April 14, 2018

The One Skill To Get Your Career Moving Faster


There is one thing you can do to instantly raise your credibility at work or any other area of your life. This one thing will set you apart from your colleagues because people will perceive you as a confident leader. This one thing will raise your profile because you are able to do something nobody else wants to do.

That 'thing' is public speaking.

I hate public speaking. It causes me immense stress. Getting in front of a crowd freaks me out. Then there's the massive amount of preparation required.

When It Comes to Presentations, Preparation is Key

For every slide I present I generally require an hour of preparation. A 30 minute presentation with 15 slides will require about 15 hours of work, including research, storyboarding and practice.

The entire process is excruciating. But preparation means the difference between confident orator and rambling buffoon. Don't let this scare you. Anyone can do a great presentation if they invest the time and energy.

Of course, someone who has been presenting for years will do a better job than someone who rarely presents, but they can both do a great job that impresses their audience.

Presentations Are An Investment in Your Career

The investment will pay off. I have used this strategy at my work over the past 6 years to manufacture my personal brand. I hate it but it works. By speaking on numerous occasions about forward-looking research topics, people now perceive me as an analytical thinker. While I do find industry research and competitive intelligence the most interesting part of my job, I don't live to share my insights in a public forum. Yet I do because this is the best way to shape how others perceive me.

Indeed, because of this manufactured perception I have been able to purposely adjust the calculus of my job so that I spend more time doing industry research. On the whole, by doing something nobody else wants to do I have bought myself more freedom and flexibility to plan my day.

Take The Initiative and Start Small

Whatever your job - no matter how menial or stimulating it might be - you can benefit from taking the initiative to present in front of a group.

Your presentation doesn't have to be directly related to your role. Talk about something interesting related to your industry. Or talk about something you recently learned that others might find helpful.

Start small and start with a topic you know well. Start with an audience you already feel comfortable with. Even these small wins will set you apart from your colleagues. 

Over time, you will become somewhat more comfortable. However, even the most accomplished presenters like Sir Laurence Olivier get stage fright. So don't expect it to go away completely. Instead, develop coping strategies - the most critical being preparation and practice. 

If you don't take the initiative to develop your public speaking skills, your career will eventually hit a wall. Almost all mid-level and senior positions require the ability to communicate verbally to a crowd. So investing in this one skill is critical to setting yourself apart and keeping your career moving in an upward direction.

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