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Public speaking is an essential talent for building your business and advancing your career. And it need not be a nightmare.

If you’ve got something to say, ideas to share, people to influence, or a customer base to attract, public speaking is an opportunity ripe for the taking. You might have the best products or services and a terrific track record, but if you don’t or can’t communicate about it with your target audiences, you’re limiting your effectiveness. All too often, the very best stories in organizations and companies go untold because of people’s reluctance to take the stage.

Speaking in public ranks high on the list of people’s fears, and that leads to a lot of missed opportunities. Anyone who has ever been in the audience when a good speaker took the stage knows what power lies in this skill. It can change minds, inspire action, and launch and cement relationships in a way that no other form of communication can.

An audience can reach a new understanding and be motivated to follow a call to action—and to follow a person. Executives with the ability to hold the attention of others through the power of the spoken word find themselves rewarded, and their abilities and ideas acknowledged.

Time to Testify

Yet for all its power, the “public” part of public speaking gives many people pause. Even a friendly, interested audience can be a frightening prospect to some executives, who would rather let great opportunities pass them by than be judged by an audience. But every time we speak—whether to an audience of one or 100—we run the risk of being judged on whether we’ve got something to say worth listening to.

That’s not a reason to avoid opportunity—it’s the very reason to embrace it. If you believe in something and are actually behind your product or service, you should let no opportunity pass to get up and tell others about your conviction. Here’s another way to look at it: Instead of thinking about the risk of being judged by 100 people (or however large your audience is), think about the chance you have to influence them.

Of all the marketing techniques your organization can invest in, speaking directly to audiences is one of the best ways to “build brand” for companies and ideas while enhancing the standing of the speaker.

Getting Started

Remember that even the best orators needed practice and training. Public speaking is a learned skill, and you will improve with time if you take the initiative. With preparation and practice, you can learn to carry an audience, strengthen relationships, and reach people you otherwise couldn’t have.

Source: www.businessweek.com

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