I just saw the movie, The King's Speech starring Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth. It's the story about King George and his struggle to overcome severe stuttering and the relationship between him and his speech coach. As a Speech Pathologist who worked with stutterers and as a speaking strategist who coaches executives, it was a powerful reminder to me of the gift of speech. King George was thrust into a leadership role he didn't want and had to inspire a nation during World War II. How do you do that without speaking? The answer is -you don't. Enter the speech coach. It was inspiring to watch King George overcome his struggles, resistance to coaching, and outright fear. He confronted his biggest fear and won!
While only 1% of the population stutters, most people fear public speaking. When first working with clients, I see the same fears, resistance, and avoidance that was portrayed in the movie. And yet, without the gift of speech, lives and careers are negatively impacted. Today more than ever you must be able to present yourself, your message, and your value.
Speaking is the new competitive weapon. In a competitive job market, candidates who have the best communication and speaking skills have the advantage. Leaders who have good presentation skills are better positioned for success. Sales people who are good public speakers can better influence. Industry experts with good public speaking skills get invited to convey their message at prestigious conferences, and authors who speak well get invited back for media interviews.
Your presentation is your brand. Your voicemail message and even your ring tone convey your brand. How you deliver your elevator speech determines whether people want to do business with you. How you speak and present yourself can be an indicator of education level and socioeconomic status. A study conducted in the 1970s demonstrated that sales reps in upscale department stores had better diction than those who worked in bargain stores.
Public speaking is a skill everyone must master in order to be successful. It's not going away. Avoidance by delegation is not a long time strategy. If you're the CEO, the shareholders want to hear from you. A CEO or CFO who rambles or sounds hesitant doesn't inspire confidence in the analysts. And this can affect a stock's rating. A manager will not motivate a team by giving a lackluster pep talk devoid of emotion. Entrepreneurs who can't communicate a clear business strategy and convey confidence will forfeit investor funding. Students who don't know how to present themselves during an interview, may not gain entry to the college of choice.
You don't have to speak the King's English to be successful but you do need to know how to speak and speak well. I believe gifted speakers are born but effective speakers are made. It doesn't take a major overhaul for most people to be effective. It's the little things that make the most impact. Everyone can be effective and speak with confidence. Public speaking is a skill. Skills + Practice=Confidence. Make this the year you learn to speak with confidence.