Successful Speeches and Presentations : The Importance of Public Speaking

The Importance of Public Speaking

Leaders are often called upon to make speeches. One measure of your success as a leader will be how effectively you can communicate, not only in a one-on-one situation, but also to large groups.

Plain English: Public speaking is the act of effectively addressing a large group to orally communicate a new idea or point to the audience.

Public speaking can take place in several different settings.For example, if you are the head of a product design group at a major car manufacturer, you may need to use public speaking skills in any of the following situations:

  • Addressing your team as a whole to reinvigorate their efforts or communicate an important new initiative.

  • Giving a presentation to your peers and superiors to share innovations or ideas generated in your group.

  • Speaking at an industry convention to carry the banner for your corporation.

  • Speaking to investors.

  • Heading up an informative session presented to people outside your industry.

Addressing a large group does not only mean speaking in an auditorium. You might find yourself speaking in a conference room or informally gathered around a team member's desk.

If You Get Nervous

If you've ever experienced cold sweats and stuttering when giving a speech or making a presentation, you are not alone. It is common for unpracticed public speakers to get a case of nerves or an anxiety attack when confronted with a room (no matter the size) focused entirely on you. Remember that the nerves usually only last for the first few minutes. Once you sense that your audience is responding to your presentation, you'll realize that the focus is on the subject matter, not you.

The following tips should also help you through a case of public speaking jitters:

  • Know your material.  
    Try to avoid getting in the situation of giving a speech or presentation on unfamiliar subject matter. If you know your stuff, you'll get past the few minutes of nervousness once the facts you so carefully studied come to your aid.

  • Relax.  
    Take a deep breath and don't rush yourself. Unless you're participating in a timed debate, there's no need to deliver your speech or presentation at break-neck speed.

  • Don't mention it.  
    Don't tell your audience about your case of nerves. They probably didn't notice it and if you mention something, you'll be alerting them to the fact that you're less than at ease.

  • Get more experience.  
    Try to practice public speaking, in small and large forums, as often as possible. For example, you might practice in front of the mirror or your family. Or, better yet, make it a regular event to speak to your staff. This will give you the confidence of speaking to an audience while in a familiar setting.