How and Why Engineers Can Vastly Improve Their Public Speaking Skills

How and Why Engineers Can Vastly Improve Their Public Speaking Skills

“There are only two types of speakers in the world. The nervous and the liars.” ~ Mark Twain

Glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking, is believed to affect up to 75% of the population. It’s not easy to overcome for many of us. That’s okay. If this is you, start where you are.

But the myth that some people are just “born” to be speakers and communicators is simply not true. Public speaking is something that can be developed with intention, practice, and the right support to help you improve.

Communicate Beyond the Stage

“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” ~ Brain Tracy

Don’t overcomplicate what public speaking is about. It’s simply about conveying an idea or message to others.

Public speaking, in the end, comes down to communication in many different scenarios. It’s not just about times when you are up on a stage speaking for a crowd (although that can be part of it).

Here are situations you might not normally consider, but utilize public speaking skills:

  • Team meetings
  • Performance reviews
  • Job interviews
  • Collaborating with team members
  • Brainstorming

Sometimes you have time to prepare, and sometimes you are asked to share ideas/opinions on the spot.

No matter the situation, you want to engage with confidence and present yourself, your company, or your ideas in the best way possible.

These are not skills to neglect!

Begin with the End in Mind

“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

There are four main purposes of public speaking opportunities:

  1. To Inform
  2. To Persuade
  3. To Encourage
  4. To Entertain

As you prepare a presentation or opportunity to share an idea, consider – what’s the purpose you are trying to accomplish? What action, if any, do you want your audience to take after you are done? What change do you want to make?

If you can “begin with the end in mind,” you can create an experience that will help you achieve your goal!

Change Your Body Language

“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.” ~ Jim Rohn

Communicating with others goes far beyond just WHAT you say, but HOW you say it and present yourself.

In fact, research suggests that 55% of what we communicate is actually done through our body language.

So it’s important to get your body primed and ready for greatness!

One way to do this is to take an expansive posture or power pose. Research done by Amy Cuddy and her colleagues, and presented in this popular TED Talk, shows that changing our body posture can literally change our hormones! These poses increased testosterone and decreased cortisol (the stress hormone).

So next time you are about to go into a stressful situation, take 2 minutes and strike your best superhero pose – you might be surprised how much it helps!

Get Out There and Speak!

The worst speech you’ll ever give, will be far better than the one you never give.” ~ Fred Miller

The hard truth is that you can’t get better at public speaking and communication without, well, speaking. 

So find ways to practice!

Volunteer to give a presentation, speak up in a meeting when you otherwise wouldn’t, or take an opportunity to reach out to someone to convey a new idea.

If you want to go even further, you can join a public speaking group like a Toastmasters club to get regular practice and supportive feedback in a safe environment.

Accelerate Your Career

If you’re ready to accelerate your career and leadership further and want some help doing it, here are a few ways I can help when you’re ready:

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