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The One Skill To Get Your Career Moving Faster

How to get ahead of your colleagues without being especially smart or talented.

There is one thing you can do to instantly raise your credibility at work or any other area of your life. This one thing will set you apart from your colleagues because people will perceive you as a confident leader. This one thing will raise your profile because you are able to do something nobody else wants to do.

That ‘thing’ is public speaking.

I hate public speaking. It causes me immense stress. Getting in front of a crowd freaks me out. But if you’re like me, now is the time to give it a go.

We’re all working from home at the moment. In-person meetings and presentations have been replaced by virtual presentations, a much more comfortable way to present to a group. For introverts like me, this is a great opportunity to ease into public speaking.

Moreover, while your colleagues are fading into the background because they’re remaining silent, you now have the opportunity to stand out by taking a leadership role.

When It Comes to Presentations, Preparation is Key

Whether in-person or virtual, presentations are still a ton of work.

For every slide I present I generally require an hour of preparation (if I want to come across as polished and prepared). A 30 minute presentation with 15 slides will require about 15 hours of work, including research, storyboarding and practice.

Anyone can do a great presentation if they invest the time and energy.

The entire process is excruciating. But preparation means the difference between confident orator and rambling buffoon. Don’t let this scare you. Anyone can do a great presentation if they invest the time and energy.

Of course, someone who has been presenting for years will do a better job than someone who rarely presents, but they can both do a great job that impresses their audience.

Presentations Are An Investment in Your Career

The investment will pay off. I have used this strategy at my work over the past several years to manufacture my personal brand. I hate it but it works. By speaking on numerous occasions about forward-looking research topics, people now perceive me as a thought leader. I like to think their perception is accurate, but without me making the effort nobody would know. Presenting is perhaps the fastest and most effective way to shape how others perceive you.

Indeed, because of this manufactured perception I have been able to purposely adjust the calculus of my career so that I spend more time doing the work I’m most interested in. On the whole, by doing something nobody else wants to do I have bought myself more freedom and flexibility to plan my day.

Take The Initiative and Start Small

Whatever your job – no matter where you sit in the hierarchy – you can benefit from taking the initiative to present in front of a group.

Your presentation doesn’t have to be directly related to your role. Talk about something interesting related to your industry. Or talk about something you recently learned that others might find helpful.

Start small and start with a topic you know well. Also, start with an audience you already feel comfortable with. These small wins will begin set you apart from your colleagues. You can grow from there.

Over time, you will become somewhat more comfortable. However, even the most accomplished presenters like Sir Laurence Olivier get stage fright. So don’t expect it to go away completely. Instead, develop coping strategies – the most critical being preparation and practice. 

If you don’t take the initiative to develop your public speaking skills, your career will eventually hit a wall. Almost all mid-level and senior positions require the ability to communicate verbally to a crowd. So investing in this one skill is critical to setting yourself apart and keeping your career moving in an upward direction.