February 16, 2018
Public speaking is the most common fear in America, ranked above heights, clowns, and snakes. Even so, most employers would agree that public speaking will be crucial to your success at one point or another during your career. For this reason, it is worth spending some time overcoming your fear and perfecting your public speaking skills. From interviews to big presentations, there will be countless times you must speak in front of a group of people during your career.
The interview is where you make your first impression on a potential employer, so being a confident speaker is essential. When considering potential new hires, most companies will want someone who is confident in themselves and can eloquently describe why they are qualified for the role. Lori, a hiring expert from Cigna, adds “Interviews are an important place to make a great first impression so you do want to make sure you put your best foot forward. In order to do that, you need to continue practicing, and if possible, to do it with other people whose opinion you trust.”1 Before an interview, ask a friend or family member to ask you some common questions and try to answer without stammering or using filler words.
Once you get the job, you aren’t off the hook for public speaking. There is a good chance that at some point in your career, you will be required to give a presentation or lead a meeting, especially if you are trying to climb the career ladder. Ashley, a hiring expert from Cardinal Health, says this: “Public speaking is a fear for a lot of people and is often a skill you have to develop. You are not alone in this. Your ability to effectively speak in public can advance or hinder your career, especially as you get further along and are seeking advancement opportunities. It is important to appear polished, well-spoken and professional.”2 Just like any other skill, public speaking is something that you can improve through practice, so just as you might take a course to brush up your computer skills, you should make an effort to practice your public speaking.
How to Improve
The best way to get better at public speaking is to do it as often as you can, because, like many other things, it will get less intimidating the more you do it. There are a few other things you can do to feel more confident before a big presentation. Traci, a hiring expert from Accenture, says “First and foremost, for even the most skilled public speaker to do a great job, they have to be prepared! [Public speaking] is going to be a struggle the entire time if you have no idea what you’re talking about, so make sure you spend a bit of time getting to know the subject matter. This way, even if you stumble, you’ll be able to pick right back up because you’ll know where to go next.”3 It is much easier to give a presentation on something you thoroughly understand than a speech you have memorized at face value, so spend some time really getting to know your material.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that you are often your own worst critic, so try not to be too hard on yourself. By simply devoting a little time to improving, you’ll not only sound better speaking in public but also feel more confident in yourself.