On Monday, I wrote a post about the Three Great Challenges Young Leaders Face. Today, I’m writing about the single greatest skill I’ve developed to overcome these challenges: Public Speaking. 

It comes as a great shock to most people that I grew up a painfully shy kid. Yes, the person that never stops talking used to send his little brother to the McDonald’s counter for a refill. I hated talking to anyone I didn’t know and constantly found myself awkward.

That was until my freshman year in high school when my teachers pushed me into competing in FFA public speaking contests. It was there that public speaking opened up a whole new world for me. While I never won, the rewards have been even greater, including:

Improved Relationships

The basis of all relationships is quality communication. Learning to speak in public has allowed me to build relationships because being able to speak to groups has made me much better in one on one situations. It’s an unexpected byproduct that I continue to enjoy.

Improved Self Confidence

Like most people, I was scared of public speaking. Simply doing something that scared the daylights out of me increased my confidence levels in every other area of my life. Doing what I feared gave me the confidence to be myself and that’s been a lifelong gift.

A Reputation

There’s a funny thing about the way the world views someone that can speak in public. If you’re able to string sentences together, the world immediately sees you as more intelligent and charismatic. Developing as a public speaker has allowed me to develop a reputation and that’s a powerful personal branding tool.

Career Advancement

Being able to command a room has not only allowed me to get jobs that I wasn’t entirely qualified for, it has given me the opportunity to grow into those jobs and advance. In the modern economy, there are few skills as important as being able to communicate. Employers value this skill and reward those who have it.

An Opportunity to Serve Others

My work with United Way gives me the opportunity to give voice to people whose stories often go unheard. Public speaking makes it possible for me to advocate on their behalf and serve others. It’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t have if I couldn’t speak.

In short, public speaking has given a shy kid an opportunity to find friends, become confident, develop my brand and advance in my career while serving others. It’s helped me become a leader of myself and others and given me the opportunity to help others develop those qualities too. While I can’t promise that public speaking will do the same for you, I can promise it’s worth the effort to find out.

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