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Public Speaking Can Be a Career Builder or a Career Breaker

Public Speaking Can Be a Career Builder or a Career Breaker

If you follow The Lobster I am betting that your interest in career development will make public speaking a career builder for you.

Unfortunately, if you are unprepared and try to wing it, a speaking opportunity could well be a career breaker.

When I went off to Ohio’s Defiance College I was a tongue-tied 18-year old. The few ideas I was able to articulate were delivered in a thick East Coast brogue and cadence which left my audiences wondering what they had just heard.

That was until I fortuitously was scheduled into Prof. Robert Pearce’s Speech class.  The dean of students must have caught my act at some point and placed me there. Professor Pearce had what I thought was the coolest job. Companies would hire him to give speeches of behalf of executives who could not clearly articulate the company’s message despite their business acumen.

Company communications flacks would give him the content and overall message which he would deliver in a beautifully crafted speech. Being an adjunct professor for inarticulate knuckleheads like me seemed to me like slumming it.

After four undergraduate years and a graduate degree from one of the country’s most prestigious universities and a long career in business, I tell everyone that Prof. Pearce’s speech class was the biggest career builder I had.

Not only did I have one career, I had several, all involving public speaking. For several years I was high school teacher, bringing the finer points of Hamlet to 16, 17, and 18 year olds.

From there I became a broadcaster, speaking to unseen audiences. My first boss in broadcasting and my business mentor was Mr. Fred Palmer, the owner of WATH in Athens, Ohio. Not exactly a 50,000 watt flamethrower. Mr. Palmer was my Prof. Higgins who taught me how to speak properly and connect to an audience.

After I left Mr. Palmer I continued in the broadcasting industry.

I next parlayed my broadcasting experience into a long career in marketing and PR. This career has given me numerous speaking opportunities which have raised my industry profile. This has brought in more and more new clients.

I meet many business colleague who assiduously avoid opportunities to get up in front of a room of several hundred decision-makers and influencers. This I believe is one of the biggest mistakes a businessperson can make.

If you receive an unexpected invitation to speak at a conference or other function, follow these 3 steps.

1) be positive and thank the person who rendered the invitation.
2) ensure that you know the audience.
3) quickly go online to make sure that your knowledge of the topic is up-to-date.

Invitations to speak can sometimes appear from nowhere. In a business setting, always be mentally prepared to speak if asked. One good way to do this is to evaluate other speakers for what they seem to do correctly or wrongly. As they speak notice how the audience responds to them.