We recently conducted our inaugural survey, The State of Public Speaking, to better understand how professionals from all sectors use public speaking skills. Respondents came from a variety of industries, sectors, and levels of seniority.
We were fascinated by the responses. For instance, while we firmly believe that public speaking is a skill, 54% of professionals in our survey feel public speaking is both a skill and a talent. Many of you may have observed this phenomenon: some people seem to “naturally” be better than others, though in response I point to one of my favorite quotes by Peggy Noonan in her book On Speaking Well, when she said, “[President] Reagan was the most natural speaker in politics, but he was a natural because he practiced so hard.”
That statistic was one of the many fascinating insights from our survey. Based on our research, we uncovered 5 unexpected benefits of building public speaking skills.
1. To increase retention within your organization.
70% of business professionals we surveyed feel more motivated to stay at their organization when it invests in their public speaking growth. This mirrors the discussions we have with our Fortune 500 clients from different industries who tell us, “I really want my team to feel invested in, especially during such a difficult time in the world.”
2. To win more business.
When we asked participants the cost of poor public speaking skills, they responded: Loss of business, fewer deals, being seen as incompetent, the inability to influence, and lack of professional growth and missed opportunities. Both individual contributors and senior leaders recognize that building their public speaking skills will have an impact on their ability to influence and persuade others, leading to more business and more opportunities.
3. To speak with confidence in a new virtual environment.
At the beginning of the pandemic, our clients would say, “We’ve been giving presentations for 20 years and we’re very comfortable in front of an audience. Presenting virtually is new to all of us! What do we do?” While some companies were slow to realize the need to build a new skillset, at this stage everyone realizes that the ability to present virtually is quickly becoming de rigeur to remain competitive in this new environment.
4. To develop in your current role.
We were fascinated to read that more respondents to our survey wanted to improve their current function than wanted to change jobs, though nearly all of them thought it would increase their career opportunities. Professionals feel that these skills are a critical part of their in-role development. They might also recognize the challenge of changing jobs during a global pandemic.
5. To speak more confidently in meetings.
Respondents told us that, due to the pandemic, they are giving less formal presentations but speaking more overall in meetings. They realize those daily opportunities for “public speaking” can be even more important than the infrequent formal presentations, and thus it is a major motivator for improving their skills.
Perhaps the most powerful insight from our survey was the reason why people wanted to improve their public speaking skills: 82% of professionals from across sectors and industries want to inspire others.
They are not just learning these skills to check a box in their professional development, they want to have a positive impact on others.
And in a world where, now more than ever, we need to add our voice and our perspective, this gives us great hope. That’s why it’s so important to embrace the skill of public speaking.