It's widely agreed that public speaking is one of the most important skills for business leaders. The phrase "public speaking" in a business capacity may conjure up images of Steve Jobs wowing an audience of Apple enthusiasts, and while that type of speaking is hugely important, there are less obvious speaking roles that a leader assumes which also make a strong impact on business results.
Aside from new product announcements, public speaking skills come into play on a day-to-day basis when communicating with your team about the vision and objectives of the company. Your poise, delivery, confidence, and clarity of message all affect how strongly your communication resonates. The same is true for pitching investors, handling media interviews, dealing with crisis communication, and speaking at industry conferences as an expert in your field.
While other aspects of business are increasingly being automated or relegated to artificial intelligence, speaking skills remain uniquely, humanly nuanced.
Most people are terrified by the idea of public speaking in any form. Fortunately, as with most scary things, there are tools and resources that can help you work through your fears and build enough confidence to overcome any case of nerves. Here are five to get you started.
Get a Coach
A speaking coach or media trainer can help you isolate your biggest speaking challenges and offer solutions to improve those areas. Coaches are great for helping you to fine-tune your delivery, especially improving your vocal tone and physical presence, and training you to manage habits like fidgeting that distract from your words.
Join a Group
Attending regular meetings or conferences with fellow aspiring speakers is a great way to build skills, network, and practice in a supportive environment. Toastmasters uses a learn-by-doing approach with over 16,000 clubs worldwide. The National Speakers Association also has local chapters in addition to regular larger conferences for aspiring and established speakers. A side benefit to practicing in these groups: you may become better at receiving feedback!
Try an App
Put technology to work for you and try an app like Orai, which provides learning modules on speaking fundamentals as well as tools to record your voice and evaluate pace, enunciation, and use of so-called filler words like "um" and "like." This can be a great resource for people who tend to rush through presentations or who turn to filler words when nervous.
Read a Book
Whether you need a generic overview of presentation skills or more focused work on delivering or crafting a message, there's a book to help you. Of course, a book can't give you feedback so be sure to use it alongside another resource that does.
Most people flinch at the idea of watching video of themselves speaking. While it may be uncomfortable, it's absolutely necessary in order for you to grow and improve.
You may notice that you habitually scratch your nose when nervous, or that you fiddle with your watchstrap nonstop, or that you simply don't make enough eye contact with the audience. On the other hand, you may get a confidence boost when you see that the part you thought you flubbed and stammered through was not nearly as bad as it was in your head.
These resources will only be as effective as you are at raising your hand to tackle new speaking challenges. The more practiced you are at managing your fears, structuring your comments, and using your body and voice to effectively communicate, the more confidently you will handle any type of future speaking opportunities - all of which will make you a more effective leader.