Communication skills are one of the top ten skill sets that employers want you to have, and speaking is an important part of this. Often people think this means they have to be an incredible public speaker, but in fact having good “speaking skills” doesn’t only involve giving big speeches.
This element of communication is really all about how you can get your message across. This can range from one-on-one conversations to giving big presentations to large groups of people. What employers really want to see is that you can formulate a logical idea and express this clearly to others.
It may also include an element of how persuasively you can speak if you are looking to be employed in a sales role. In this situation, employers will be looking to see if you can change people’s minds and get them to act in a certain way.
If you need to participate in one-on-one or group conversations employers will want to see that you can ask the right questions to get the information you need. They will want you to be able to positively represent them when meeting new clients or customers, deliver effective presentations or possibly pitch their business or products to potential investors.
Speaking skills on your job
You can demonstrate your speaking skills to employers if you’ve ever given presentations or participated in a group. Try to think of any times when you’ve communicated information in a spoken form, even if this was only to one other person or to a small group. If you have had any jobs where you have worked in a hospitality or service role this can also evidence that you have speaking skills.
Although many of us find it hard to speak in public, it can be impressive if you are confident and engaging when giving presentations, just because there are so few people that feel positive about doing this. Unfortunately, the only way to become more confident is to practice at every given opportunity! So volunteer yourself whatever the situation and throw yourself in the deep-end.
If you have to make a presentation or speech during your studies, get a friend to film it. Seeing yourself on film is a fantastic way to see what mistakes you are making and how you can improve your delivery (even if it is a little bit embarrassing watching yourself). Make a note of any movements you make repeatedly if you are using a lot of filler words (“umm” “err” etc.) and if you are speaking too slowly or too quickly.
How to practice and improve
If you’re really committed to improving in this area considering signing up for a Toastmasters Club. Toastmasters is an international group dedicated to helping people improve their public speaking and communication skills.
Members write and give speeches of varying length and then offer constructive critical feedback. It might be intimidating to give your first speech but thousands of people say the Toastmasters group has given them not only a massive confidence boost with their public speaking but helped them to excel in many other areas of their lives.
For more inspiration on how to boost your speaking skills have a look at these Ted Talks: "How to speak so people want to listen" by Julian Treasure, "How great leaders inspire action" by Simon Sinek, "The secret structure of great talks" by Nancy Duarte and "The danger of silence" by Clint Smith.
Or, if you really struggle with public speaking check out these Ted Talks to hear from others who battled with stage fright or stutters to learn how they overcame their fears: "Why I live in dread of public speaking" by Megan Washington and "How I beat stage fright" by Joe Kowan.
Here are some quick hacks for instantly improving your spoken communication:
- Prepare as much as possible. The more you have prepared and practiced, the more confident you will feel.
- Most people end up speaking a little faster when they become nervous, and in general it’s always better to speak more slowly. Try to be conscious of your pace and speak slower than you normally would.
- Keep breathing! When we feel nervous we often begin taking short and shallow breaths which in turn increases our heart rate making us feel even more nervous. Try to remain conscious of your breathing and take deep, slow breaths to calm yourself down.
- Try to make eye contact with your audience by moving your gaze around the room and focusing on one person at a time.