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Boost Your Human Capital: Public Speaking

This article was written by in Career and Work. 14 comments.


Your personal human capital is an essential part of evaluating your overall worth. Human capital has a number of definitions, but in this case, it refers to a measurement of who you are, particularly in relation to how you might be seen as valuable to an employer or a client. This isn’t the only way to define a person, but since it ties directly into your future earnings and your potential net worth, it is related to finance and shouldn’t be ignored. It’s as important, or even more important, than your net worth measurement.

Consider two job applicants with identical technical skills and education, both pertaining to the job description, and a similar personality that could result in either choice being a good fit for the company. One of the applicants has indicated that he has often been called upon to present information about hie field to the public. Having presentation skills can make a prospective employee more attractive to the employer. The ability to eloquently, entertainingly, and comfortably lead a discussion or present information in front of an audience can open opportunities.

Anyone can throw together a Powerpoint presentation together, but delivering that presentation isn’t as easy as reading the bullet points. Anyone can write a speech, but elocution is a skill that requires careful honing.

Most people in “business” head directly to Toastmasters. Toastmasters uses a standardized curriculum and a safe practice environment that allows people to receive the education and experience they need to take their presenting skills to the next level. My former company, at the satellite location where I worked, had an internal Toastmasters group. We met once every two weeks to critique each other’s speeches or presentations and gain experience speaking extemporaneously about random topics assigned in the moment.

Outside of Toastmasters, you can gain experience speaking and presenting by organizing an event in your community. Libraries offer these opportunities as do community centers and religious organizations. If your field of interest holds conferences, try to get on the schedule of speakers.

Public speaking is acting and performing

Stage fright is a common barrier to increasing public speaking experience. There are two keys to overcoming stage fright or performance anxiety: being overly prepared and breathing properly. Even though the solution is simple, it isn’t always easy. Even veteran actors deal with stage fright, so it isn’t something that is easily cured even it can be managed. Acting experience can be beneficial for public speaking, as many of the skills are similar. In addition to acting, any kind of performance experience — music, dance, etc. — can have positive effects on confidence and the ability to successfully deliver a speech.

Acting also helps develop a performer’s presence. If you’re speaking publicly, you’ll need to have a presence that’s informative and trusted. The best speakers are sometimes described as “larger than life.” You know when they walk into a room that whatever they have to say will be worth hearing.

Actors develop emotional communication skills. Without saying a word, an actor can convey an emotion. The audience will be able to understand what the actor is thinking or feeling. Skilled actors can transmit those emotions to the audience, so the spectators can sympathetically feel what the actor is feeling. This is an invaluable skill for speakers. It could mean the difference between a good presentation and a speech that has the audience on the edge of their seats.

How do you suggest gaining public speaking experience?

Published or updated October 25, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Krantcents

The simple answer is volunteer. There is a connotation that if you are asked to speak you are knowlegible.

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avatar Maggie@SquarePennies

Working on committees provides opportunities for speaking in smaller groups. This can build your confidence for speaking to larger groups later. Chairing a committee is excellent for this too.

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avatar SteveDH

Dale Carnegie or Toastmasters are two sure fire ways to hone your public speaking “assets”. However, the statement, “Anyone can throw together a Powerpoint presentation…” is really really wrong. Presentation development education is a must! The power of public speaking will be diluted without an understandable presentation and visa-versa – as you pointed out.

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avatar Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

Toastmasters. I’ve been doing it for a year now and have been loving doing it.

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avatar Ceecee ♦796 (Dime)

I’ve always heard that actors use Xanax! No, seriously, this is like sports. You have a certain level of ability which you can improve upon, but some people are just naturals.

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avatar Jon - Free Money Wisdom

Volunteering to lead Bible studies is a great way to practice public speaking on a lower less pressured level. I will be speaking at my office conference at the end of the year—500+ people. I am definitely nervous, but looking forward to gain some personal growth.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

Jon, great idea but that would I assume that I felt that I had the knowledge to lead those studies. I need something I can learn in 6 months and let’s face it Bible study is a lifetime learning experience.

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦2,496 (Dollar)

Making videos for your site, maybe? The next step up from podcasts.
I was nervous as heck when I did my first public speaking gig (at FinCon 11), but now that it’s over and I didn’t die I want to do more of them. It was fun. Well, except for the flop sweat.

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avatar Squirrelers

I’d say that it’s important to be resourceful in looking for such opportunities. Some have been touched on above: toastmasters, private organizations, volunteering, etc.

Really, I think it’s important for younger people to take the time to develop these skills when risks are low. Volunteer to be the one speaking in class, presenting for your group, etc. Also, in first jobs out of college, there are sometimes good opportunities to do presentations. Actually, internships are a great place to do this, as many companies make interns do a summary/lessons learned presentation at the end of the intern’s time at the company.

Best advice I ever received about presentations: Know your stuff inside and out, and anticipate the toughest questions you don’t want to be asked. Do this, and you’ll naturally be more confident.

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avatar Car Negotiation Coach

I’ve had to do a little public speaking over the years and while I hated it, I always thought I was decent at it. A shy colleague of mine wanted to improve his own speaking so I volunteered to go to Toastmasters with him as a show of support. Suprisingly, I learned quite a few things myself. They really will help you with your public speaking no matter what your level.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

I am painfully shy so this is my private nightmare. I have trouble carrying on small talk, seriously I hate those events where I am meeting a lot of new people. I do agree that finding something that you are passsionate about and speaking on that subject helps. I am passionate about coupons and could probably speak to a crowded room about this subject but tell me to speak on The Rise of the Reality Show and I would have trouble. I know I need more experience and this article has made me determined to look into a Toastmasters or Public Speaking course the first of the year. Can’t until then since holidays make sure I have no free time.

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avatar Bucksome Boomer ♦236 (Cent)

I took a public speaking class many years ago in college, but I think Toastmasters would be more effective for most adults.

I’ve gained experience speaking to groups through my work; although nothing larger than a hundred or so.

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avatar qixx ♦1,820 (Half-Dollar)

I think the college course (i took one too) would be a good basis for starting out. Toastmasters makes a good continuing learning/practice solution. Also i second the bible study group or talk to your pastor/clergy/priest about speaking opportunities. Telling them you want to become a better public speaker and they may have additional resources in our outside the church to help you out.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,386 (Platinum)

Interesting idea. Thanks!

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