Billionaire Warren Buffet once said that an employee could enhance their value by 50% just by improving their public speaking skills. But many writers (myself included) are true introverts, and much of our work tends to be solo. Because it’s outside our natural inclinations and comfort zones, many writers devalue the importance of skills such as speaking with confidence, communicating effectively with other team members in meetings, and sometimes even being friendly and easy to talk with one-on-one.
Let’s face it—what writer hasn’t ended up at one of those professional meet-ups where even getting a smile or eye contact felt like hard work? But I believe interpersonal skills are almost as important to my profession as my writing skills. When I was early in my career, joining a Toastmasters club helped me overcome life-long habits of shyness and greatly improved my ability to be effective in meetings and interviews.
It’s even more important now that I am a freelancer. In my profession, I often interview my client’s clients—a position of great trust. Again via Toastmasters, I get practice every week in communicating ideas to diverse people, putting people at ease, and setting aside nerves. The practice in listening well may be even more important! The confidence I gain from frequent practice in public speaking is enormously helpful with some of the more onerous tasks of business too, from making cold calls to diffusing potential conflict.
I schedule time every week for Toastmasters as a matter of personal development. It’s good for me and helps me with every client project. For an introvert, practicing public speaking doesn’t mean you pretend to be something you’re not—it means you learn to contribute your own unique voice.
And by the way, Mr. Buffet, I’m ready for my 50% raise now.