Speaking On Your Feet

Your ability to communicate effectively will account for most of your success in life. As we move farther into the communication age, we are becoming more and more dependant on being able to communicate and interact effectively with others. Your ability to interact with other people effectively will determine your success far more than your level of skills in any field.

There are three primary forms of communication in business, all of which are skills that can be learned. How well you develop these skills will determine how far and how fast you go in your chosen field.

The first communication skill is the ability to communicate either one-on-one or by telephone with people. Many people never develop this ability to interact effectively with others and their careers suffer because of it. The second skill, is the ability to communicate well in writing, to express yourself in letters, memos, reports, and e-mails. The third is the ability to speak in front of a group of people and give presentations.

Your ability to speak on your feet, to communicate, influence, and persuade other people to take action that they would not have otherwise taken, can do more to help you succeed than any other single skill that you can develop.

There are two major obstacles that hold people back from speaking in front of others. The first is fear. In surveys, people rank the fear of speaking ahead of handling snakes and even the fear of death. For most people, the mere thought that they might be called upon to speak in front of a group causes them tremendous anxiety. This is a conditioned response, usually the result of the person being criticized when they were young for speaking up in some situation. By the time they become an adult, this fear is so deeply entrenched in their subconscious mind that the very idea of speaking in front of an audience can trigger it and causes them to shut down mentally and physically.

Fortunately, every fear that has been learned can be unlearned. Since you came into this world without any fear of public speaking, you can learn how to revert back to that original condition where you once again have no fear of standing up and expressing your views to other people.

The second major obstacle to public speaking is that people simply do not know how to do it. There is a big difference between knowing how to talk and knowing how to speak. Talking comes naturally from growing up. But speaking is a learned skill that has to be practiced and takes a good deal of time and commitment to develop.

We all have two options in life, we can be influenced and persuaded by others, or we can influence and persuade others. In other words, we can be powerful or powerless. Your ability to speak well, to make your points, to get your views across, and to get other people to cooperate with you in achieving important goals, is vital to fulfilling your complete potential as a human being.

In every field, the fear of rejection is always a major stumbling block for most people. For many people fear is the greatest obstacle to success in their life. This fear holds people back from speaking up, from asking for the things they want, from negotiating better deals, from expressing their displeasure, and from speaking up when they do not agree with someone. The fear of rejection paralyzes action and it is closely tied to the fear of public speaking.

When you make the decision to overcome your fear of public speaking, you short-circuit your fear of rejection as well. The more confident you become speaking in front of others, the more competent and influential you will become in your one-on-one dealings with others.

To be a good public speaker you first must have a reason why you want to speak. Do you want to speak for personal pleasure or for professional benefit? If you want to speak for personal pleasure, you can learn to speak on any subject that interests you. However, if you want to speak professionally, you must become and expert on your subject and be clear as to why you want to speak and what you want to accomplish.

The purpose of all public speaking is action. It is to get people to do something that they would not have done without your talk. The more clear you are about what action you want people to take, or what change you want to take place in their thinking, the easier it will be for you to develop a powerful, persuasive presentation that achieves your goal.

You must prepare thoroughly. Preparation accounts for 90 percent of a good speech or presentation. It is important that you always over-learn your subject. You should prepare so thoroughly that you could easily talk for two or even three times longer on your subject if you had to.

Always remember that people would much rather be entertained than educated. Make your talk enjoyable to listen to, even if it is a serious subject. Make sure you support every fact with a story or quote.

There is no substitute for practice. You should always go over your material again and again. Before you give any speech or presentation you should read it out loud several times and recite it in front of mirror or into a tape recorder. You should even practice in front of your family and friends and have them critique your talk.

When you give your first few talks, you will not do as well as you want to. You will never do it as well as you could but you will always get better. Many of the greatest speakers in history were absolutely dreadful when they first started out. But with practice and persistence they got better. And so will you if you persist.

Public speaking can do more to help you advance in your career than almost any other skill that you can develop. It will help you overcome the fear of rejection that holds many people back. It will build your self-confidence, and cause others to admire and respect you more. It will open doors of opportunity for you virtually everywhere, and enable you to have a greater influence with other people. When you become a thoroughly accomplished public speaker, your future success will become unlimited.

Copyright©2004 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.