Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer at SetSchedule. Resident tech guru.
As children, we learn to socialize and interact with our peers in a group setting. As we grow older, we refine our social abilities and interactions with different groups of people, whether they be family members, peers, members of our community or coworkers. Throughout our socialization, we learn of another way that we must learn to speak. It is one of the most common fears and is something that does not come naturally to many people. That is public speaking.
Recognizing public speaking as a skill.
Becoming an entrepreneur and having to be the face of a fast-growing business, you must quickly learn those things you excel at as well as those things you will need to find outside help or training. For me, public speaking is not something that came naturally. I am great at talking to people and I enjoy socializing, but eventually, I had to learn that in many ways, speaking to an audience, many of which may be completely unfamiliar with who you are or your accomplishments, is a new skill in and of itself.
Imitation is a good place to start.
When I was looking for ways to hone this skill, I came across a TEDx Talk of a monk who was giving advice on ways that people hinder themselves from reaching their full potential. I had never heard of the man, Shi Heng Yi, before, nor did I do any research to make sure his story was legitimate; however, his presentation has left a lasting impression on me since I admired the skill and ease in which he spoke to the audience.
Analyzing his speech, I noticed that the first thing he did was to deliver a personal story of how unlikely his upbringing in a monastery was. I’ve learned that sharing personal stories is an easy and effective way to put an audience at ease. While very few, if any, of the audience members would ever have the experience of being raised or trained in a monastery, there are certain human experiences that are universal like childhood curiosity or of a common struggle. These types of stories and experiences transcend cultural barriers, which is so important if you are talking to a diverse audience. Taking something specific to you and making it seem universal helps make the audience feel included and like you are one of them or a close friend.
From there, the presenter got into the meat of his presentation, but his setup was crucial to establish himself as someone who could be trusted and whose experiences the audience could relate to — even if they came from a different background.
Learn to hone the skill.
Unlike learning to socialize, where we naturally are exposed to years worth of practice, public speaking is something where opportunities must be sought out, or in some cases, thrust upon us.
After asking someone to give me critiques on my public speaking, I learned that while speaking quickly is great in one-on-one conversation and in keeping someone’s attention fixed, for a public speaking setting, I needed to slow down and be deliberate with my words. Slowing down enables those listening to feel more at ease and also gives them time to digest the information you are trying to convey. While it felt unnatural, especially at first, being able to see a positive audience feedback as I developed this skill helped me develop my own style. Over time, with practice, you can grow more confident in this skill.
As entrepreneurs and business leaders, one of the most important skills is being able to recognize and develop the changing set of skills that come along with the job title. Honing your public speaking skills will not only help you speak to and motivate large groups of people within your organization, but it will also help you share your expertise with those outside your network. As you continue on your journey to perfecting your public speaking skills, it can at times seem dizzying, but as an entrepreneur, it’s important to seek new opportunities for personal growth.