find a through-line, or the main point of the presentation. Focus on one idea and connect the examples, stories, and statistics to it.
You can spot the through-line easily in some of these popular talks:
Don't ramble. Be focused on one clear idea.
2. Record yourself.
Set aside time to go into a quiet room, set up your smartphone (it's also worth investing in a small tabletop tripod for this exercise), and hit record. Now give your presentation. Watch the video. You'll spot a number of distracting habits that you're simply not aware you have. Eliminate habits such as:
- Touching your face
- Fiddling with your hair
- Reading from your notes or slides
- Using too many filler words such as "uh," "um," and "ah"
Very few people record themselves practicing a presentation. You'll stand out by using this tip.
3. Practice in front of family and pets.
Many people suffer from various levels of nerves. You're not alone. We're hardwired to feel anxious when we're speaking in front of people. Here's the good news: Stage fright can be managed. But it takes practice. Start with small steps by speaking in front of people you're comfortable with.
4. Read books on communication skills.
While I've written 10 books on leadership, entrepreneurship, and communication, there are many great books from other authors that I have in my permanent library. Some of my favorites include:
- DataStory by Nancy Duarte. In this new book, presentation design specialist Nancy Duarte explains in visual form how to turn data into impactful stories.
- If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda. Many people don't know that the actor Alan Alda founded a center for the communication of science at Stony Brook University. He's a remarkable storyteller who understands the value of simple, clear, and impactful public speaking.
- This Is Marketing by Seth Godin. Although "marketing" is in the title, it's a book about effective communication. In Godin's definition, marketing is the act of making change happen--like changing someone's mind. And you can't change minds without sharpening your communication skills.
Public speaking skills will set you apart. Take this time to sharpen those skills before you get back to the office.