Here is a big, broad idea for you. An explanation first, though.
I’m committed to making sure that you take improving your speaking ability seriously. This will be an essential skill for success in the years to come, as it is now, and it is certainly why Warren Buffet recently said improving your speaking could increase your value by 50%. I’m not serving you well if I don’t keep this need before your eyes.
Let me save you some time. Here is the main way you engineer this improvement: create a culture of speaking excellence in your firm and around you. By this, I mean build speaking and presentation excellence into all that you do, all that you are responsible for.
Some young women came to me years ago. They were all excellent students at a top university. They were smart and energetic and certain to rise. Yet they knew their main disadvantage: none of them were good speakers. This was a serious problem. They had all chosen fields that would require stellar speaking. What should they do?
We talked about it at length and I made a recommendation. I suggested they create a culture of speaking excellence around them right then and also plan to later as they launched into their careers.
So, in the dorm or a conference room at their university library, they each gave speeches before the group and then got feedback. This went on for their final year of college. When they signed on with good firms, they each created new groups where, again, aspiring leaders volunteered to give talks and receive feedback.
You already know what happened. They got better. Much better. They rose. They started making sure that every department they were responsible for emphasized speaking excellence. At one firm where one of my young friends worked, the execs even agreed to a speech competition. Anyone could enter. The last year I heard about, a dock foreman won—in a competition involving hundreds of competitors at every level.
The company prospered. My young friend rose. Everyone had a ball. New career tracks were fashioned. Why? A culture of speaking excellence.
The folks who do this best in my experience are the US military academies. You must speak well. You don’t get out of one engineering course I dropped in on unless you give a good speech on your semester project. And the speech is graded—in the field of engineering! It is the same in history at that school, and English, and oceanography. These schools understand you have to speak well in order to lead well. They emphasize speaking in nearly every department. This creates a culture of speaking excellence throughout the school.
Now, how are you building a culture of speaking excellence around you that will make you and those you lead top speakers? How are you including public speaking into your professional development, educational programs, and team growth initiatives of every kind?
Let me be blunt. I’ve had a marvelous academic career, but my life and a whole lot of others would have been improved had my universities required just one seminar on speaking excellence for the faculty. The same was true for that large church where I was on staff and that company I was part of for a while and certainly every government agency I’ve ever worked with.
It can be as simple as forming a small group of people who read the top books in your field, gives speeches before each other and offers kind feedback. It can be as large as requiring speaking excellence for every level of advancement in a company. You’ll figure it out, but only after you value it and see what Warren Buffet sees—speaking is nearly half the key to nearly every kind of success.