Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Essential Skill that is Public Speaking

The hard data already shows that "soft skills" are in high demand. 

Strengthening a soft skill is one of the best investments you can make in your career, as they never go out of style. Plus, the rise of AI is only making soft skills increasingly important, as they are precisely the type of skills robots can’t automate. 

And one of those essential skills is public speaking. 

Whenever Warren Buffett (left) is asked about the one most valuable skill that anyone can build today, he says public speaking. He even puts a value on it: "The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now – at least – is to hone your communication skills, both written and verbal". 

In a LinkedIn analysis, "persuasion" was one of the top skills "most worth learning" in 2019. 

"Strengthening a soft skill is one of the best investments you can make in your career, as they never go out of style", according to one study (“The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019 – And How to Learn Them”, Paul Petrone, LinkedIIn Learning, January 01, 2019). 

Carmine Gallo (right), keynote speaker and author, “Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get From Good to Great” and "Talk Like TED" shares this anecdote: 

“In 1840, nearly 70 percent of the US labor force worked on farms; today fewer than 2 percent of Americans work in agriculture. Manufacturing's share of the labor force has dropped from 40 percent in 1950 to under 20 percent today. Individual income from manufacturing continues to fall as robots replace workers and artificial intelligence takes over repetitive tasks once handled by humans. 

The main task of the jobs that are left – and the new ones created – is to change minds” (“Public Speaking Is No Longer a 'Soft Skill.' It's Your Key to Success in Any Field”, Carmine Gallo,, January 04, 2019). 

If you didn’t know, in Buffett's office, he has one diploma on display. It's not his business degree. It's a certificate he earned after completing a public-speaking course. Buffett says it's the most valuable degree he has. For a man who's worth $80 billion, that's saying something. 

As Gallo puts it: “Calling public speaking a "soft skill" diminishes its value in a world that cherishes the hard sciences. Public speaking isn't soft. It's the equivalent of cold, hard cash”. 

This is worth taking note of. 

I’ve been a Toastmaster for 11 years, 3 months and 10 days and like many diligent Toastmasters, we energetically embark on the tasks of crafting and presenting speeches and working to improve our public speaking. 

And we believe we have done well because we have the ribbons, the badges and pins, the certificates, the trophies and the titles to prove it. 

Believe me I know this well because I have collected multiple hundreds of these awards over the years. And todate, I have already earned 116 Toastmasters titles and still counting.

But I'm not certain if we have learned. Okay, I shouldn’t speak for other Toastmasters. I didn’t really learn because after awhile, it became a mechanical activity. I was merely going through the motions. Speech after speech after speech.

Only in the last 4 years have I become serious about properly mastering ‘public speaking’. You think you may already know it well  but until you become self-aware of what it takes to be a good public speaker, you know the intricacies of public speaking and you learn to combine the two together  I don't think you will know what public speaking really is.

Anyway, this is my take on public speaking. As I see it. 

It is equal parts of content and delivery. It is about eloquence, emotion and engagement. It is about persuasive communication – to compel the audience to listen to you, to convert them to your position and to convince them to take action.. 

That, in essence, are the lessons I gleaned from my public speaking odyssey. After all, I have delivered 806 assignment speeches from a diversity of Toastmasters' manuals over 4,117 days – therefore, I can say with confidence I know what I'm talking about.

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