To some extent, you are how you speak. If you speak poorly, your audience is likely to think poorly of you and if you speak well, you’ll reap the rewards. Speaking well is just as important to communicating effectively as writing well.A big part of speaking well isn’t just good diction or being able to pronounce words, it’s confidence. When your confidence is down, that’s when “ums” and “ers” and “you knows” and “likes” creep into your speech. Practicing public speaking can make you more comfortable and that will improve your confidence. If you can deliver a five-minute speech, you can certainly deliver a winning sales presentation. Groups such as Toastmasters provide a forum for honing public speaking skills (these groups are also great for networking in your local business community).
Another way to improve your skills is to hire a coach. Recently, the New York Times profiled presentation coaches who help their clients improve their skills with noticeable results [paid registration required]. Here’s an excerpt:
Even though business owners may be experts in their fields, that does not automatically translate into being able to market themselves verbally. Many agree that speaking concisely – and in a compelling way – lends credibility. While poor communication skills are not necessarily deadly, they can make it more challenging to win over potential investors, prospective clients, employees and business partners.
“Small business is leaving money on the table because it is overlooking one of the most powerful marketing skills: speech,” said Diane DiResta, a speech and communications coach in New York. “Speech is the way a small business builds its brand, establishes expertise, gets free publicity and gets in front of its market.”