This post grew out of a fun exchange on twitter by a group of presentation and public speaking bloggers on the benefits of public speaking. A number of us are posting under the same title – Laura Bergells, Lisa Braithwaite, Jeff Bailey and Michael Cortes. Check out their posts.
Public speaking hasn’t made me richer, thinner or better in bed… but it has changed me. I was a shy person growing up. I had just a few good friends and was much more into horses than people. My introduction to public speaking was Toastmasters when I was in my early 20s. Learning to speak in public has the obvious benefit that you can inform, persuade and motivate a group of people. In my case, it’s also become my career. But there are a number of less obvious but equally important benefits. Here’s what public speaking has done for me:
1. I can make small talk and socialise
I used to find parties and other functions excruciating. I was terrified of talking to anybody I didn’t know. But once I’d done a few speeches at Toastmasters, I realised that if I could talk to a group of people I didn’t know I could also talk to one person I didn’t know. The club atmosphere of Toastmasters also forced me to socialise. And after I’d been a member for a few months, new people would visit the club and it would be my job to make them feel at ease. Now (almost 20 years later!) I can walk into any crowded function and introduce myself to a group, or simply stand by myself and observe the action.
2. I can do interviews
Becoming confident and competent in public speaking helped me tremendously when it came to job interviews. I learnt how to structure my answers and think on my feet. I’m convinced that those skills enabled me to get the jobs I went for. It helped with those jobs that didn’t require presenting ability, but was invaluable when the jobs did have a public speaking component. When I was still reasonably young I applied for a job to manage the democratic services team of the City Council. It was a tough job that required me to able to talk to the Mayor and Councillors. Without my public speaking experience and confidence which helped me in the panel interview, I’m sure I would not have got the job.
3. I became a people person
I so did not see myself as a “people person” growing up. One of my early jobs was as as an administration assistant at a large company – but I also had to be the receptionist during the lunch hour. I was so terrible they took me off the desk! A few years later, I was a successful management development trainer for a major bank.
4. I can say important stuff to people I love when it matters
Possibly, this is the most important thing that public speaking can give you. To be able to speak at special family occasions to acknowledge and express your love for the people who matter to you is a special gift. For me, my most recent experience was speaking at my daughter’s 21st birthday party. I haven’t always been able to do this (I’ve written previously about my regret at not speaking at my father’s funeral) so being able to express my love and pride in her was a special thing.
So public speaking hasn’t made me richer, thinner or better in bed. But because of these impacts, learning to speak in public has changed the trajectory of my life. It can do the same for you.