It’s not something I ever do” said Steve, confidentially; “I run my own business, I don’t need public speaking!”

I had been talking to a group of business people about the importance of good public speaking skills.  And Steve was one of the many who came up to talk afterwards.  Most were interested in the workshop, and wanted details, which I dealt with easily.  But two or three remained to … well … hover!

Steve was the first to approach me, but the others nodded with agreement. So I asked them if they, like Steve, felt they had no need of public speaking training – because it would never happen to them – and they all agreed – loudly.

The problem with this approach is that they mistake the meaning of public speaking.  To them it meant mounting the podium and declaiming to an audience of thousands. Or something like that.  What it did not mean (in their view) was their day-to-day activity of explaining their products to potential buyers; ordering stock or even instructing their staff.

So” I murmured soothingly “how is your communication in your business going?

And they told me.   They told me all about how their staff just never listen; how they try to explain their products, but the potential client never seemed to get it! “In fact” said one frustrated business man “If I had someone that incompetent in my business I’d sack him!”

What about ordering stock?”  I said, but I thought I knew the answer.  And of course orders were late and contained the wrong items; in fact it was a litany of disasters.  And it was surprising that all of them seemed to have the same difficulties.  It seemed that only these few dealt with the most incompetent, most ignorant and stupid people in Australia.

Obviously I could not let them continue in their self-deceit; the problem was not with their suppliers, their staff or their potential clients – the problem was with their own communication.  And ever so gently I told them so.

They were outraged!  How could I be so foolish– how could I get it so wrong?  They had no trouble talking, and regardless of what I thought, they never engaged in public speaking. 

Unfortunately, there are more people of that opinion out there in business today – and they too are getting it wrong.  Because what they should be engaged in is ‘communicating’ but what they are doing is ‘talking’. 

They need to know the basic types of communication that we all engage in; they need to understand – and understand it clearly – exactly when each should be used to achieve what it is they want it to achieve.

Wandering around the subject and sliding off topic is perfectly fine in the general talk of conversation – but it is fatal if used in a business context.

Selling our product on the facts and figures of its performance, while ignoring the customer’s needs and interests, is never going to work.

And trying to tell our staff what we want done, when we haven’t even got it clear in our own minds is merely a recipe for disaster.

And each and every one of these examples is a clear case of speaking in public.  In fact, the only time when we are not ‘speaking in public’ is when we talk to ourselves!

Communication is designed to pass our ideas, opinions and attitudes onto someone else and have them received as near as possible to what we conceived them to be in the first place.  And that is not as easy as it sounds.

So we need to know all those things which our group dismissed as ‘public speaking’ under their definition.  They did not get up onto a platform and speak to a crowd – therefore they truly believed they did not engage in public speaking.  What they are engaged in, every working day, is communication – and learning the art of public speaking gives you the tools for more effective daily communication.

And that is important because the responsibility for getting it right starts with the speaker – not with the listener.  It is the speaker who needs to organise their thoughts, choose the best words to convey their message; to engage the listener with energy and conviction and finally, to clarify that the message has been received clearly.

A few days after this meeting, I received a phone call from a chastened Steve, who had lost an important contract.  For once, he had sought feedback on the outcome, only to be told that they had not been impressed with his presentation. 

He told me he still didn’t think he needed ‘Public Speaking Skills’ – because he could not see that he was engaged in public speaking, but he had decided to try some training on how to put his ideas together more effectively. 

After the workshop he admitted that he now realised why some of his communication was not as effective as he had thought – and yes; he could see that arranging his ideas before trying to get them across was a good idea.  He now understood that he would really have to inspire his clients before they would be willing to buy – but he still didn’t think he was involved in public speaking.

It doesn’t matter really what he calls his business communication if he is getting it right, does it?

So what about you?  Are you convinced you do not need public speaking training, because it could never happen to you?

Our next workshop is on the 28th July in Brisbane.

Michele @ Trischel

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