Do you know that the number one fear that people face is the fear of public speaking? This is followed by death at number two. Oddly enough, you can therefore conclude that at a funeral, more people would rather be in the casket, than on the stage giving the eulogy – Jerry Seinfeld.
Public speaking is a skill that should be practiced by business professionals every chance they get. From a podcast or radio show to a workshop or large venue, this skill will advance one’s business when used effectively.
I have always believed that great speakers have a natural advantage over others in leadership. A powerful commanding voice and presence coupled with inflection and timing skills puts them ahead of the crowd in terms of influence and management of others. Those with weak, soft spoken voices oftentimes have difficulty controlling the masses and lose out on business deals and opportunities. You can invest in your voice and speaking skills just as you can invest in any other area of your business and everyone has room for improvement.
I began to learn how to speak in front of others in 2004. Strangely enough, it was through stand-up comedy and I became a regular open mic’er frequenting clubs such as The Tampa Improv and Sidesplitters among others to work on the skill. Stand-up comedy taught me many things about myself and instilled in me one trait that all comedians have . . . resiliency. There is no more awkward feeling in public speaking when you stand in front of a hundred people and attempt to make them laugh, only to hear crickets. Even the best still experience bad nights on stage but they remain resilient and unafraid to go back out there.
I was on stage around 60 times throughout that year and had some good nights, many bad nights and some so-so nights but no matter how I did, the results did not phase me, I was always willing to try again.
I considered leaving Tampa to travel to New York, Chicago, or L.A. where there is much more stage time available for a comedian to practice and grow but ultimately decided against it. I got to know many working comedians then and while they enjoyed their craft, the demanding travel schedule took a toll on many of them. And while I never made that commitment to the craft, the craft gave to me resiliency and an unabashed sense of self-worth in both life and in business. Just like in comedy, you will have good days and bad days in business but you cannot fear the stage.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of watching Harland Williams perform at the Tampa Improv. Harland is an improv specialist and has appeared in many films including Rocket Man, Half-Baked, and Employee of the Month among many others. The majority of his act hinged on audience responses to his simple question – “What Do You Do?” And he is able to come up with material on the spot that is brilliant.
Improv is another area that business professionals will benefit from taking classes in. It will improve your negotiation skills and will make you more comfortable on a stage or in front of others.
However you do, public speaking is a craft that all professionals should invest in!