Excellent public speakers come in all shapes and forms. Some people love interjecting humor and lightheartedness into serious topics. Others paint vivid pictures with their use of storytelling. Then there are those who will expertly open and close a loop with a metaphor and those who deliver complex information in a straightforward yet digestible manner. But one thing is for sure: Public speaking is a crucial skill for advancing your career — regardless of your style.
“The skill and art of communicating effectively will be used in many areas of your career: running and participating in meetings, influencing and selling, networking with your peers, getting buy-in on an idea of yours or interviewing for new positions. From my years as an executive coach, the higher an individual progressed up the corporate ladder, the more meetings they would attend and facilitate,” says business coach and speaking strategist Laurie-Ann Murabito.
Whether you’re in a senior role and still struggle with the thought of public speaking or you’re just starting to get more involved in activities that require presenting and facilitating, developing your oral communication skills can only benefit your professional aspirations. And since there is a vast array of advice on speaking, we’ve asked Murabito for her take on the No. 1 skill that all the best public speakers share. Why? Focusing on one important thing to improve can yield more impactful results than trying all the tips out there at once. Plus, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to emulate all the different outstanding speakers of this world.
So if you’re ready to elevate your public speaking game, here’s the one trait you need to cultivate (and how to go about it).
The no. 1 trait all the best public speakers share
“The best trait a public speaker can possess is being relatable. Being relatable means being comfortable with who you are, which will help in terms of being authentic and uniquely yourself. A meeting in front of a board or a sales presentation will run so much smoother when you present or speak from the level of your audience without trying to come across as being better than anyone else in the room,” says Murabito.
Spend some time watching different viral speech videos online and you’ll quickly notice that the most powerful speakers always find ways to be relatable to their audience — even when telling extraordinary stories or communicating expert advice.
How to cultivate relatability
But how do you go about cultivating relatability? Showing up as your authentic self will help others relate to you. And when you are shaking and sweating and feel butterflies in your stomach, it can be challenging to be yourself. Murabito recommends embracing your nerves and remembering that even the most seasoned speakers get stage fright.
“Make friends with nervousness because it’s not a sign you’re not good at speaking or unprepared. It’s normal and a natural reaction in your body,” she says.
She also suggests deciding on the type of speaker you want to be in terms of a style that suits your true personality and focusing on a few keywords that describe you to stay intentional when speaking: “Pick three words that describe your style, such as infectious, energetic, humorous, down-to-earth, etc. Every time you have an opportunity to speak, remind yourself of your words.” Then, look back at your performance and assess whether you stayed aligned with your style and words. “Setting the intention will train your nervous system and reinforce your desired behavior,” says Murabito.
It’s also important to remember that becoming an exceptional communicator requires practice. And the more you practice, the more confident you’ll become, which will in turn make you automatically more relatable. “The skill of speaking is a lifelong practice. Each opportunity will enhance your skills and give you more confidence in your ability. Increased confidence will improve your relatability with your audience,” says Murabito.