Career Advice

Six Career-Building Benefits to Public Speaking
Carl Friesen posted on August 31, 2016 |

If you’re tired of seeing other engineers get better assignments, promotions and transfers – when your work is just as good as theirs – it could be that you will move ahead faster if you have external credibility for your work. If you’re seen as a thought-leader by other people in your field, you’re more likely to be recognized for your expertise internally.

Of course, this applies if you’re an independent professional, or thinking of becoming one – or maybe considering a move to another organization.

One of the best ways to build that profile is through public speaking. In a previous post, I’ve written about how you can find the right audience for you to share your engineering expertise.

Here are six advantages public speaking gives you, that no other medium can do, as a way to build your career.

  1. That ‘speaker badge’ has weight

Most conferences and other events that offer lanyards and name tags also have a way to designate a speaker at the event. It could be a ribbon you attach to your lanyard, or just the title “Speaker” underneath your name.

Though simple, these indicators are extraordinarily powerful. They give even your ordinary conversations over coffee-and-croissants more authority. People at the event will be eager to meet you and engage you in conversation, and will listen closely to what you have to say. After all, you’re a speaker, right?

This is particularly powerful when you’re not already a recognized authority in your field. When you are, people come to you, laugh at your jokes even if they’re not funny, and buy lunch. Getting there — well, that ‘speaker’ badge is a great help.

So, work it. In your conversations at the event, be sure to drop in a mention of the topic of your speech, and invite people to come to listen. If they have a question to ask about your topic, say that you hope that they’ll ask it during your Question-and-Answer session. Flatter them by asking their opinion – what would they like to know about your topic.

 

  1. You can laser-focus the information you present

Those conversations are important if you’re to get the greatest benefit from the second big advantage of public speaking: getting information that allows you to focus on the needs of the people you want to serve.

That’s what you want, right? You want to show that you can deliver solutions that work in their world.

So, let’s say you’re at a power utility conference, talking about practical applications of wind power. You’re wearing your speaker badge, and over coffee in the morning you chat with someone else in the lineup. She happens to mention that her state’s government has recently passed tighter regulations about the environmental impact of transmission lines connecting wind turbines to the grid.

Now that you’ve learned this regulatory change is an important issue for people in your audience, you can mention it in your speech, and then weave in your recommendations on how to minimize habitat disruption from transmission lines, using a software mapping tool you’ve developed.

That’s how conversations at the event, plus research ahead of time, can help you make your speech relevant to your audience, and keep up-to-the-minute current with the issues they’re facing. It can also go a long way to making people in the audience eager to connect with you as soon as you step off the podium, as well as later in the event.

 

  1. Prospects see what you’re like as a person

A third way public speaking boosts your career, as no other tool can do, is that potential clients get a chance to see what you’re like to work with in person. And that truly matters. If it comes down to a competition between yourself and another business professional, your prospective client is more likely to choose someone that they know and like.

That “know and like” relationship is something you can deliver from the podium. People get to know what you’re like in person. They can see how approachable you are, if you have a sense of humor, and if you’re able to roll with the situation if the microphone goes out or some other problem develops. Most importantly, they can see how you respond to questions from the audience.

If they’ve seen you in action, they’re more likely to want to hire you.

 

  1. The virtue of scarcity

Public speaking can give you career-building opportunities that stem from the limited number of spaces available. If you consider a day-long conference that has three plenary sessions, and four concurrent sessions offering four options each – that’s a total of 19 speaker slots.

Conference organizers need to fill those 19 slots with people who will be able to drive registrations – either because of the importance of the topic, or the fame (or notoriety) of the speaker. So, if you get an invitation to speak, it’s a tribute to your expertise and stature as an expert in your field. This acknowledgement boosts your professional credibility.

Being invited to speak, or having spoken, are facts that you can drop into your CV, your LinkedIn profile and conversations you have after the event. All of your potential clients know that the number of speaker slots at a conference is limited, and this is part of the power of oratory as a career-building tool.

 

  1. The feedback you get is immediate, and valuable

Reason number five has to do with the immediacy and quality of the feedback you receive. As we discussed, conversations with people before and after the event can help you target your presentation to their needs. But it’s also a great way to learn.

You learn a great deal through questions and comments from people in the audience, which is one reason I always leave time for questions at the end of a speech. I will usually invite people to ask questions during the presentation too.

The questions asked by your audience will tell you what the concerns and challenges facing people in the audience are. And if you’ve chosen your audience right, it will be filled with the kinds of people you want as clients. So, your service offering is able to meet their needs more clearly.

 

  1. Public speaking helps you get your next gig

Reason number six is that public speaking helps you move on to the next stage. That could be another speech, or a chance to publish an article. I always make a point of asking the organizer for a recommendation that I can put on our website, which makes future organizers more willing to book me as a speaker. The credibility of having spoken at an event gives you credibility with other people in your market.

It also gives you credibility among potential clients – particularly if you drop mentions of your speech into meetings with people who have the potential to give you business.

Public speaking is just one of many tools for building your professional profile, but it’s an important one.

 

 

For more ideas on building your career, click here to get your copy of the “Fast Track Your Engineering Career” e-book, offering practical ideas for developing a reputation as a leader in your field.

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