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Is Public Speaking A Skill Worth Having In The Workplace?

Since the time of ancient Greek orators to the present era of modern communication forms, public speaking has very much become a part of our everyday lives. Crowds were moved to tears by President Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech and hundreds of thousands of lives were changed by motivational guru, Anthony Robbins, with his high-energy seminars. Millions more gasped in wonder and amazement when Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s latest inventions through his exciting product presentations. No matter when or where we are, we are exposed to public speaking in one way or another.

But is public speaking relevant in today’s workplace?

Kate Lorenz of Careerbuilder.com listed the Top Ten Most Common Soft Skills that employers often look for and will be assessing a candidate on. Among this non-exhaustive list included the likes of a strong work ethic, positive attitude, adaptability, and of course, good communication skills. Kate defined good communication skills as having the ability to be verbally articulate and “make your case and express your needs in a way that builds bridges with colleagues, customers and vendors.”

In my opinion, this statement validates the continuing need to stand out from your peers at work by building one’s presentation or public speaking skills. How else can you effectively “build bridges” with people at work if you cannot communicate to them instantly with a single message? It is also interesting to note that a number of companies are using presentations as a gauge of a candidate’s professional and emotional competence during job interviews. Even in the local context, public speaking has now evolved into an almost inescapable skill set that can set one apart from others and get one further ahead in life.

Moreover, he who is able to articulate better to his colleagues would often stand in good stead for a promotion and be well-respected by his bosses and subordinates respectively. If you have a desire to be an inspirational manager, the very utterances that you make can be the start of a thought leadership that will inspire your subordinates, or move a mountain if you will. If you dream of wielding influence in the corporate arena and beyond, your speeches will achieve its desired impact. Have you heard or seen anyone absolutely bereft of charisma rising to the upper echelons of the corporate ladder? What would be your impression of a CEO who has given in to stammering as he or she makes a public address? Where would Martin Luther King be if he was a stutterer?

From experience, it is also worrying to note that more Asians are associating public speaking to something negative and taboo than there are Westerners making the same definition. With my numerous encounters with various CEOs, directors and bosses, it is bewildering that it is often the Caucasian who makes a better opening speech than the Singaporean. Why? Is it because of the Asian culture that encourages us to “speak” less and “do” more? If so, then why do so many of us consider our Caucasian bosses to be effective and inspirational communicators while many Singaporean bosses are regarded as “traditional” and silent? Isn’t this ironic?

About two years ago, I was invited, as part of a team, to deliver a short teambuilding session for a large automobile dealer. It was an annual kick-off event for the staff members and since this director has just taken over the reins from his predecessor, he was impelled to deliver an opening address. The whole presentation was simply mesmerizing. In order to motivate his people for the new year, this young but inspiring director rallied his “troops” to stick together during uncertain economic times and aim to help the company to become a leader in its market segment. By using a hand gesture that represented “Number One” throughout his speech, he was able to create a powerful visual symbol that made his presentation stick in his audience’s hearts and minds. But his coup de grace was the accompanying video clips which he borrowed from the movie “300”. These selected scenes did send a strong statement to the employees, that this company was going to take on its competitors against overwhelming odds, come hell or high water. A standing ovation erupted from the entire crowd.

A year later, the company reclaimed the top spot in its industry and remarkably, this man is a Singaporean. Born and bred.

Even in the area of sales, an effective presentation can help to improve the bottom line faster and more efficiently. Your choice of words, key message positioning and communication length all have a significant impact on the sale. Gone are the days of “if we build it, they will come”. A key component of successful companies is a persuasive sales force that can set itself and the company’s product apart from its competitors.

Being an effective public speaker or presenter can reap potential benefits in almost all aspects at work. We have to hone this unique ability to communicate effectively with a crowd, because communication is vital in today’s context, as businesses are built on it. From giving you a better chance in landing your dream job to even securing a lucrative business deal, making group presentations at every opportunity could be your ticket to corporate success.

Article by Andy Pan, the Director of Training at Right Impact

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