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#997: Improve Your Speaking Ability

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 2, 2009
As a consultant, I have been giving speeches and briefings for more than 30 years and considered myself pretty good in front of a group. I recently joined Toastmasters after discounting it for years as unnecessary. It is one the best things I have ever done for my consulting career.

I am not sure what you are asking, but your point is a great one. As consultants, we are committed to being able to express ourselves well in writing and orally. However, talking your way through a briefing is not the same thing as communicating effectively. To do that, you may need command of skills that don't come naturally. Compare the impact of the oratorical skills of Barack Obama or Ronald Reagan to other US presidents in their ability to convey ideas and inspire confidence. Are you grabbing your audiences or just talking at them?

There are a range of learned behaviors of effective speakers. These include knowing when to talk and when to pause, how to make eye contact, speaking to individuals vs. the entire group, effective repetition, asking questions, segmenting and structuring, chunking your message, and knowing the difference between preparation and practicing. These skills are not just for platform speaking. Every encounter as a consultant demands that your message be clear, trusted, memorable, and convincing. Your delivery and style mean as much as the content of your message. If you don’t actively develop these skills, they are unlikely to come to you naturally.

Tip: There are a range of public speaking learning resources. You can read books and listen to webinars, but the best way to get better at speaking is to practice. Groups like Toastmasters are great ways to go from whatever experience level you are to being an effective and comfortable speaker. Spending time with your peers who are also trying to sort out where they are strong and where they can improve is essential to building your confidence and skills.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication 

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