A business man gives a presentation. The words "Why Learn Public Speaking? Career Outlook" are superimposed.

Why Learn Public Speaking – Career Edition

Public speaking is something most people want to avoid, many reportedly more than death. So, why would you actively seek to become at least competent in public speaking? The reason for most is improved career outlook.

I suspect most of us probably know we should get competent at public speaking. We probably also realize it is critically important for our careers. However, our fears keep us from even trying. I was among those who let that fear hold them back. Part of the problem is unless you are proactive in the face of that fear, the only way you tend to learn is by a ‘trail by fire‘. As the name implies it isn’t a pleasant experience and creates a heightened cycle of fear.

Cost of Continued Incompetence

So, what happens if we continue to avoid?

  • A recent study found that those with Generalized SADs – crippling social anxiety felt in a variety of situations – had:
    • 14% less chance to be in a manager position
    • 10% less wages
  • likely to be overlooked for promotion. why?
    • you are simply less visible
    • public speaking ability is a key managerial skills. In a study from Blanthorne et al. 2005, communication was the second most important skill set considered in promotion decisions!
  • you’re less able to sell your self
    • making landing your dream job difficult
    • making it harder to argue your case for raises, or
    • insecurity might even be stopping you from even attempting to get that raise.
  • you may be seen as less competent in general
    • Engineering graduates who were not comfortable speaking indicated they thought they were perceived as less technically competent. Sageev & Romanowski (2001)

Finally, most employees end up forced into presenting eventually. Good public speaking requires practice and experience. If your fear keeps you from building skills before you are required to present, you won’t be able to speak competently. A poor performance might not end your career, but it definitely won’t help it.

Career Benefits of Learning

We now know what we lose if we continue to avoid learning to public speak, but what do we gain if we face our fear? There are of course personal benefits, but is there a career upside to undertaking the effort?

There is no guarantee it will make your career, but there are definitely benefits:

  • you are more valuable:
    • personally. Warren Buffett has suggested your lifetime worth is 150% greater if you are good a public speaking!
    • to the company.
      • you can do more
      • speaking externally, makes you a contact point. This makes you more important within the business.
  • chances are higher of your success:
    • 80% of career success is based in the ability to effectively interact with others.  Intelligence made up the remaining 20%! Research published by Kirch, Tucker & Kirch (2001).
    • 70% of employees that present at work say those skills are critical to their success. Prezi survey results reported here.
    • 63% of company directors thought presentation skills were more important to career success than intelligence or financial aptitude. Survey by Aziz Corp.
  • you’ll stand out, because:
    • 74% of Americans suffer from speech anxieties according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This means they avoid presenting.
    • 20% of employees would rather do anything than have to present. Prezi survey results reported here.
  •  you might get new opportunities
    • promotion – public speaking is seen as a key managerial quality. It is part of most internal leadership development programs. Ironically even there training is usually very limited, so you still gain a lot if you are proactive in learning.
    • take part in public corporate activities – presenting, sales. This may include travel opportunities.
  • you network more and better
    • personally – you’ll gain confidence speaking to people in other social settings, e.g. introducing yourself to strangers
    • internally – your visibility in the company will go up. More people will be aware of you. This is likely in a positive light, or at least respect. Remember the point above, somewhere between many and most are too afraid to even try.
    • externally
      • you’ll be the one out there, the public face, making you the contact point. This builds your network.
      • The business card will have your name on it.
  • skills you learn will improve your communication skills in general

A lot to loose – more to gain

We’ve seen there is a lot to loose if we avoid learning public speaking. Our career outlook is hurt. Our lifetime worth is less. Statistically, it is likely that we won’t make it into management and our salary will be less.

On the flip side, being proactive and learning public speaking, provides us career outlook. Public speaking is in some many ways a key to business today, so building up our skills is critical for our future. It effects many facets of our business life, so it is worth the starting stress.

The hardest part is generally taking those first steps, but necessary to avoid the trial by fire method of learning and the negative cycle it often creates. If you’re looking for a way that isn’t that hard, consider VR and Virtual Orator.

Founder/CEO at Virtual Orator

Dr. Blom is a long time researcher in the VR field. He is the founder of Virtual Human Technologies, which applies VR and avatar technologies to human problems and helping better understand people. Virtual Orator exists largely because Dr. Blom wishes he had had such a tool instead of the ‘trail by fire’ he went through learning to speak in public.


One response to “Why Learn Public Speaking – Career Edition”

  1. Wellbeing 365 Digital Avatar
    Wellbeing 365 Digital

    Great post, I really need to take these tips on board. Thanks

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