It's unfortunate that public speaking, one of the most common fears of people worldwide, is also one of the basic skills of business.
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Entrepreneurs of all kinds constantly find themselves in situations where their businesses' success hinges on their ability to communicate.
Whether they are attempting to convince investors of their project's worth or trying to drum up business for their new startup, their success hinges in large part on the strength of their public speaking skills.
While the high stakes of such public presentations may seem intimidating, smart business owners can turn such situations to their advantage by polishing their speaking skills. Entrepreneurs who take the time to refine their communicative and persuasive skills will be rewarded with higher confidence and, hopefully, better business.
Practice makes perfect
While it is a grim truth, there is no other way to become proficient at public speaking than to buckle down and do it.
Most businesspeople have a myriad of opportunities to practice their public speaking in meetings and other such settings. While your natural instinct at these times may be to shy away from the spotlight and let other people do the talking, you may be squandering a valuable opportunity to doing so.
Such informal public speaking opportunities are perfect chances to practice; retain all of the decorum and expectations of business without the high-stakes consequences of a real speaking engagement or sales pitch.
While it will almost certainly feel uncomfortable at first, these practice opportunities will ensure that you are well prepared to speak persuasively and coherently when your business depends on it.
Preparation does NOT make perfect
While it makes sense to 'plan ahead' in business, the same does not hold for public speaking.
When you pre-write a speech, you tend to learn it word for word, making the speech seem too smooth and even to be natural. The result is a slightly unsettling, unnatural speech which can give a casual audience the impression that you are hiding something. In addition, should you forget any part of your speech, you will be at a loss for what to do and may have trouble continuing until you can remember your exact words.
A better approach is to get up to speak with only a simple outline or, ideally, no notes at all. You should be well-versed enough in your subject to speak on it without having to consider and pre-write all of your arguments.
More importantly, this will help your delivery, as it draw you into the speaking process and force you to think about the connotations of the language which you are using.
Turn down the desk
Whether you are offered a real podium or simply given a small desk to sit behind, it is always better to stand in the open, facing the audience.
Besides providing a place for speakers to organize their notes, podiums serve simply to obscure your hand motions and tether you to one spot in the room.
In contrast, speakers who talk without a podium capture the audience's full attention, as they remove the heavy wooden stand the audiences are used to and replace it by making themselves the undisputed center of attention, a strategy that is much more effective with listeners.
While public speaking may seem like one of the more unsavory aspects of your job, some solid experience can transform it into a tool of negotiation and communication that you can use to your advantage.
A little practice is all it takes to go from being a silent presence at your company's meetings to being the kind of person who can never wait to capture an audience's attention.