Notice how the article is titled “Benefits of learning public speaking skills”, and not “Benefits of public speaking skills”? That is not by mistake. I am going to share with you today what you can get from the process of learning this skill.
We all know the benefits of being a great public speaker. But it is precisely that perception of the outcome that holds many people (especially the people from other cultures and non-native speakers of a language) back from jumping into learning it. They are either overwhelmed by the thought of being that extrovert, persuasive type of speaker, or they just don’t see the benefit of it in day to day life.
What if I tell you, that the gold is not in the outcome but in the process of learning?
Here are the two most important skills you will ever gain by learning and practicing public speaking.
It is almost a no-brainer that a person with great public speaking skills is perceived as a confident, charismatic, and even more competent.
But if you want to increase confidence from within, can this really serve as a tool to achieve that? I always thought about confidence as a byproduct of great public speaking skills. But never until a wise friend told me her experience, did I think, how it can be used as a tool to help somebody build their confidence.
You must hear the story of my friend here on how she made a conscious effort to increase her confidence. She said that there was a time when she felt comfortable in the job she was doing, but even when her boss wanted her to apply for a promotion, she hesitated. The reason? She just wasn’t sure if she will be able to carry on new, added responsibilities.
Obviously, the boss turned out to be a good mentor, forced her to apply, she did, and she succeeded at it. But then she noticed, she hesitated like that frequently, and that was holding her from reaching her full potential.
What did she do?
She chose to put herself in situations that make her uncomfortable, put her outside her comfort zone, and try her limits. She chose to develop public speaking skills because she is an introvert, and hardly gave any presentations willingly so this would be challenging for her.
“Ever since then”, she told me, “I always felt comfortable in trying out something new even though I don’t think I can do it because as I look back, I see evidence of so many techniques that I would have never tried, but did anyway, and now I use them without effort when I speak.”
Such a level of learned comfort in face of uncertainty translates into her travelling to new places, trying unfamiliar food, and being open to different cultural norms.
If you see her before (2010) and after (2015), you, too, will notice the transition. She is polished – not just her presence but also in expressing her ideas. As I told her, she always seemed competent in what she does, but now she seems to own it with pride making it easier for others to notice it without effort.
What’s confidence after all? It’s doing something over and over again, failing so many times that you feel in control of knowing how not to fail.
Learning to speak in public can provide you such opportunities to try new techniques, fail, and succeed which in turn will build your confidence over time.
Can you imagine how much trial and error it takes to understand what works with an audience? Any audience is made up of such diverse individuals that there are only a few foundational techniques that can be written off as “Dos” and “Don’ts”. The rest of it comes through practice, experimenting over and over again, failing more than succeeding, and then analyzing what sticks and what’s a waste of audience’s time.
But every time you put yourself out there and try something new, you cannot worry about if people will laugh, if they will think you don’t know your material, or that they will find it boring. Because trust me, without those experiments, there is no learning.
What happens in the process? You just learn not to be bothered by people who are neither experimenting on their skills nor helping you in your quest. And that my friend is what we call, “Resilience”.
This is such a vital skill in moving through life. Those that worry too much about what others think of them can never get anywhere. But those that are experimenting, are learning either how not to fail or how to succeed. In either case, they are moving forward.
Before you know, they are presenting the annual report in front of the CEO while others are not even called upon to answer questions in Q & A.
Now you may ask if learning some other skill can provide you the same benefits. The answer is yes, but not with this much intensity. Why? The instant feedback in public speaking is like resilience building on steroid. You share a joke, audience doesn’t laugh, do you stop talking? No, you just keep going. Very few skills can provide you this instant feedback e.g. acting and performing. But if you are not cut out for those, you can get the same effect in learning how to speak in public.
One of my favorite YouTubers – Lilly Singh, more popularly known as IISuperwomanII – started out by making YouTube videos because that seemed to be helping her get out of depression. As she got better and better in her art of humorously speaking, she saw totally overwhelming response to her experiments. She never expected that her experiments in performing will be so hit. She also noticed that for 1 bad comment she receives, there are 100 positive, encouraging responses. Slowly she learned how to overcome the hurt from those negative comments.
Now, 4-5 years later, she is on a world tour presenting her own shows!
Where are the haters now? Who knows, and who cares! The point here is that if you keep at bettering your public speaking skills through experimenting and failing, you will have no choice but to develop a thick skin. And that my friend, comes handy in life.
So now that you know these benefits of learning public speaking, where can you learn it?
1. DIY approach
Accept any opportunities to present at work or in the community. Better yet, volunteer for those. Not many people do it willingly, so you have an advantage there. 😉
Then find at least one trustworthy ally who will hear you present, who can provide you gentle, encouraging, but also accurate feedback on how you do. Give them a list of specific questions beforehand on the areas you want to improve in so that they have some structure to comment on.
If you cannot find a friend, and if the place allows for it, record a video or at least, audio. You can be your own critique but it can be hard to remain objective, and not be too sensitive. E.g. You may hate your voice but others may not. You will never know that unless you hear it from somebody else.
Both the DIY methods have their shortcomings but if you are not doing anything else, at least do this much.
2. Public Speaking Courses
There are classes and courses offered by professional trainers. These can be a great help in knowing what to learn. When you are just starting out, you don’t even know what to practice, what to watch out for, and what other techniques may work better.
If you Google this, you will come across many courses offered online or in your area. If you know the teacher already, great! If not, read the reviews to find out their teaching style or the details of the program.
Here is the caveat – such a course is a great tool when combined with practice. When it comes to public speaking, the best impact is achieved with practice. So combine what you learn with the DIY approach or join a Toastmasters club, and you will reap the most benefits.
3. Toastmasters International
If you follow me on Facebook, have read some of my previous posts, you know how much I love this organization! Mind you, I don’t get a single dime when I praise them. I have just lived it!
In Toastmasters, you get the practice, learn from fellow speakers, as well as receive feedback from them in a supportive and encouraging manner. Over time, this plays a huge role in developing confidence and resilience.
Just visit a local club to see what it is all about. Then if you feel, this is not the right thing for you, you can always decide not to join. But at least check it out for sure.
The only shortcoming I can think of this approach, is if you want to get a quick head start on the basics, or prepare for a conference presentation that is in a few months. In such cases, you can start with a public speaking course, and use Toastmasters for practicing. That’s a great combo.
Whichever way you chose to do it, you are going to see your confidence and resilience building up. So why wait? Go for it!
Now it’s your turn:
Share in the comments, what you have learned from practicing public speaking skills? Or if you haven’t practiced it, tell me what keeps you away from it?
Share this post with friends and colleagues who will benefit from this. You may just be pushing them in taking an action in the right direction. 🙂
And yes, if you want to consciously work on increasing your confidence like my friend did check out this article. It will help you: How to develop confidence – 7 habits to cultivate.