Can speaking skills boost your career? We all know that the answer we are supposed to give is “yes.” But do we always act that way?
All too often I have heard speakers whose presentation style suggests they think that only their content matters. Their speaking style sounds more like blah-blah-blah. And their speech organization has more twists and turns than a steep mountain road. Are they right? Does only content matter?
If you are someone who is happy staying in your current job for the long term, that style of presentation could be fine. But if you have higher career aspirations, if you want to grow and advance in some sense, then presentation skills are very important, and can be critical.
If you have those aspirations, what are your communication objectives? First, you want your listeners to actually listen to you, to pay attention to you, to hear and understand what you have to say. Second, you want them to have confidence in you and trust in your content. And third, you want them to earmark you for future consideration of some sort, perhaps a promotion or a bigger project.
That being said, let me give you three thoughts to ponder as you prepare your next presentation.
First, communication is an important part of business. The better you are at clearly and persuasively communicating your message, the better you will do. And the higher up you go in the organization, the more important that skill is.
Will management commit funds to your project if you can’t explain and sell it effectively? Probably not.
Will they give you greater responsibility within the company? Not likely.
Second, as you walk to the front of the room to present to your boss or, perhaps, the executive team, what do you want them to be thinking? “Oh, good! This should be a great presentation!” Or “Oh, no. Not him again.”
The better you are at clearly and persuasively communicating your message, the better you will do in business.
Remember, they can’t hear what you have to say if they aren’t paying attention. If you are known as a boring presenter, you may have lost before you even begin. I can’t tell you how many presentations I have heard that, although they contained information I wanted, were so poorly organized or presented that I just couldn’t stand to listen. And over time, I didn’t even try. Fortunately, I had my cell phone with an email app, so the time wasn’t wasted for me. But was it for the presenter?
Third, your listeners are gauging your competence.
Who might be assessing your skills? Executives, customers, investors, or even managers in other departments. What questions might they be asking? “Does it sound like you know what you are talking about? Does it sound like you have the ability to do what you committed to? Will working with you help or hurt my career?”
Recognize you have competitors in every situation. Usually your coworkers. Some of them are going for the next big promotion, the one you really, really want, and only one of you is going to get it. Or they could be going for more influence with management. There is, after all, a pecking order in every organization.
That competition for influence could possibly extend across department lines. Do sales and operations have different priorities from time to time? They frequently are on different sides of an issue, aren’t they? Who gets the resources? Marketing versus sales is another classic rivalry. Then let’s throw quality control into the mix just for fun.
How well you communicate your message may well determine how you (and your boss) fare in those situations.
Then again, that political battle may be taking place several levels above you between executives. They have the same objectives that you do, albeit at a different level. Yet how well you communicate your message may have an impact on how that battle turns out. And that could very well influence your professional future. Those executives are, after all, potential gatekeepers in your career.
In other words, every time you speak or present, you are involved in a competition. You may be competing for a green light. You may be competing for future consideration. And you are definitely competing for your listeners’ attention.
While your content is important, how well you communicate that content is also a key factor in your success.
So, can speaking skills boost your career? You bet they can. By all means, make the most of them.
Bill Brown, DTM is a speech delivery coach in Gillette, Wyoming. He is a member of Energy Capital Toastmasters in Gillette. Learn more at billbrownspeechcoach.com.
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