The Role of Public Speaking in Career Growth

Here are the top reasons why you should improve your public speaking skills.

Most of us want to achieve our best at work. We want to get ahead, feel successful and be acknowledged and rewarded for our efforts.  Unfortunately for many people, speaking up or standing out is definitely outside our comfort zone. We’d rather delegate any opportunity to speak up and prefer to keep to ourselves.  Although it’s a more stress-free approach and way more comfortable, sitting at your desk and letting others claim the credit for your hard work doesn’t help you one bit. Public speaking is an essential skill in your toolkit of life, especially if you want to succeed. 

A couple of weeks ago, a client who is a qualified engineer in the IT industry said to me, “Michelle, why would I need to develop public speaking skills, my data sells itself”.  Of course, as a presentation skills specialist this question horrifies me even though I’m asked it regularly! The assertion that data can sell itself without any input from a human is completely incorrect. The data does not sell itself. The human who puts that data in a report and presents it to their team, manager or client is the one tasked with ‘selling’ the information and any subsequent, important decisions to be made about it. It’s for this reason that you

So, let me ask you? Do you enjoy public speaking or presenting at work? Or, like many people, public speaking is one of your greatest fears

Some years back I had a client call me because one of her team members was fainting every time she spoke to a large group of employees. At about the 3-minute mark she’d lose oxygen to the brain and fall to the floor in front of the whole audience. In fact, she fainted a total of 3 times over a nine-month period. Imagine how embarrassing that would be? In the corporate world they call this a CLM (career limiting move)! Her breathing was shallow rather than diaphragmatic, and she had no confidence in the structure of her message or her delivery skills. This manager explained to me that either I ‘fix’ this employee or she’d be getting the sack. She said, our whole department is losing credibility thanks to this girl”. After some simple mentoring, the ‘fainter’ performed brilliantly, and she continues to contact me with stories of her ongoing presentation and overall career success.

I’ve specialized in helping people to overcome their presentation fear for the past two decades. This specific fear has a technical term, it’s called glossophobia and it’s where the presenter suffers from a diagnosable fear or anxiety of public speaking. It’s actually quite common. I regularly meet stressed-out employees who have suffered a similar embarrassment to my fainting client. Perhaps they’ve gone blank in front of everyone or felt overwhelming panic or some other uncomfortable physical symptom that has caused them to fear all future speaking opportunities. When they contact me, they are desperate for a quick fix to this problem. They don’t want it to ever happen again. They don’t want the embarrassment, and worse, they are afraid it will ruin their career. I also find myself having regular conversations with senior managers and Board Chairs after they have witnessed a Chief Executive, Managing Director or senior manager tank in a business presentation (often in a board meeting or sales pitch situation). The Chairman of the Board is generally super clear about their desired outcome when they contact me. They say, “Fix this person, or I’ll have to let them go”. 

If you do not yet feel confident to speak in public, it’s time to take charge of your potential and learn how to do it right now!  Improving your public speaking skills will help you in the following ways:

Credibility and expertise. If people think you’re credible they are more likely to listen, to believe you and to give you what you want. It’s a fact that people who speak well are thought of as more expert, intelligent and believable. When you can speak well, you’ll command attention and gain respect. It’s an opportunity to step up and be noticed for your skills, knowledge and abilities. If you avoid public speaking and delegate it to others, you’ll miss the chance to be appreciated for your own ideas and opinions and you’ll be allowing someone else to take the credit for your hard work. 


Productivity. Presenting to a group of ten people in an hour is way smarter than presenting to one person at a time over ten hours. Improve your productivity by saving all that time. 


Social proof. Bring your clients together in a meeting or pitch and you’ll have the added bonus of the law of social proof, which states that people often copy what others are doing. If one or two clients in the room are buying what you’re selling, maybe the others will too!


Feel Confident. It’s really amazing how much more confident you’ll be in business and life once you master the art of public speaking. When you know how to walk, gesture and hold yourself confidently you’ll add grace and poise to your vibe. When you know how to craft a speech you’ll speak and write more confidently. You’ll find that you naturally negotiate better with your suppliers, you’ll speak up more confidently in meetings, and you’ll also have more functional and rewarding conversations where you can clearly and confidently express yourself.


Networking. When you know you can speak in public, you’ll no longer cringe at the chance to do the quick elevator pitch at the start of networking sessions! Instead you’ll embrace the opportunity and will impress everyone with the way you can quickly and effortlessly describe your unique selling proposition. You’ll also be brave enough to approach people and to listen to their needs and then suggest solutions. 


Improved relationships. Accomplished public speakers know how to connect with people. They know how to choose the right words and convey their message with empathy and passion. As a result, public speakers are the sort of people you want to hang around. Wouldn’t you want to be that person?


Involvement. When you believe in yourself, and you know you can do it, you’re more likely to jump in when an opportunity arises and ‘seize the day’. When you are more confident in your speaking and communication it makes you more confident in life, which in turn helps you feel more confident to put your hand up and to try different things. You’ll be more likely to participate than observe. 


Make more appointments and close more deals. You use the same model for writing a speech as you would for crafting a business pitch. In a nutshell, in a speech you build rapport, clearly state your argument, and then call your audience to action (just like in a pitch). The better you get at public speaking, the better you’ll get at pitching and selling either yourself and your skillset or your products and services.


Where to start?

For information on how to give your public speaking skills an overhaul for the better please read my internationally published, best-selling book called, How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work (Wiley).

This skill of public speaking is essential for your career growth. It’s component parts: analysis of the audience and their needs; design of the message; and confident delivery all combine to help you speak, move, and live in a confident and compelling way. People will be more likely to listen when you speak and take the action you require. I wholeheartedly encourage you to jump headfirst into the world of public speaking and reap the exciting career benefits! Happy presenting!