Candidates with strong public speaking skills are in demand for the many occupations that require the ability to speak to a group. Public speaking is seldom, if ever an entire job description, but dynamic and well-prepared speakers are highly valued by employers and tend to earn leadership positions and important client contact roles.
Anyone whose job involves communicating, teaching, or persuading will do a better job if they have public speaking skills.
What is Public Speaking?
Public speaking is a soft skill that requires excellent communication skills, enthusiasm, and the ability to engage with an audience. Public speakers make presentations to a group.
Presentations range from speaking to a small group of employees to presenting to a large audience at a national conference or event. The same skillset and ability to be comfortable speaking in public are required regardless of the size of the group.
Why Employers Value Public Speaking Skills
The art of public speaking comes into play not only in the delivery of speeches and public talks, but also in professional presentations, training events, and motivational speaking. Consultants, training, managers, clergy, sales representatives, and teachers, for example, all have a reason at times to speak in front of others.
Effective public speakers are in an excellent position to get their messages across in the workplace.
A lackluster speaker can make a solid product or proposal seem less than enticing, while a polished speaker can add allure to an otherwise mediocre proposition.
Most professional-level roles require some amount of public speaking to carry out functions like presenting findings, pitching proposals, training junior staff, and leading meetings.
Top Public Speaking Skills
When you want to highlight your public speaking skills in your cover letter, resume, or even during an interview, be sure to go beyond stating that you have "public speaking skills." Go into detail about which aspects of public speaking you are good at, and provide specific examples of your skills and expertise.
- Clear Articulation: Of course, public speakers must be able to speak well. This includes enunciating clearly, speaking loudly enough, and using proper grammar without a lot of verbal crutches such as "um." It helps to be able to talk well in ordinary conversation, but public speaking is a kind of performance and as such, requires practice and preparation. Memorization itself is usually not necessary, because most people can speak extemporaneously to some degree, but you must be familiar enough with your material that you don't pause excessively, repeat yourself, or stumble over your words. You also need to be able to pace yourself so that you finish on time, rather than early or late.
- Engaging Presentation Style: Presentation style includes vocal tone, body language, facial expression, and timing. The right style can make a talk that could have been boring become exciting and engaging—even funny.
- Assessing the Needs of the Audience: Some audiences want a lot of technical detail; others don't. Some enjoy humor; others won't. There are jokes that work in some crowds but not others. To draft a successful talk and to adopt the appropriate presentation style, you need to be able to assess the needs of your audience.
- PowerPoint Skills: PowerPoint is a popular software used for creating slides. Not all public speakers use slides, but slides are so common that doing without them is sometimes called "speaking naked." You must not only understand the technical aspects of using the software, but also have the artistic ability to create slides that are aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand—or, you must work with a collaborator who can do so. Either way, you must know how to integrate your slides smoothly into the other aspects of your presentations.
- Composition Skills: Whether you compose your talk ahead of time or work extemporaneously, you must be able to construct talks that are rational, coherent, easy to understand, and cover all the points you want to hit. Storytelling and humor help, and you must know how to use them. Public speaking is not only a form of performance art, but it also requires writing skills.
More Public Speaking Skills
- Articulating clearly
- Assessing the needs and priorities of a potential audience of conference attendees
- Consultants presenting the findings for a reorganization plan to a group of executives at a client firm
- Controlling performance anxiety
- Creating attractive PowerPoint slides with the right amount of detail
- Drafting an evaluation form that attendees are likely to complete
- Grabbing the attention of the audience with a powerful opening
- Handing out copies of slides in advance to minimize note-taking demands on the audience
- Maintaining eye contact with the audience and providing an energetic, animated physical presence
- Memorizing enough content so that the speech does not come off as a reading of notes
- Modulating vocal tone to emphasize important points and avoid monotonous presentation
- Organizing a logical flow to a speech
- Preparing examples that are relevant to the experience of the expected audience
- Providing compelling evidence to support themes
- Rehearsing the presentation and revising rough spots
- Researching information about the latest trends in an industry before presenting at a professional seminar
- Restating critical points at the end of a speech to cement key concepts
- Reviewing feedback and modifying the approach for talks in the future
- Sales Representatives delivering a pitch for human resources software
- Summarizing the topics to be covered at the beginning of a lecture to provide context for attendees
- Telling stories to illustrate points
- Timing the speech in advance to make sure it meets the allotted time
- Using humor to enliven a talk
How to Showcase Your Skills
Public speaking is a skill in itself, but it is also a collection of skills. Lists like this can help you name some of these skills so you can identify which jobs require the abilities you have.
Be sure to read job descriptions carefully, because even very similar positions can have different requirements, depending on what the hiring manager is looking for.
Mention Skills in Your Resume and Cover Letter
When you apply, you can use these skills as keywords in your resume or other application materials. Hiring managers sometimes scan through applications looking for these keywords to make an initial cut, so it's important to make it clear from the beginning that you have the sought-after qualifications.
Then, use your cover letter to highlight some of your most relevant skills.
Share Your Skills During a Job Interview
Be prepared to give examples of specific times you embodied these skills during job interviews, because your interviewer is likely to ask. If you've made public presentations or internal company presentations, share the details with the interviewer.