Speaking in public—without coercion—doesn’t come naturally to me.
As a classic introvert, I prefer to be left alone to formulate and process my thoughts. Shying away from speaking doesn’t mean that I don’t have great ideas to share. It means I’d rather blog about those great ideas, write them on social media or even post them in my siblings’ WhatsApp group.
In my book Influence and Thrive, I narrated my journey into business communications and explained that I stumbled upon this fascinating field by accident.
After over 20 years in the field, I’m a business communications blogger, author, trainer, and coach. I’ve also diversified my services to include keynote speaking, so I’ve been privileged to speak on local radio stations, international podcasts, and virtual summits.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Therefore, below are five reasons to encourage you to bite the bullet and work on becoming a memorable speaker.
1) Speaking gives you a ‘voice’ (despite your unimpressive background)
Over the years, I’ve found that my speaking skills have enabled me to embrace my uniqueness as an African professional with an international outlook. Ever since I became intentional about speaking on podcasts and getting interviewed, I realised that people were genuinely interested in my background, experiences, and outlook on communication.
Despite studying in the UK and interacting with international colleagues and peers, what differentiated me from others was my ‘voice’. I don’t mean my accent (and I don’t recommend artificially adopting a ‘Western’ accent to blend in). I developed my ‘voice’ — my perspectives based on all that defines me: my heritage, values, experiences, and quirks. I’ve been empowered to share my insights as an African based in Nigeria with a global outlook on communication.
So, the people I’ve met, the countries I’ve visited, and the languages and cultures I’ve been exposed to have made me different. And ‘different’ is gold in attention currency.
But to maximise this ‘voice’ to serve you well, you’d need to embrace all aspects of your story, especially if your background is less than impressive or your journey is fraught with setbacks. This is why rags-to-riches and overcoming-all-odds stories touch a nerve and catapult motivational speakers into sought-after inspirational speakers.
The world is hungry for your ‘voice’. So, polish it and use it to connect with people.
2) Speaking sharpens your persuasive abilities and helps you advocate for change
This social media age has catapulted even ordinary 15-year-olds to fame because of its power to amplify impact. From Greta Thunberg to Malala Yousafzai, speaking with conviction helps you advocate for the change you want to see in the world.
You don’t need to start as a polished speaker, but you do need to have a purpose and a ‘fire in your belly’ for your cause. Speaking passionately and often about what you’re campaigning for sharpens your persuasive powers and catches the attention of influential people and organisations.
Social media has also decimated the cost of reaching global media and large organisations. Thus, it’s easier to gather momentum by strategically speaking on different platforms, from your community to the United Nations.
Your cause may be altruistic, for example, addressing the climate crisis or stressing the need for girl-child education. Or you could draw inspiration from Tunde Onakoya, the founder of the nonprofit Chess in Slums Africa, whose stirring speeches amplify his vision to “empower, uplift, and educate” children in slum communities using chess as a focal point, thereby making him an effective change agent.
Whatever the level of your speaking abilities, start where you are and hone your capability along the way.
3) Speaking increases your credibility and trustworthiness
The more you speak, the better you become (if you commit to the art and the science of effective speaking). The better you speak, the more you heighten your credibility and trustworthiness.
There’s a reason even celebrities appear on talk shows, interviews, and podcasts. These stars understand that they become more relatable when people regularly see them speak and engage with others.
For you as a business owner or entrepreneur, this video sheds light on the specific benefits speaking well in public brings.
Since the average person avoids speaking, embracing your ‘wholeness’ and boldly speaking on topics you care about elevates your profile at work and beyond. Your confidence also increases, allowing you to display your best version of yourself to achieve your goals.
Superb speaking skills complement other attributes and make you a force to be reckoned with.
4) Speaking increases your revenue stream
This is an unexpected benefit I only began to realise a few years ago.
I initially started speaking in public for the love of sharing my knowledge on effective business communication. But then I began to see how I could monetise my speaking stints. Keynotes, workshops, podcast appearances, and fireside chats — speaking is a new revenue stream I’m now taking seriously.
Speak often, and you’ll have videos of you ‘in action’, which speaker bureaus and organisations will find attractive when seeking speakers for summits, events, or corporate retreats. To this end, I’m listed on A-speakers, AAE, and the Africa Speakers Group bureaus. Yet, the harsh truth is that merely being listed on the speakers bureaus’ roosters may not lead to paid speaking opportunities for years (except if you’re a big name). Yet, honing your speaking skills and strategically positioning yourself as the go-to expert in your niche increase the chances of being sought after and offered paid speaking engagements.
The bonus is that you generate a lot of content when you speak consistently. You could then repurpose popular elements of your talks in smaller stages, articles or social media posts/visuals. In that way, you extend the impact of your thought leadership.
5) Speaking makes you global
The covid pandemic levelled the playing field, making the world smaller. As a result, opportunities in different regions, once out of your league, are more accessible post-pandemic.
More openness means that it’s easier to go global with your insights.
Pair a talk, seminar, workshop, or virtual discussion with your simple, clear, relevant messaging (sharpened by your lived experiences), and you’ll be taken seriously outside your region.
Note that you don’t need to hold leadership positions to make a mark with your speaking. You’d now notice that the professionally produced talks from superstars like Tony Robbins and Grant Cardone, which commanded six or seven-figure fees pre-pandemic, have taken a back seat to more relatable speeches.
But be warned: There’s never an excuse for shoddy work or weak speaking outputs. At the very least, ensure you address the following points when preparing for your important speeches/talks/presentations/pitches:
(I) Who is the audience, and how can I make my content relevant to their needs?
Answer: Ask yourself the foundational question.
(II) What is the purpose of my talk? What do I want the audience to know, feel, or do?
Answer: It would be at least one of those three elements.
III) How do I make my speech ‘sticky’?
Answer: Incorporate one or more of the following:
- a story (‘When I was seven, I died and went to heaven. Or so I thought. It turned out that I had only been put under anaesthesia for a surgery…’)
- an unusual metaphor (‘I was all zen about the precarious situation, and my thoughts flowed like milk…’)
- an analogy (‘Leading people at work is akin to parenting teenagers. You set out rules, and sometimes, depending on the season, they comply…’)
Then, tie them to the ‘big idea’ of your talk.
So, use your speaking skills as a launch pad to go global in your career, business, or entrepreneurial pursuits. Even if others echo your ideas, your unique spin on a topic makes you a catch, no matter where you speak.
And as Naomi Osemedua, a Nigerian content creator, influencer, and TEDx speaker, quips: Why be local when you can be global?
Despite the benefits of public speaking, I remain an introvert who cherishes her space and retreats to recharge after every speaking engagement.
And that’s OK.
I’m not expecting you to morph into a being you don’t recognise just because you’ve decided to become more visible with your speaking.
Speaking magnifies your impact and opens more opportunities — not strip you of your essence.
Therefore, take that bold step today to polish your speaking skills. Start small if you must, but ensure you consistently apply what you learn. Do the reps.
And remember: It’s never a good idea to avoid speaking in public, even in team meetings. Decline too many times, and people stop asking you altogether.
Why self-sabotage before you get the opportunity to grow?
Over to you:
Do you need help boosting your communication skills to get results? Sign up for my transformational speaking, coaching, and training programmes.
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N.B: First and third images are courtesy of Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke via Pixabay. Second image is courtesy of Gerd Altmann via Pixabay. Fourth image is courtesy of Alexa via Pixabay. Video is courtesy of Tunde Onakoya’s profile on X.