Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Why public speaking still matters in the age of Facebook

interviewExcited  students everywhere  are beginning preparations  to launch themselves into the real world. In a few weeks time I’ll be  working with a cohort of school leavers, helping them to face  interviews for internships, jobs, scholarships  and  places in Universities.  A good number will find themselves struggling to stand out in a challenging job market, or a demanding graduate program.

What can help? Why, speaking skills of course. Here’s some advice from Molly Bishop Shadel, professor of advocacy and public speaking at the University of Virginia School of Law. She is the author of “Finding Your Voice in Law School: Mastering Classroom Cold-Calls, Job Interviews, and Other Verbal Challenges” and “Tongue-Tied America: Reviving the Art of Verbal Persuasion.”

Though many people argue that technical skills will help job-seekers land gently in a new economy focused on services like health care and big data, there’s still one timeless skill that pays countless dividends: the ability to speak well.

I have been a lawyer at a leading law firm and for the Department of Justice, and now I am a law school professor. The people and students I’ve worked with who make a strong impression all have one thing in common — they present themselves well verbally.

Take, for example, one of our recent graduates. When he started law school, this student was markedly shy. But he realized that his success as a lawyer would depend on his ability to connect with other people, so he practiced and improved by enrolling in law classes involving public speaking.

Though jobs are few and far between, he got an offer by chatting up a well-known speaker after his talk at the law school. His ability to speak up — a skill that did not come naturally at first — made him stand out.

Verbal persuasion plays an important role in the career of any professional, and if you are just beginning yours, it becomes even more critical. Conventional wisdom holds that Americans are increasingly more comfortable communicating via email or Facebook, rather than in face-to-face conversations. If you can figure out how to speak well in a professional setting and learn when to stop by someone’s office instead of send an email, you can set yourself apart from peers who may be less comfortable with verbal interactions.

There are many reasons for mastering public speaking. Our culture equates intelligence with being well-spoken — look no further than President Barack Obama, whose speaking skills are legendary and helped launch him into the presidency at a relatively young age. If you can articulate your ideas out loud with clarity and polish, you are much more likely to land that prize job or impress a supervisor or teacher. And the experience of having people listen and respond positively when you talk builds confidence and the drive to speak up in the future.

You don’t have to be born knowing how to do this. Speaking well is a skill that anyone can learn. Here are three tips that good trial lawyers know:

1. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Think about what they already know and what they want to know. Give them a reason to listen to you — a hook to engage them. For example, if you are preparing for a job interview, have in mind a few select points that you plan to make during the course of the interview (you would be a great fit for the job because of your strong writing skills and your past experience in the field). Then practice articulating those points out loud so that you can say them clearly and without sounding phony.

2. Reach for short, succinct statements. Audiences have limited attention spans. If you habitually engage in verbal throat-clearing, your audience may have stopped listening before you get to the point. When you have made your point, stop talking. Don’t undercut the effectiveness of what you have said by trailing off (“so, that’s, uh, what I was thinking, I guess…”).

3. Watch your body language and vocal habits. We are more likely to believe you if your body language says you are confident about what you are saying. Look people in the eye when you speak. Don’t cross your arms or feet hold hands with yourself; instead, use open, expansive postures. Your voice should convey confidence as well — slow down, avoid “ums” and “you knows” and don’t turn statements into questions. (“The reason I want to work here? Is because it seems fun?”)

If you are lucky enough to still be in school, take a public speaking class. If you are graduating, that doesn’t mean that you should stop learning. Challenge yourself to hone your public speaking skills.

Reblogged from The Daily Progress 


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This entry was posted on 30/05/2013 by in Public speaking, Uncategorized and tagged , .

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