Even after twenty years in business, I still find my palms starting to sweat before a big meeting. What I learnt early on in my entrepreneurial career is that public speaking is a critical skill for business leaders. It’s not enough to just have the technical skills – to be a strong and inspiring leader, you have to be able to engage, motivate and influence any audience… but this doesn’t come naturally to all of us! Here are my top 5 reasons why investing in your public speaking skills is really worth the effort…
1. Leadership is about motivation and team building
There’s nothing more contagious than enthusiasm and passion. For a company to succeed, the whole team needs to believe in your vision and work towards achieving the goals you set, which means you have to motivate people by holding regular meetings and encouraging a sense of togetherness in the office.
As a leader you have to display strength, but also show your vulnerability to make yourself more relatable. When we hire new assistants at AVirtual, I always give a welcome talk during which I’ve been known to twerk – yes, you heard me – which is horribly humiliating, but it means we can all laugh and release some of that initial tension!
2. You’ll be marketing yourself – including speaking on camera…
As an entrepreneur, you’re not only marketing your businesses, but yourself. You need people to trust you and invest in your ideas. Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to create an online video in which you’re talking about your business, attend industry fairs to meet customers or you may be invited to take part in a panel discussion or radio interview. You can’t afford to miss out on marketing opportunities because you’re nervous about your public speaking skills. Remember it’s your business, you’re the expert!
3. You’re likely to have to give investment pitches
It doesn’t matter if you have the best idea in the world, if you’re unable to convincingly sell it, it’s going nowhere! Investors invest in people, not forecasts or statistics. You can’t rely on the information to speak for itself, you have to make it come alive. It’s about looking the investors in the eye and showing them that you’re not only skilled enough to succeed, but determined to see it through in the long term.
In an e-corner podcast by the Sequoia Capital Chairman, Michael Moritz claims to look for people who are “obsessed” with what they’re doing. So practise your pitch, but don’t worry about reciting every line word for word, just concentrate on your passion. Make them believe it.
4. There’s no escaping it, we all have to make sales calls
In the early stages of setting up a business, you’ll have to take sales calls yourself and even later on, you may still find it useful to occasionally speak directly to clients. Whilst you’re not face to face with the person, they’ll be able to sense your mood and enthusiasm over the phone. It’s important to be able convey your passion for the product or services through how you use your voice, but also to build enough rapport make the customer feel that you understand their individual concerns and desires.
Recently, I’ve started using a stand up desk and a headpiece so that I can take calls whilst I’m walking around the office. I find that it helps me to be more dynamic and animated when I’m speaking.
5. You’ll be speaking at business conferences and events
How you speak in public is even more important outside your company than inside. Your skills will be under the scrutiny of industry experts, potential partners, competitors and the media. You are showcasing your company to the outside world.
I try to attend as many conferences as I can every year, as they’re valuable opportunities to learn and network. Even if I’m not the one speaking, I force myself to ask questions and make a point of approaching people afterwards.
This article was written by Richard Walton, the Founder of AVirtual, a company that provides virtual assistants to small business, entrepreneurs and start-ups. He is regularly featured in the press talking about topics such as work-life balance, productivity and how to work with a virtual assistant.
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