Effective communication is one of the most important skills you can have out of school. During a job interview, the ability to speak effectively can emphasize the other skills you bring to the table. Once you have the job, speaking one-on-one or in a group setting is a skill you will have to use in almost any public-facing career.
However, public speaking may be one of the biggest fears most people have. How do you go from inexperienced to great? How do you move from dreading a thing to being confident in your ability?
Let’s explore why public speaking is so important, some common strategies for improving your public speaking skills and some careers where effective communication is most critical.
Why Public Speaking Matters?
Public speaking is a key attribute of any effective leader. Whether you're leading a healthcare team, managing a business project, overseeing public safety initiatives or trying to share important information with someone, the ability to communicate is crucial. People who can speak confidently and persuasively are more likely to gain the trust and respect of their teams and foster a positive and productive work environment.
Public speaking is also not one size fits all. Extroverted or introverted, no matter the background or belief system, everyone can improve their communication skills. Anybody can be a skilled public speaker. It simply requires that you understand why it is important and put in the time to improve.
The Not-So-Secret Steps to Improved Public Speaking
There are countless resources available to help any person willing to put in the effort become a good, confident, and compelling public speaker. To begin with, consider these tried-and-true methods for improvement:
- Watch how others do it: As a student in the 21st century, you have more access to the wealth of speakers across human history than ever before. Through YouTube and the internet, any speaker in recorded history is only a few clicks away. At the same time, social media is full of new and compelling influencers that can speak across any topic from health care to business and every career field in between. Take the time to figure out who speaks to you — who you enjoy listening to — and who are trending or influential speakers in your field. Watch them as a starting point to find your style.
- Practice, practice, practice: Like anything else, much of the success of public speaking comes down to putting in the work. By practicing, you will be able to apply those skills to any topic that you research because the foundational skills for how to speak are in place. Try short 10-minute sessions a few times a day. It can be very informal in front of a mirror, something more public like practicing with friends or classmates or you can even join a public speaking improvement group.
- Prepare talking points: Even the best public speakers may be hesitant to speak off the cuff. Notes and proper preparation matter. While you won’t be dragging a teleprompter to your day job, you should make a habit of taking notes about what you want to say and how you want to say it. The act of doing this can cement the information in your mind — meaning that the more you draft talking points and notes, the less you’ll need to rely on them.
- Understand the audience: Who you are speaking to can matter as much or even more than what you are speaking about. Trying to influence a supervisor about a business plan and returning to your alma mater to speak with a group of first-year nursing students are different situations. The more you can understand who you will be speaking to, what their goals are, and then be able to shape your message to meet their needs, the more prepared you will be to talk to them confidently.
- Watch (and listen) to yourself: Most people can’t stand watching or listening to themselves for too long. We all tend to exaggerate every little fault we see. But this can be good! When it’s just you and a camera, you can work on perfecting all the little things from your body language and hand gestures to your speaking cadence and getting rid of filler words. It won’t always be fun, but it will be worth it.
Careers and Public Speaking
Public speaking can be especially important, but often underestimated, during day-to-day professional interactions. Consider these career paths and how effective communication is used every day:
Patient and Colleague Communication (Healthcare and Nursing):
In healthcare and nursing, the ability to communicate clearly and compassionately with patients is among the most important skills you can have. Public speaking skills can help to articulate medical information, provide comfort and establish trust with individuals and their families. Whether giving a presentation to a group of patients or explaining a treatment plan one-on-one, effective public speaking often contributes to more positive patient outcomes.
Collaboration and Teamwork (Behavioral Health and Public Safety):
In behavioral health and public safety, collaboration and effective teamwork are essential. Public speaking skills aid in articulating ideas, sharing insights, and creating a more effective team environment. Whether presenting a case study during a team meeting or addressing the public during a crisis, the ability to communicate persuasively can improve overall decision-making and positively affect public perception.
Project Pitches and Client Meetings (IT and Business):
In technology careers and business, you’ll often need to present projects, ideas, or proposals to clients, stakeholders or team members. Public speaking skills help to effectively convey complex information, gain support and secure funding. Whether you're presenting a software solution or pitching a business strategy to hospital administrators, the ability to articulate your ideas clearly will influence that project’s success.
Strong communication skills can be a bridge to a better career path and the ability to influence and engage with more people in your professional and personal lives. Part of the time you spend in your classes at Herzing University is about more than just giving you knowledge or letting you test your honed hard skills in real-world settings. You’re also asked to write down that knowledge, present that information in front of a classroom and explain your thought process in real time. Every day you do this, you’re getting better at it. Keep going, keep practicing and soon the confident public speaker you’ve had inside will be visible to everyone who works with you.