Manner of Speaking: Speaking of Business
Entrepreneurs know the value of effective communication.
By Janelle Thomas, CC
Public speaking isn’t a requirement for all fields and professions. However, entrepreneurs don’t have a choice in the matter: A vital part of business development is the ability to speak to others about your products and services. Obtaining this skill early can make the difference between growing your business from the start and struggling to get the venture off the ground.
When Khamil L. Ojoyo joined Toastmasters in Jacksonville, Florida, learning how to build his brand-new contracting business wasn’t his primary concern. What he really wanted was to conquer his tremendous fear of public speaking. When he did so, Ojoyo quickly noticed the positive effect it had on his efforts to obtain clients.
“I remember overcoming the fear of standing before civic groups, churches and professional businesses and boldly introducing my business to the public,” he says. “Each time I stood and introduced my business, I noticed that my confidence increased and my customer base broadened.”
The bigger your business, the more you will have to talk to your employees, address other executives, give presentations and persuade people to do business with your company. If you can’t do that when starting out, you’ll never be able to convince potential clients that you can do the job.
“You may be the best at what you do, but if no one has the opportunity to hear you, they may never know [your expertise], and will fail to consider you for oppor- tunities,” says Jennifer Springer, owner of Insight Consulting LLC in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Springer says when you improve your public speaking, it allows people to get to know you and seek you out for opinions and consultation. Her assessment comes from 15 years of organizing and leading vendors in best business practices and negotiating multi-million-dollar merchandise agreements. Unfortunately, the social aspect of corporate America is rarely discussed before one enters an industry. The ability to network appears to be an inherent skill, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted: Business owners often find clients through their relationships. Thus, the ability to relate and interact with others can prove vital to successfully navigating the business world.
When Ted Liu migrated to the United States nearly two years ago, public speaking was not his only hurdle. He lacked confidence in his overall communication skills. So one of the first things he did was look for ways to improve them. The University of California, Irvine, student found the help he needed through Toastmasters.
“English is not my native language,” says the Taiwan native. “To increase my command of English, I was looking for educational opportunities. Upon first visiting a Toastmasters club, I knew this organization was a perfect fit for me.”
Liu, who plans to become an accountant, quickly learned that improving his public speaking skills had an immediate and direct effect on his interpersonal skills. As a result of Toastmasters’ organized structure and opportunity for continual practice, he says he’s now much more secure in his ability to relate to others and reach his professional dreams. “Toastmasters has taught me that people are not born with great communication skills – some people might be better at it than others, but to really become good at it, one needs to practice, practice and practice.”
There’s a direct correlation between public speaking and leadership skills. “If you present yourself well during a public speaking engagement, you will increase your trust factor with others,” says Springer. “Effective leadership requires a lot of trust from the people you are guiding – it’s hard for people to trust you if you have difficulty communicating.”
Once people trust you, it’s easier to establish credibility through communicating your expertise. It’s not always possible to find people who will help you toot your own horn, so learning how to speak gracefully of your own abilities and accomplishments is crucial when convincing people to have faith in your leadership.
Ted Liu and Khamil Ojoyo credit their success to improving their speaking skills. “I am proud to say that I have been in business for 28 wonderful years,” says Ojoyo. “My Toastmasters training has afforded me the skills of listening, speaking and thinking effectively. The speaking skills that I have learned have contributed greatly to my longevity as an entrepreneur.”
Adds Liu: “Being able to com- municate my ideas effectively and confidently to other people is one of the most joyful things in life, and thanks to Toastmasters, I know that there is always room to still improve my communication skills.”
Janelle Thomas, CC, is a member of the Lillian R. Bradley Toastmasters club in Jacksonville, Florida. She is the editor and publisher of Entertainment Wire, an online entertainment media site. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.