You would think marketing professionals, of all people, would be good public speakers. The bad news is: they're not....


Even though most Americans fear rattlesnakes and death more than public speaking, you would think marketing professionals would be immune to the shakes, sweats and inopportune stomach-gurgling that accompanies public speaking. After all, we're supposed to be the gregarious, flamboyant, and creative types right? Shouldn't we be able to get up and "take over" a room with a brilliant presentation?

About a year ago, 15 of my fellow marketing professionals at a global consulting firm and I were invited to a communications workshop at corporate headquarters.

Most of us assumed we'd be learning about gender differences in communication, complete a few personality tests, and then fly back to our home offices. However, we were all surprised (and some horrified), to discover this "communication workshop," was actually a 1.5-day course on public speaking and presentation skills.

We were instructed for four hours on effective speaking and communication skills, and then asked to present twice over the two days, in front of our peers and gulp– a video camera.

Round one wasn't pretty. A few of my colleagues turned beet-red, scratched their necks into a rosy hue, stuck their hands in their pockets, and lost track of their notes through the ad-hoc presentations we were instructed to give. One friend of mine insisted on sitting on a chair in the front of the room, instead of standing, because he said that's how he gives most of his presentations. Needless to say, that approach was awkward.

The next day, round two was better, presumably since we all had a night of dinner and drinking to recover from round one.

In the beginning of the session, I was convinced that I would likely be one of the worst presenters. I was in a room of high-powered marketing professionals, at a global consulting giant, where some people had graduate degrees from the finest universities in the nation. Surely everyone would be polished and outstanding speakers.

At the end of the session, I was amazed how few marketers could stand up, with very little notice and deliver an effective "impromptu" presentation without having a complete meltdown–something akin to what I sometimes see from my five-year-old.

Now you say, 15 marketing people is entirely too small of a sample size to postulate that most marketers are terrible public speakers. I wish I could say otherwise, but observations through my marketing career have proven time and again that good public speaking skills are not a given for marketing professionals.

Like most skills in life, practice makes perfect. If your public speaking skills are rusty, chances are that your next impromptu corporate presentation will be rusty. If your last presentation was two years ago, your next presentation (no matter how much you practice in front of the mirror) will be rusty. If you are a terrible public speaker, and know it, then why not do something about it?

There are more than a few avenues to improve your public speaking skills. Many community colleges offer weekend public speaking workshops, or the ability to enroll in Speech 101, 201 or similar course for an entire semester of critical instructor and peer feedback.

There are also public speaking groups like Toastmasters or other social networking groups where a marketer can practice different types of presentations and get critical feedback on a speech including content, flow, body language, hand gestures, and overall effectiveness of the message

Presenting an aire of confidence, and delivering the best presentation you possibly can, is quite honestly the expectation of our customers, suppliers and CEO's. Whether you are an entrepreneur or a corporate marketer, better public speaking is a skill that can take you places you've never dreamed of professionally.

The next time that "impromptu speech" to a customer, Vice President or CEO, comes up (and it will), with practice you'll be ready to knock it out of the park.

So fellow marketers, go forth, speak, and do the rest of us proud.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Barsch directs services marketing programs for Teradata, the world's largest data warehousing and analytics company. Previously, Paul was marketing director for HP Enterprise Services $1.3 billion healthcare industry and a senior marketing manager at global consultancy, BearingPoint. Paul is a senior contributor to MarketingProfs, a frequent columnist for MarketingProfs DailyFix, and has published over fifteen articles in marketing, management, technology and healthcare publications. Paul earned his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He and his family reside in San Diego, CA.