If you’re at your first job after college, I have important advice for you. If you get a chance to speak or present to a large audience at work, take it. I cannot overstate the significance of skills like public speaking, rapport-building, and simply getting noticed.
When I stand in front of a group of more than five people, I become nervous. My voice shakes, I talk too fast, I don’t maintain eye contact. But if I prepare just a little bit beforehand, my performance improves dramatically. Here are some simple but often overlooked points for delivering effective and coherent public speeches.
- Write bullet points covering your main ideas.
- Understand your audience’s background knowledge and attitudes and cater to their needs. If they’re specialists in your area, use technical jargon and skip background info. For people who aren’t familiar with your work, provide adequate background information and translate jargon to the vernacular.
- Pick clarity over simplicity. Anyone who truly wants more detail can ask questions during or after.
- Never underestimate people’s short attention spans. I’ve been amazed that even announcements of office parties stated twice in consecutive meetings fail to register.
Are you coming to the Halloween party this Friday?
There’s a party?
Yeah. Did you attend the all-company meeting?
Public speaking isn’t my forté, but I force myself to step outside my comfort zone. My heart races and my palms sweat. I don’t feel comfortable at extreme heights, but I’ll make myself walk along the edge of a twenty-story rooftop, sit on the ledge, and dangle my feet over the side. My friends will cover their eyes and tell me to come down, but I stay to gradually dissipate my fear. I also do it for the adrenaline rush, and that’s why, even though I become nervous, I want to present before my company. I get more of a rush speaking publicly than riding roller-coasters now. Call me an adrenaline junkie, but it’s fun.
One more piece of advice:
Get noticed in the office not only for your work but by being sociable. Doing your work well is, of course, a prerequisite. But in today’s degree-inflated job market, bachelor-degree-holding yuppies are a dime a dozen and even Ph.D.s have trouble finding jobs. Don’t discount the airplane test component of job interviews: How would you feel sitting on an airplane or being delayed for hours in an airport with a particular job applicant? Would you have a good time or fall asleep?