Wednesday, July 22, 2009

can public speaking come naturally to you?

One woman public relations professional who's coming to my Step Up Your Speaking workshop next Monday sent me a message on Twitter that said, "Looking forward to the workshop. Public speaking should come naturally given my profession but I'm afraid that it doesn't. HELP!" I've been there myself. Many folks working in public relations think of theirs as behind-the-scenes jobs, in which you put your experts or leaders out in front--not yourself. But most leaders and clients think the opposite: They expect communications pros to be able to handle public speaking and presentation tasks with ease. And that's true in many professions, from realtors to retail.

While that's uncomfortable, it's not unfixable. That's because, to my mind, public speaking is a learned or acquired skill, not a native one. Your interests and profession may help you appreciate it more or require more of the skills involved. You may have stronger introverted preferences, or be more of an extrovert. But none of that, in the end, beats practice and training.

On the other hand, practice and training can help almost anyone improve (a willingness to learn is essential, however). And, as reader Sarah Milstein noted in our recent roundup of reader's tips, "Ironically, the practice will help you seem spontaneous."

So don't let that "I should be a natural-born speaker" barrier get in your way. If you are in a profession where speaking is considered an essential skill, you've got a built-in argument for making speaker training part of your professional development.

Don't forget: There's just over a week to enter the "Step Up Your Speaking" contest to win a Flip Mino HD camcorder and 15 weeks of free online coaching! Details at

Related posts: 7 readers' tips on the best speaking advice they've used

Memo to boss: 6 reasons I need training

What to ask a trainer

Factor in your speaker personality type