The Authenticity Guide founder and CEO Julia Wuench on career advice for young professionals.
Speaking in professional environments can be daunting, especially for beginners in the workforce. At the same time, you can be further into your career but uncomfortable starting at a new company.
Though a workforce veteran, you may find it intimidating to introduce yourself in large groups, give speeches or be vocal about necessary changes as the newcomer.
Whether you're offering a company-wide speech, introducing yourself one-on-one or participating in a team building activity, having strong professional speaking skills will get you ahead and get points across.
Here are some tips to achieve A+ professional speaking skills.
There are going to be many instances throughout your career – to pitch an idea, give a formal presentation or participate in an interview – when you are going to have to talk in front of your peers and management. (iStock / iStock)
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- Practice on your own
- Prepare, prepare, prepare
- Watch public speakers you admire
- Maintain eye contact
- Record and learn from yourself
- Practice good voice control
- Radiate confidence
1. Practice on your own
If you're truly nervous about public speaking, one of the best ways to get comfortable with it is to practice on your own. While it may feel like child's play to talk to yourself aloud, the method works.
Practicing a speech before it happens will allow you to understand and alter your body language, make necessary changes to your speech and prepare your mind for what you'll look like in front of others. Often, the most intimidating part of public speaking is standing on a stage alone. Get used to the idea by envisioning yourself on stage while in an empty room.
Ahead of meeting with a boss, employee or major stakeholder, prepare points you'd like to discuss and discuss them aloud to yourself. This will help you choose whether the structure of the conversation flows well and develops a point.
Additionally, include your spouse, family member, roommate, neighbor or anyone who is willing to listen once you feel comfortable by yourself. This will allow you to become comfortable in front of another person and receive feedback on your topics.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
For any type of professional discussion, you'll want to prepare. Whether it's a 30-minute meeting with your manager or an eight-hour event you'll be speaking at, you'll need to prepare. Anytime people are taking time out of their schedule to meet with you professionally should begin with preparation. Your time is valuable, as is theirs, and you won't want to waste either parties time.
However, the level in which you prepare will vary depending upon the type of conversation or meeting you're to have. For example, if you're meeting with a coworker, piece together a simple agenda ahead of the call. In doing so, you'll have a plan in place for the flow of discussion. If you're both professionals when it comes to planning ahead, you'll each have an outline and the meeting will be full of constructive insights.
For something more grand like an event you're giving a speech at, you'll want to prepare something much more extensive. Create an outline and provide yourself a flow for topics. For example, if you're attending a financial planning seminar and speaking on 401k plans, begin with defining a 401k, employee contributions, company contributions, penalties, etc.
How detailed you dive into each section will depend on factors like the timeframe set aside for your speech, questions from the audience, etc.
Even if you are working from home, professional speaking skills during all of your meetings are a necessary skill to have. (iStock / iStock)
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3. Watch public speakers you admire
Watching and listening to other professionals is a great way to learn from them. Often, other professionals will discuss successes and failures from the past. Ideally, you'll learn from these instances without having to experience the same failures.
Put together a list of your favorite professionals in or out of your chosen industry. Success and failure stories happen to everyone, not just those on the same career path as you. So, you could benefit from hearing from others outside your industry.
Find podcasts, videos, seminars, etc. they've produced and listen in. Take note of their body language like hand gestures, tone of voice, eye contact, how they involve or interact with a crowd and how they introduce themselves. Then, take note of your gestures in the same way and try to mirror the ones you prefer.
4. Maintain eye contact
When talking to someone one-on-one or in a group, make sure you are making eye contact while you are speaking. This is both respectful and professional. It also shows confidence in what you are saying.
During an event where you are speaking to a crowd of people, be sure to take a look around the room as a whole and try to make eye contact here and there with audience members. Acknowledging the entire room vs just a section of it will be important to keep your audience engaged.
5. Record and learn from yourself
Learning from others is great, but be aware of the lessons you can learn from yourself, too.
Record yourself speaking and take a look at the video once you've finished your speech. Pay attention to your eye moment and your focus on the entirety of the room, your hand gestures and your tone of voice.
Is your voice shaking or confident? Are you fidgeting with your fingers? Are you nervously combing through your hair or playing with an object?
You'll be able to relay quite a bit to yourself by recording your preparation.
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Before giving a presentation or having an important conversation, practice and prepare before the day. (iStock / iStock)
6. Practice good voice control
Though speaking in a professional environment can be nerve-racking, you'll want to appear confident with the tone of your voice. If you are giving a speech, asking your boss for a raise or pitching an idea to a superior, a quiet voice, constant use of filler words and a nervous tone won't deliver confidence.
You can develop good voice control by practicing speaking skills yourself or with other people. The more you practice, the better you will become. Take deep breaths before speaking, speak slow and gather thoughts before vocalizing them and prepare your mind ahead of time.
7. Radiate confidence
Be confident! Know your worth, pull from your strengths and be confident in the message you want to deliver.
If you aren't confident in yourself, you'll find challenges in getting superiors or coworkers on board with your message. As you continue your career or force yourself to professionally speak more often, you'll become more confident with time. Make sure to make yourself uncomfortable.