Public Speaking Opportunities is a guest post by Shoots Veis, P.E.
To get better at public speaking, you need to practice public speaking. It may not seem like it, but there are many public speaking opportunities out there. When you are not a seasoned public speaker, you should be looking for any chance to get out there and deliver a speech. Ask the people you work with about public speaking opportunities available to employees. Many companies encourage their employees to join Toastmasters and will provide the resources needed to participate.
Present over Lunch
If you are looking for a venue to practice speaking skills and work in an office, ask the boss if you can schedule a regular time and place to practice presentations. In a large enough office, people are speaking on a regular basis, so set up an opportunity for speakers to give their presentation to co-workers every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month. With enough people in the office giving presentations, you can find different speakers willing to speak on a Friday. The meeting could be over lunch in the conference room and you can entice people to show up by providing lunch that day. Find a method that ensures the people that show up give feedback on the presentation.
For those who work in a small office and a regular meeting is not feasible, you can set up the same type of event and ask people to bring a brown bag lunch. Have co-workers invite their spouses for lunch to get people other than engineers to listen to the presentation. Tell them you have to give a presentation and need feedback from non-engineers. Bring a thank you for the people that do come to listen (i.e. cookies, pumpkin bread).
Give a Safety Presentation
Many organizations have a workplace safety program that includes routine safety presentations. You could ask the safety coordinator if you could make a presentation on a safety topic. If the coordinator agrees, go through the process of researching a subject and developing a presentation. Try to videotape the presentation so you can review it, and pass out an evaluation form to the audience.
Service Clubs or Speaking Classes
Each morning and noon hour across the country, thousands of service groups (such as Rotary, Exchange Club, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce, etc) are meeting, and they are often in need of speakers. Contact a local group and volunteer to present. The topic should be of some interest to them, so if you are working on big public work projects, they will likely be interested in having you come give a speech. Ask the project manager to ensure it is a good idea to speak about the project, and if they agree, it is a great way to get in front of a sympathetic audience and practice public speaking skills.
Join Classes to learn public speaking techniques
Seek out an organization that specializes in training public speakers or find out if the local community college has a class on public speaking. There are clubs that work on public speaking on a regular basis. Toastmasters mission is to help people improve their public speaking, so find a club that meets near you and join their meeting.
Volunteer to Speak About Quality-Based Selection
Consider reaching out to a local government and ask them about giving a presentation on the Quality Based Selection (QBS) process for selecting and hiring engineers. Many local governments use the QBS process, but many local elected officials do not have a great grasp of the QBS process.
Most local governments are used to paying for things using the low bid system, so individuals may have difficulties adjusting to the QBS process. A presentation from a knowledgeable professional can help them get a better understanding of the QBS process. The presentation can be timely if you notice that the council is having trouble with QBS or they are going to be selecting engineers for upcoming projects. You could speak by setting up an informational session for the governing body at one of their informal meetings. Find out how you can get on the agenda by contacting the staff person who sets the agenda. Or, at a regularly scheduled meeting, to tell the council you would like to discuss QBS and ask them when you can make a presentation. A third option is scheduling individual appointments with each local elected official to discuss QBS.
Most high schools set aside a day during the year to have professionals speak about their jobs. Call the local high school and ask if they have a career day and whether you can speak about being an engineer. Not only is this great practice, but you’ll be exposing young minds to the engineering profession. Young folks are a very honest audience, they will either be engaged or they will not. Either way, you’ll learn a lot!
There are many public speaking opportunities are out there. Go find them.
About Shoots Veis:
Shoots Veis, P.E. is the author of Public Speaking for Engineers: Communicating Effectively with Clients, the Public, and Local Government. He is a Senior Project Manager focusing on municipal engineering assignments involving water and wastewater systems, land development, permitting, and project management. He served for five years as an elected member of the Billings, MT city council. Shoots enjoy speaking to engineers about the benefits of public speaking.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions on public speaking opportunities in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success