When you hear the word “speech” or “presentation”, do you cringe with anxiety or get a major rush of adrenaline? Well, if you thought the later, you’re in the right business. Public speaking might be America’s number one fear, but it doesn’t have to be yours, and that’s where I come in (but I’ll get to that in a bit). Most young people think that PR is a cool field to be in, and that they’ll make a lot of great connections. Yes, this is true. But what many people often forget is that public relations is much more than just e-mailing out a press release. It is being the public face of an organization, too. That means you’ll be the person who may get called upon to do crisis management, press conferences, and other types of presentations that will require you to look and sound your best. Today I’ll give you my three best tips that will help any young PR professional to do just that.
Before I tell you the good stuff, I’ll briefly mention why I’m telling you this in the first place. For the past six years, I’ve taught hundreds of college students how to be confident in front of an audience of any size. Although they would prefer to be behind the scenes sending out press releases, tweets, and texts, I’ve helped them to realize the value of being a strong, confident speaker. My years as a professor made me see that public speaking needs to go well beyond the classroom, and that those skills are vital in the real world. Today, I coach many different clients on public speaking so that they’re prepared to answer impromptu questions at the office, a job interview, or put together a last minute speech for any occasion. Now let me tell you three tips for how to stay up on those public speaking skills you too may have forgotten from years ago in a college classroom.
1. JOIN TOASTMASTERS. Every communications professional should not only know what Toastmasters is, but they should most definitely be a member as well. This invaluable public speaking organization not only looks great on your resume, but will also help you to stay fresh on your public speaking skills by continually practicing the art of giving speeches and short, impromptu talks on a variety of subjects. You can find a local chapter near you (they’re everywhere!), and enjoy attending meetings where you’ll be greeted by smiling faces who are all seeking to improve their communication and leadership skills just like you. And unlike a college classroom, there are no grades so you can feel at ease knowing you’re in a positive environment, free from ridicule or judgment. Trust me, you’ll love being a member just like I do.
2. PRACTICE. If joining Toastmasters isn’t something you have the time or money for, that’s ok, but you still need to devote time towards practicing public speaking. This can be done by making a keyword outline for a speech and recording yourself delivering it extemporaneously (that means not reading a word-for-word manuscript—anyone can do that). Watch your eye contact, gestures, and of course listen for those annoying vocal fillers like “Umm”, “Uhh”, “Like” and “Ya Know”. Chances are you’ll quickly see and hear your own mistakes and want to keep practicing until you look and sound more professional. You won’t be taken seriously if every other word out of your mouth is “umm” or “like”. It’s time to sharpen up your speaking skills and talk your way to the top.
3. EMBRACE SPEAKING. When you join a networking group, take on a leadership role that will allow you to stand up and speak, even if you’re just giving a short officer’s report. Change your mindset from cowardly to confident, and you’ll gain the respect of everyone around you. In public relations, you can’t be afraid to use your voice, so embracing every possible opportunity to speak is really important for your career. Answering a question, even over the phone, with, “Well umm, yeah, this event is like going to be great and umm, everyone is like, really going to have a good time… ya know what I mean?”, will kill your credibility in an instant. So focus on your words and always be ready to speak up with clarity and intelligence. The more you do it, the easier it becomes, I promise.
My bonus piece of advice is to ask for help whenever you’re unsure. Seeking out assistance from an outside source like a communications consultant *cough cough* is only going to benefit you in the long run. A professional speaking coach will help you avoid doing a 20-minute long, embarrassing Maid of Honor speech at your best friend’s wedding, or responding to job interview questions with a terrible response such as, “Well yeah, my old boss like totally loved me ‘cause like, I always worked really hard and stuff”. You may be giggling, but it’s the truth. That’s what an alarming number of people actually sound like, and that is the kind of response that won’t get you very far at all, especially in a cut-throat field like public relations.
As you can see, the two really do go hand in hand, and staying fresh on your public speaking skills is vital to your success. Impeccable communication skills are important in every field, but as a public relations pro, you can’t afford to sound sloppy or unsure of yourself… ever! Now you’re equipped with a few tips to help you get back on your feet and an even stronger rush of adrenaline the next time you’re up at the podium. Good luck!
Nicole Pace, M.A. is a Professional Public Speaking Coach and Independent Communications Consultant with more than a decade of industry experience. A former Professor of Communication studies at three major colleges in New Jersey, Nicole now enjoys working one on one with a variety of clients on their individual communications needs. Nicole has worked in the advertising, marketing, education, nightlife, and financial industries. To contact Nicole visit her website at www.changeofpace.biz, follow her on Twitter @CommCoachPace, or like her on Facebook.
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