According to Dave McGinn of the Globe and Mail, more young professionals are being asked to make presentations and are expected to speak in board meetings. But for a generation where all the communication rules have been broken, it’s harder than ever. Many young people are finding the transition from student to professional difficult whether having the ability writing clear emails and reports, possessing strong listening skills or being able to make a presentation in front of a group. And with the job market so lean, communication skills are integral to having a fantastic interview and landing a job. Since public speaking takes practice, like playing the piano or swimming, beginning to improve your communication aptitude at an early age will establish you as a proficient speaker.
- Confidence: The great adage ‘Fake It Till You Make It” may get you through the doors, but genuine confidence comes from being honest with yourself. What makes you a truly unique person? What do you do best? How can you communicate your self-assurance through your voice and body language?
- Listening: It’s difficult to cut the clutter from our minds and distractions in our environments to create a space for listening. Attentive listening is one of the most essential skills to communication because it allows you to pinpoint the needs, issues and concerns of your audience, boss or co-workers. How will you be able to offer a solution if you don’t understand the problem clearly? Take time to focus on whoever is speaking and consider their tone, body language and the words they are saying. Ask questions to show you are paying attention and to clarify the most important elements of the conversation.
- Fillers: So… you know, like, that person who talks like this at work? Using slang and like, fillers, those uh… words and sounds that you use to pause in a sentence… they um, make you look stupid. As a young professional, act professional and sound as smart as you are. It’s difficult to eliminate these in the workplace as every other environment is full of “valley girl speak”. Begin to notice when you, your friends or family members use words including “like”, “um” and “so”. Once you see how many times those words tumble from your mouth, you’ll think twice before using them at work. For more about eliminating vocal fillers read this.
- Be Comfortable: It seems like a lot to ask, especially in a high stress job, but work on being comfortable communicating your ideas to others. Know what you are saying. Take time to research and prepare for presentations and meetings. Try weaving stories into your presentations – it’s easier to talk about something you know well and helps your personality shine through. Practice speaking in front of groups whenever you can from toasts at family parties to introducing speakers at community events. When you are comfortable speaking your audience trusts you, which in turn makes you a more credible and memorable speaker.
- Ask for Help: People have a hard time asking for help because they don’t know what to ask for. If you are feeling anxious about speaking, stumble over your words or get lost in the middle of a presentation, it’s okay to ask for help. Speak to a mentor or visit a public speaking coach. Release Your Voice is a great place to start.
Don’t forget the goal is to be an engaging and influential speaker at every age and stage in your career.