When researching the skills necessary to be a successful entrepreneur I found the following suggestions: ambition, willingness to learn, ability to listen, creativity, assertiveness and confidence, perseverance (that’s an important one right?) and also courage and risk-taking. Interestingly in a lot of the articles that I read, public speaking wasn’t mentioned as an essential skill. I’m not sure why, as entrepreneurs need to be able to write well when crafting proposals, emails, and briefing documents. It’s also expected that you’ll be able to effectively engage a crowd in a meeting, in a pitch, in an update, and that you’ll be able to facilitate discussion in groups and general meetings. You need to be able to manage your staff, your Board and your client relationships. As well, you know that you’ll also potentially have conference speaking gigs (especially if your business is a success) and plenty of media opportunities where the reputation of your business is in your hands. That’s where public speaking can really help you.
In the rush to grow your business, you may not have thought too much about adding the skill of public speaking to your portfolio of business tools. In fact, we know that public speaking is actually one of the top fears amongst business people, so you may have even avoided it throughout your career and focused on more informal ways to grow and market your business. In some cases, you may have hired someone else to do the speaking for you and delegated the opportunity.
I whole-heartedly believe that when you focus on adding public speaking skills to your existing toolkit of business communication skills, you’ll add a whole new level of mastery to your skills as an entrepreneur that will have a life-changing effect. In other words, by mastering the art of public speaking you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your writing, communication, negotiation, influence, and relationships overall.
We’ve all seen someone tank in a business meeting or presentation!
We’ve all been to meetings that didn’t achieve what we hoped. For most of us, this happens daily! We know what it feels like to sit in a meeting feeling bored, annoyed or frustrated by the presenter and/or their content. Maybe at the time they didn’t grab your attention or they lost control of the meeting at some point. It’s not pretty regardless of whether you’re the presenter or the audience member.
The important question you should be asking yourself if you want to be even more successful in business is, have YOU ever been the presenter who tanked? Have you experienced leading a meeting that ended with you experiencing that sinking feeling that you’ve missed the chance, or you’ve let yourself (and your team) down? It’s awful when you realize that based on your own performance (and you can’t blame anyone else) there is no way on earth that your client would be willing to establish a business partnership with you. That feeling really sucks. And if your business partners or Board members were in the room while you were crashing and burning, or they just found out about it from your client’s feedback post-the-meeting, it’s a serious career-limiting moment – cringe!
I have a client who is a serial entrepreneur. He’s a guru in artificial intelligence. He presented at a revenue-raising event over cocktails one night with his Board and colleagues there to support him. He, unfortunately, did such a horrid job of his pitch that he not only didn’t get many investors, but he was also told he needed to immediately fix his public speaking or he’d have to step aside as CEO. Hence, a call to me for emergency training!
It’s undeniable. If you are pitching, networking, raising capital, managing people and/or closing sales then public speaking is an essential skill for you and if you want to be able to inspire your team, delight your customers and grow your empire you need to master it now!
How do great speaking skills help you grow your business?
Improving your public speaking skills will help you in all sorts of ways:
- You’ll be the go-to person. When people think of you as the guru it has so many benefits. You’ll be seen as more credible than your competitors, you’ll be the person people want to spend time with, and you’ll be the person people want to do business with.
- Time management. My friend and business advisor Dale Beaumont talks about the incredible amount of time you’ll save when you bring all your clients into one room at a time instead of scheduling meetings after meeting with one client at a time. It’s simple time management, isn’t it? And of course, when your clients are all the room together and they hear one another complimenting you, talking about how much they love your products or services and/or actually buying from you, it’s contagious. The law of social proof states that when one person respects and values you enough to do business with you, others will follow.
- 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 what a great communicator is supposed to do, and you just do it, you’ll automatically be more confident in the way you speak and write (everywhere in your life) because you know you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing to be successful. So you’ll find that you naturally negotiate better with suppliers, you’ll speak up more effectively in meetings, you’ll be more likely to volunteer for things and opportunities because you’re not fazed by the idea of having to address a crowd and you’ll carry yourself with authority in general. You’ll look like you walk the talk!
- Networking. When you’re a busy entrepreneur you have to be careful with how you spend your time, and with whom you spend it. Mastering your public speaking means that you can choose which industry events you attend, who you connect with while you’re there, what you talk about and you’re going to be able to nail your elevator pitch. An added bonus is that you’ll often even have the opportunity to be a speaker on the night if the organizer knows you can speak well.
- General Communication. Accomplished public speakers know how to write well, speak well and are generally very high functioning individuals. When you know how to speak in public you’ve developed good research skills, good message creation skills and of course good delivery skills. In addition, public speaking helps you develop both attractiveness and charisma, which are essential skills for networking and relationship management.
- 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’. One of the top skills for entrepreneurs is risk-taking and perseverance. 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 make decisions and back yourself. You’ll be more likely to put your hand up for opportunities as they arise and you’ll be fully ‘in life’.
- Close more business. You use the same skills for public speaking as you would in a sales meeting. You may not have realized that you use a similar method for closing a sale as you do for calling an audience to act in a speech. The model for asking for the business is transferable across the two contexts. When you can speak in public you’ll make more appointments and you’ll close more business.
Where to start?
I encourage you to read widely, attend some training and possibly even join a speaking group to get some practice at speaking.
In short, as entrepreneurs, we present to people with the intention of influencing them every single day. We present to our colleagues, our staff and Board, our suppliers and potential clients. You are presenting yourself every day whether you realize it or not. When you master the art of public speaking you’ll be able to consciously pick the words to say and establish a connection with people. You’ll be able to show them who you are and what exactly you can bring to the table. Public speaking skills give you the opportunity to step up and be noticed for what you can offer. Public speaking provides a unique opportunity for you to showcase your professional expertise and accelerate your business and career. So please do embrace the opportunity to develop these life-changing skills and I’ll be right there with you celebrating your successes.
About the Author
Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio, and online media. Sign up for Michelle’s FREE How to Present magazine TODAY