Here are two skills that are frequently ignored by many professionals: writing skills and public speaking skills. Think you don’t need these skills? Wrong! Want to know why? Keep reading.
Training the writing muscle
Having a public blog, contributing articles to magazines, writing for your company's blog, posting your ideas and experiences online, are all ways to share your message.
Think about it: you may share a few good ideas with your spouse, colleagues and friends, but there are only so many people you can communicate in person with.
Putting your words ‘out there’ amplifies your message. Moreover, your words will still be out there years after you've shared them. No need to wait for somebody to ask for your contribution! Offer yourself first. It will go a long way.
What if you don't know what to write or where to start? This is called writer's block. Many people get anxious when they see a blank screen or page. Here is my advice on overcoming writer’s block. It isn't quite as big a deal as most people say.
How can you improve your writing skills? I like to think of writing skills as a muscle. If you keep training, you will stay sharp. Our bodies get rid of everything that isn't used, writing ‘muscles’ included. Here is the endless cycle for improving your writing skills:
One: you need to write. Two: you need feedback. Three: you need to improve. Repeat.
Keeping a diary helps, but if nobody ever sees it and you never get any feedback on your writing, you aren't improving.
You need to share your work and get feedback. One way to get a feedback is to hire a professional editor. Find someone to spend time working on your style, and do more than correcting the grammar and punctuation.
It is also a good idea to invest in training from time to time. You can read books about writing, attend classes, or even go to writing boot-camp. Most of the people who use this type of training are professional writers. And that's ok. It’ll mean that you are way ahead of your colleagues in terms of professionalism and proficiency in writing.
If you are looking for a book, one of the best books I've ever read about writing is, "Everybody writes" by Ann Handley. Read the title again. Most of us write every day, but as to whether your message is received or not – that's usually comes down to your writing skills.
Taking the stress out of public speaking
When we think about public speaking, we think about politicians, news reporters, comedians, anyone but ourselves.
Yet, we all need to be good at public speaking. Meetings, presentations, job interviews, sales pitches... Most of us have to do it.
The above will involve pre-rehearsed speeches that we give to impress, get on board, engage, pass on a message, etc.
A good presentation or good speaking at a job interview may make a huge difference in our lives (and in the listener’s life, too); yet, most of us find it uncomfortable to be put on the spot, to get out there, and win the audience's hearts and minds.
How do you practice public speaking skills? You create a strong message and focus on your delivery. Need to create a strong presentation? Read my article on making presentations easy.
I've heard from many people that practicing speaking in front of the mirror just made them sound unnatural, and that they prefer to "go with the flow". Here is my opinion on that: if you don’t practice, you give up on good delivery and the likelihood of making an impact on your audience.
Do you think actors and politicians go out and perform without practicing, so that they “sound natural”? So they look believable in front of the camera? No, they practice; they try different facial expressions, tones of voice, poses, etc. They practice until they are sure that they will not get it wrong.
So practice until you are sure it’s going to come out okay, without taking up 100% of your brainpower – until you can do other things while staying on top of your speech, until it's coming out right and you are sure that no matter what happens, you are going to not get it wrong.
Here are my thoughts about practicing with the goal of not getting it wrong. I'm a snowboarder. Have you ever seen those guys and girls flying up in the air making huge jumps off cliffs? Do you think they just "go with the flow"? No. In snowboarding we practice.
I have practiced every aspect of a jump. I started with the smallest jump. I practiced with varying speeds, angles, approaches, and positions – anything I could think of. I made videos of myself jumping. I asked people who'd done it, how they did it. I asked what they thought of my jumping. I practiced again and again, to the point that it became second nature.
So now, when I am out there, on the slope, about to plunge down, when I see the cliff and get up and head down the mountain, when I speed up to 60 km/h to get the right velocity and air dynamics so that gravity and my body do their job - I end up not dying or getting injured. I end up having THE BEST TIME EVER.
You may not be a snowboarder (worth a try!), but you could get very far with your speaking skills if you practiced.
The best way to practice is by attending acting school or classes. Yes, you read it right. I've read so many books on public speaking; I've joined seminars and even toastmasters.
Nothing gets you as good as acting school. Why? Because acting is about more than "faking it", pretending to be someone you are not.
Acting gives you a way to practice being someone else, so that you understand yourself a little better. It puts you in control of your speech, your voice and your body. And it teaches you how to gain the audience's attention and trust.
The best communicators know how to write and speak clearly and persuasively. How do you stack up?
Sign up to download the ultimate checklist for improving your writing and public speaking skills.If you read nothing else on the topic, read this one-page checklist.
I’ve gone through hundreds of articles and videos and selected the most important tips, to help you share your ideas with clarity and impact – no matter what the occasion.
You will receive:
- A 100,000 word writing challenge
- Advice on who to follow and learn from (best of the best)
- Resources to improve your writing and public speaking skills
- Tips on becoming a guest writer for authoritative media
- Ideas on how to become a speaker at business events (and even get paid to do it).