Public Speaking for Career Progression

Posted on September 2, 2019 in Oxford

Guest speaker Carlos Gimeno at our Public Speaking for Career Progression Event

Nerves, fear and even panic are some of the words that come to mind when we hear the term public speaking. We think of public speaking as an alien, uncomfortable, occasional occurrence to be survived. Having as distinguished ancestors as Roman rhetoric and Greek oratory has done little to bring the discipline and the skill of public speaking to the top of our priority lists. If you look around you, however, and you pay attention you will soon realize that public speaking is, actually, all around us.

In a world dominated by technology, (social) media and video content, what we say and how we say it has never been more important in our families, with our friends and, most relevant to this article, for our careers (think of the innumerable meetings, catch-ups, presentations and conferences you have taken part in). As the corporate world has grown over the last five decades to dominate our working hours, three methods of career progression have evolved alongside it: hard-work(long days, ‘zero’ inbox, charming diplomacy, unconditional obedience to managers and peers, and a disciplined approach to efficiency and results), qualifications(academic and professional, the king and queen amongst which are the Masters and the MBA) and job-hopping(jumping from one role and company onto the next in pursuit of the next salary increase and job title upgrade). All three are time and resource consuming and now even starting to decline in relevance and efficiency.

I was 27 when I started my career in the UK and it soon became clear to me that there was a fourth, much faster, more exciting,  affordable and rewarding  path towards career progression. I have practiced the discipline of public speakingfor 15 successful years and what follows is my 7-Step mini-guide on Public Speaking for Career Progression:

  • Treat every conversation at work as a mini-speech: in addition to a ruthless focus on one idea, your verbal interactions should be coated with the characteristic structure of speeches: a brief introduction stating your point, a ‘body’ with details supporting your point and a brief conclusion summarizing your point
  • Whether you are presenting or participating in a meeting, use your eyes and hands as the super-powerful communication tools they have evolved to be. Regular, meaningful and individual eye-contact is crucial to build rapport, confidence and trust and to send a signal to your audience that you are there, with them, in the present. As for your hands, bring them into your conversations and speeches when they can support, strengthen or emphasize your words; the rest of the time leave them by your side (if you are standing up) or on the table (if you are on a chair). Never hold an object (glasses, mugs, pens) while you speak or present
  • Make regular use of pauses. If you speak uninterrupted, you are going to run out of breath and so will those listening to you, and that doesn’t convey control or assurance. Making deliberate use of the power of silence will wrap you and your words with a coveted aura of ‘gravitas’
  • It doesn’t matter where you are: the canteen, the kitchen, the boardroom…; if you say something, leave your audience with a thought, an idea, a proposal, a request, a CALL TO ACTION. Without one, your words will be forgotten and so will your name when a promotion opportunity arises
  • Apply daily what I have baptized as the PPP rule: Practice, Practice, Practice. Every conversation you have at work is an opportunity to practice your public speaking skills. It may be awkward and difficult at first but after a few weeks your peers (and your bosses) will start to notice, they will start to listen and you will become known for a style that shouts elegance and substance
  • Become a ‘Storyteller In Chief’. If you apply all the above recommendations but all you are doing is sharing data, your success will be limited. If you envelop everything I have suggested so far with a story, not only you will have an audience, you will have a following and they will crave your stories
  • Pick an area that you have interest, passion and experience in and make sure that (most of) what you say evolves around it. Repetition and consistency are key on this front. In order to differentiate yourself from the dozens of competitors within your organization (and outside it) you must make clear to the world what your unique value proposition is, what your personal brand is and that starts and ends with what you say and how you say it. Brand yourself and evangelize, all the time.

And there you have it, the 7-Step public speaking method to professional glory. Before I leave you to internalize everything you have read, please, let me offer a brief summary and, yes (of course) a call to action.

Public speaking is everywhere. public speaking is a faster, easier and more entertaining way to get ahead in your career (and your life). Public speaking can be learnt and should be practiced, every day. For the book-lovers amongst you I recommend you READ Carmine Gallo’s ‘The Storyteller’s Secret’. For the visual learners I recommend you WATCH what is possibly the best example of public speaking for career progression, Barack Obama’s ‘2004 DNC Keynote Address’ also known as ‘the speech that made Barack Obama President’.

I look forward to your feedback, comments, ideas, observations and requests for help. Your Public Speaking Coach,

Carlos Gimeno and