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October 29, 2014
Speak Now or Forever Play Catch-Up
To progress in a communications career, you'll most likely need to lead meetings, do new business pitches, and participate in client interaction. What these situations require is confidence and continual education. Enrolling in a public speaking club or other organization that offers consistent practice in front of a live audience is one of the best ways to succeed.

No one is saying you have to wear a corduroy jacket and join the debate team. You just need a safe venue where you can discover your strengths and weaknesses. Are you a plan, rehearse, teleprompter type of speaker or are you a thrill seeker that excels at being spontaneous?

Confidence has always been one of the most critical elements of good presentation. I always found this a catch-22 until stumbling upon prominent Ted Talks Speaker Amy Cuddy. Her talk "Your body language shapes who you are" will give you an outline of how to get past this feeling.

Whether it is connecting with an audience, natural charisma, or something as simple for some as an ability to remember facts and details, everyone has core personality strengths that can be effective starting points.

Some prominent speakers will tell you all they do before speaking is develop an understanding of their outline. The exact words come from thoughts in real time as they are delivering, adding some anecdotes to personalize it. For some, this format would be terrifying. For others, it frees them up to really interact with the audience and cater the presentation in real time.

Now, discussion on public speaking would not be complete without the cliche of imagining the audience in their underwear. So, let's break it down.

First, imagining your client in their underwear is not a great idea for many reasons. Secondly, if you’re speaking to a larger crowd, imagining that person in the second row wearing their best lingerie may not be the best way to remember your bullet points. Wait. What was I talking about? Oh, yes. Forget all the public speaking cliches and start building your confidence through practice. Once you can be yourself in front of an audience, the rest is styling.

But where to start? First make a list of public speakers, presenters, and public figures whose style(s) you admire. Figure out what caught your attention about their style. Do they overwhelm with power? Seduce with charisma? Or perhaps they appeal to your brain with logic and audience buy-in?

There are many tantalizing sub-genres of public speaking. Knowing the styles that will serve you best is key. Sure, at some point you'll hit a plateau. This will be a great time to switch gears and work on other styles. Learn how to give a proper wedding toast or lead a discussion. These styles may seem silly, but developing your unique social style will serve you well at industry events as well as social gatherings among industry peers.

Once you're comfortable speaking your mind, you may get some "non-constructive feedback." When that day arrives, remember what Taylor Swift says: "Haters gonna hate." So shake it off.

In a short time, all you'll have to worry about is remembering to send me some comp tickets to your next keynote.

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Peter Bossio is an Associate Creative Director/Art Director. He graduated from Syracuse University's Advertising Design program and attended intensive film/video production at Tisch School of the Arts. Peter has been a guest speaker at NYU School of Professional Studies and is president of his local Toastmasters Club. Want to connect with him? You'll likely find him on twitter @PeterBossio in a salsa club or at www.peterbossio.com.
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