How comfortable are you in getting up on stage with a daunting crowd looming back at you? Public speaking is the next level of communication skill mastery, especially with its associated anxiety being notoriously difficult to overcome.
The ability to persuade, convert, and compel a whole room of people can make the difference in earning a scholarship, landing a dream job, closing a business deal, and even delivering a moving wedding speech.
You do not need to be a teacher, politician, lawyer, spokesperson, motivational speaker, or entertainer to practise public speaking. Here’s why everyone should do it.
From getting your foot in the door at a job interview to standing out at work, where you speak up at meetings and promote your ideas, public speaking can help advance your career. Public speaking indicates poise, professionalism, leadership qualities, critical thinking skills, and credibility, and these are valuable personal attributes for any job market. Speaking achievements will make a great addition to your CV or resume, positioning you as a subject matter expert. You may also start to find the people who watched you speak coming to you with all sorts of opportunities.
Speaking to large audiences can be terrifying. Some people are natural speakers, whilst others take baby steps to overcome their fears and insecurities. Regardless of where you are on the confidence spectrum, it grows with practice, benefiting you not just on stage but also in one-to-one conversations with people of higher authority, strangers, or even on a date, helping you cope with situational anxiety.
At the end of it, when a perceived nightmare turns out positively, it can give you lots of personal satisfaction. You will take your newfound confidence and say what is on your mind. You will even master the art of impromptu speaking and not have your heart pounding and hands trembling when being called upon with no prior heads-up at formal events to say a few words.
Practise Critical Thinking
Public speaking is not a mere gift of the gab but also a skill deriving from observation and strategic preparation. With your audience being more than just an individual or a small group of people in a private setting, there is much more to consider.
Planning a speech requires careful thought, from knowing your audience to figuring out how to structure the information delivery from the opening statement to closing. To ensure that your audience understands and believes you, you will customise your message, deploy the most appropriate persuasive strategy, and adjust your communication style accordingly. You will also need to anticipate reactions and questions, prepping responses in advance to cover all grounds, support an argument, and eliminate potential doubts.
Build Network Connections
Public speaking engagements bring networking opportunities, where you get to meet other people who share your interest, including those who are not easy to get in touch with, such as other reputable guest speakers. A thought-provoking speech will have people approaching you to ask questions or express their views. Otherwise, you should always stay and mingle and proactively chat up with others. These new connections, both professional and social, may just come in handy someday.
What better opportunity than public speaking to speak to a crowd about your passion, unite people under a common cause, and motivate them to act? If your goal is to be a role model and a catalyst for change, you will have a much better chance to impact more people by standing on stage and making a single compelling speech than going from person to person to make your pitch.
Learn Performance Skills
You will pick up stage tricks and techniques for audience engagement, from the vocal tone and pace and body language to choosing the right words to articulate your message and the use of storytelling props. You cut out the annoying beginner’s habit of excessively using filler words, such as “um”, “ah”, and “you know” in your speech as you get comfortable with pauses.
You also become a better observer and listener as you read your audience’s body language across the room and try to adapt and finetune your presentation on the go. When questions or opinions come up, you learn to be more receptive to taking up opposing views or criticisms as you defend your perspectives and present your ideas calmly and graciously.
Because the feedback and results are received and felt instantly, public speaking teaches you how to take that success or failure and internalise it properly, thus building your personal development on many levels.
Find Opportunities to Practise
The key to improving public speaking skills is to practise as much as possible. The inertia to get started is often the biggest hurdle to overcome. As such, start small. Tell a story among your friends, speak up at meetings, or volunteer to lead a discussion. Then kick it up a notch as you gain confidence, taking on workshop facilitation and event emcee opportunities.
Join relevant communities, associations, specialist groups or even the Toastmasters Club of Singapore and get involved in their events. Network, network, and network. It is easier to get speaking gigs through referral than cold outreach. And before you know it—opportunities come knocking sooner than you think.
On that note, the Scholarship Guide has one for you. Our webinar offers a platform for passionate individuals to share inspiring opinions and experiences with the local student population. If you wish to be a speaker at our webinars, we welcome you to drop us a note and tell us your ideas.
Each time you speak, you get better and better. So get out there and make your voice heard!