How to Boost Your Professional Success with Public Speaking

UPDATED: October 17, 2015
PUBLISHED: June 29, 2015

Most people dread the thought of speaking in front of people. But public speaking doesn’t have to be a thorn in your side—it can be a tool that dramatically enhances your success as a professional, so it’s worth learning how to use it to your advantage.

Speaking publicly is one of the most effective ways to develop your brand—to gain visibility, immediately establish credibility and share your expertise with your target audience. It can also help you to distinguish yourself from the competition and cut through the noise. Yes, it’s noisy out there.

But what if you’re not a great public speaker? With time and effort, you can learn to become better. And becoming better is not about faking it or putting on an act—it’s about communicating a core message authentically.

“Get it out of your head that you have to ‘perform’ to be someone else, be fascinating, to hold [the audience’s attention] like Johnny Depp or a Natalie Portman,” Peter Brubriskiwrites in a Harvard Business Review article. “To be a better public speaker, you just need to get out of your own way, so we can see you for who you really are.” And who you really are is all your target audience wants to experience anyway.

So, do you want to boost your success? Then let’s explore public speaking as a means to do just that:

Pick Your Poison

There are numerous ways to speak publicly.

There are so many strategic options available, so find the method that really resonates with you, or the one that’s best-suited to capture the attention of your target audience.

If you prefer speaking on the main stage in front of larger groups, then you would fancy delivering keynotes. This option can create exceptional opportunities for consulting, long after your speech is over.

If you have a new idea that you’re really passionate about or have an innovative way of presenting a familiar topic, then consider giving a TEDx Talk. Word travels fast and talks that do well have catapulted many otherwise unknown professionals into the limelight, like Brené Brown.

If you enjoy sharing your expertise in a collaborative setting, consider the impact of participating in a conference environment as an expert panelist. You’ll have an opportunity to provide your unique insight, as well as tease out nuances by answering direct questions from the audience.

Opportunities to communicate with smaller groups in a more intimate and interactive setting include breakout sessions or workshops, where specific content or skills are introduced and applied in context. Another option is giving a seminar, where the format is styled more as a lecture or presentation with limited discussion.

Finally, you could choose a virtual format, such as a webinar or teleseminar, both of which allow you to reach larger audiences from the comfortable privacy of your home or office.

Sharpen Your Saw

Leverage learning and practice.

Drafting meaningful content and practicing your deliveryfor each engagement are par for the course. But harnessing opportunities for learning and increased experience must also happen on a regular basis.

A great place to start is Toastmasters International—it’s affordable and includes a strong curriculum with targeted feedback in a small group setting.

Already have paying clients? Consider joining the Your speaking habits can make or break your career success, so know the 5 most common mistakes you make in a conversation—and fix them, stat.

A leading authority on leadership development and organizational performance management, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than 25 years of comprehensive, blue chip experience in law, business and academia to every client engagement. A shrewd advisor to distinguished organizations from DC to Dubai, her expert insights help clients to successfully navigate today's ever-changing and competitive global business environment. Karima is the author of the internationally acclaimed and 2019 NAACP Image Award nominated leadership guidebook, Poised For Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan), which launched at the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an extension of her work, she speaks regularly both nationally and internationally in her areas of expertise and serves in an advisory capacity on select corporate boards.