A few weeks back, I received a LinkedIn message from Gerson, one of my student’s at JS101, asking me, “How did you get to be such a good speaker? I’d like to eventually get there.” My answer was not as typical as one would think, nor did my progress happen over night.
“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you got, and fix it along the way…” – Paul Arden
I like most folks, I think, took public speaking in college and I also took debate. But my first real foray into public speaking was in my many political science classes where I had to defend my arguments against some of the brightest and well-read minds.
However, what most of you may not know is that I spent 10+ years working in the intermodal industry with IMC Companies, at their headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. This is where I developed my public speaking chops, but more so out of necessity. About 5 years into the job and after finishing up graduate school, I was thrust into the managerial position of Driver Services. This was a department that handled all of the owner operators payroll check disbursements and all over-the-road repairs that were needed on any steamship equipment the drivers pulled. That sounds fairly simple when stated that way, but it does not fully explain the enormous responsibility that my department had within the company.
This was a position that taught me fairly quickly that I either needed to step up and speak with authority and earn their respect or be useless as a manager. I was especially at a disadvantage because I was female, looked young and obviously much smaller in size than most of the drivers. I did not have time to doubt myself or think about how to react. The department was such that it was constantly dealing with a crisis or issues. One day we could be handling tire deductions from paychecks or assisting with recovery of loads from a major accident. I had to learn how to use my voice and to get the job done, keep the drivers calm and clearly maintain our objectives as a company. I learned on the job every single day and I will be the first to say that specific job prepared me for ANY job that would come in the future. But most especially it gave me my voice.
1️⃣Talk about what you know well and/or have a passion for. When you know a subject really well, then it is much easier to communicate even in times of stress.
2️⃣Practice in a mirror or better yet, video record yourself with your phone. It is important that you become aware (and comfortable) with what you look like when speaking. The more you get comfortable with your facial features, then the more comfortable you will become speaking in general and the more relaxed your facial features will become.
3️⃣Take a deep breath before you speak and let it out slowly, (and make eye contact).
Friends, relax and know that you will not melt nor will everyone laugh at you like Jimmy Fallon, let’s face it we can only dream about being that funny on stage, but the most important point is simply that you just have to start.
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