You have a terrific idea for making an improvement to how your team manages projects. It will save a lot of time and eliminate a lot of unnecessary emails. You have to pitch the idea to the three project managers you work with daily, then you have to pitch it to your executive. Could you do it?
Your boss is running late. He calls and asks you to kick off the weekly staff meeting without him. Are you up for the challenge?
Public speaking is more than standing up and talking to a roomful of people. As an administrative professional, you need to be able to pitch projects to your executive, as well as articulate points to your team in both one-on-one and group situations. It’s natural to be nervous and, as a result, become tongue-tied while you fumble for your notes. If you’re not the best public speaker, don’t worry! It’s something that a lot of admins struggle with. However, there are some specific things you can do to develop and refine your skills and become an exceptional public speaker!
Understanding the Importance of Public Speaking Skills for Admins
Public speaking is vital to becoming a value-added, innovative admin. If you want to pitch your ideas and suggestions for improvements to projects and systems at the office, you must get comfortable with public speaking and work to continually improve your abilities. When an executive hires an admin, he or she is looking for someone with exceptional communication and leadership skills as well as confidence. You need to be able to stand in for executives at meetings, represent them at internal and external events, and handle phone calls and other key duties — all of which require a healthy level of experience and comfort with public speaking.
When you are unable to speak up and coherently share your ideas and input with others, you will likely be overlooked for recognition, promotions, and special project assignments. Poor communication skills hurt your perceived level of competence with those you work the closest with. You aren’t as confident in your role when you know your communication skills are lacking. If you want to take your career to the next level in one strategic move, develop your public speaking skills.
Developing Your Public Speaking Skills
There are a number of proactive, unconventional, and even fun ways you can improve your public speaking abilities. Some of these might not work for you, others might be perfect. Regardless, it’s important to experiment and find out what works best for you in order to develop and improve your public speaking skills. The following are a few effective strategies to try.
1. Think of public speaking from a fresh perspective. When people think of “public speaking,” they often imagine large groups with all eyes glued on them, which can be nerve wrecking. Yet, face-to-face interactions with your executives and team members are just as important as a crowded room. Don’t think of public speaking as a group of 200 or even 20 people. Envision it in terms of one or two people, then work your way up to five, 10, and then 15 or 20 people.
2. Take speech and writing classes at your local community college. Strong writing skills will help you develop solid speaking skills. College-level classes teach you how to articulate yourself in both arenas. Check out local options and enroll. Depending on your company’s benefits, you may even be able to get tuition reimbursement.
3. Complete a two-year public speaking certificate via Toastmasters. Toastmasters International is a worldwide program to develop communication and leadership skills. Go to toastmasters.org to learn more about their two-year public speaking certificate.
4. Become a tour guide. Volunteer to give company tours to visiting executives and new employees. You’ll need to memorize facts and statistics about your organization and then be able to recite them on the spot. At first, you may want to use notecards, but the more tours you give, the less you’ll need them…and the more confidence you’ll gain. You’ll also increase your exposure throughout your company, which is an added benefit. If opportunities like this don’t exist at your company, search for local historical attractions or educational institutions that may be looking for volunteers to give guided tours of their facilities throughout the year.
5. Join professional associations and get involved. A great place to learn how to get comfortable with public speaking is through professional association membership and committee involvement. Search for profession focused associations or philanthropic groups in your area. Find a local chapter to get involved with and nurture your public speaking skills in a supportive, non-threatening environment. There will most likely be committees within the association that you can join, and you may be able to work your way into leadership positions on the board of directors. You’ll not only improve your verbal finesse, but you’ll also gain visibility in your professional networks, which could lead to future job opportunities. Explore groups you might enjoy and get involved!
6. Volunteer to lead charity drives. Is your company involved in any charitable fundraising events? Volunteer to help or become a project coordinator. This gives you valuable experience in preparing for and leading meetings, managing projects, and working with diverse teams. The one-on-one and group interactions will give you a lot of opportunities to get more comfortable with public speaking.
7. Attend conferences, webinars, teleseminars, and training seminars for professional development. Whether through your company or elsewhere, sign up for some communication training. It’s worth the cost to invest in yourself and your career. There are low-cost or no-cost options, you just have to take the time to find them. Search for options offered by national training companies, regional or local community colleges, and online training via webinars and teleseminars. Use social media to proactively follow and stay connected to the training being offered on communication topics.
8. Read books on workplace communication. A few excellent ones are Crucial Conversations, Type Talk at Work, StrengthsFinder 2.0, and Yes You Can! You may also benefit from the timeless training of Dale Carnegie both in print and online. Download these free Dale Carnegie e-books to get started.
9. Consider selling something. Nowadays, there are a lot of ways you can make some money selling something you enjoy through in-home parties — everything from Tupperware to jewelry to greeting cards to kid’s clothes. Becoming a sales consultant for one of these companies may earn you a little extra money, but more importantly, they’ll also help you learn to present and speak to an audience. It’s invaluable training. Don’t let the idea of “selling” something frighten you. If you find a product you love and learn it in detail, sharing it with others will be natural. Keep in mind, you’re not doing this to make a living (although it can be a great way to earn some side cash), but as a fun way to boost your communication skills.
10. Practice. Practice. Practice. Before a job interview, practice answering questions. Prior to an important conversation with your boss, rehearse your talking points. Ask a friend, mentor, or coach to practice with you and give you productive feedback on what you can refine. You can even record yourself speaking. This will show you how you look and sound to others and will help you figure out what you can do to improve. Yes, it might make you cringe, but it’s a fundamental tool to help yourself gain ground in this important area of your professional development.
Honing your Public Speaking Skills is Vital
The art of public speaking is just that…an art! It involves practice and finesse and learning how your body language and cues impact others. It’s more than talking; it requires cultivating exceptional listening skills. To get started, pick one or two strategies outlined here and give them a try. After you gain a level of comfort with them, pick a couple more. Becoming a better public speaker doesn’t magically happen. Success comes to those who do the work. Choose to become a better communicator, and you’ll gain more influence as an assistant and be seen as the value-added, innovative admin that you are!
This article first appeared in Executive Support Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at www.executivesupportmagazine.