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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Afraid to speak up?

Last week, the demands on my time seemed overwhelming. My daughter was sick, my babysitter was sick and I wanted to attend a special training class that would help me at work.

My first thought was to give up the class. But a deep feeling in my gut told me not to miss it. So I juggled, called in reinforcements, and went to the class. I'm so glad I did.

Anyone who speaks in front of groups at work or outside of work should consider Dale Carnegie's High Impact Presentations. My friend Debra Levine, who works for Dale Carnegie, says even if you are Katie Couric in front of a camera or crowd, there's always room to take it up a notch.

About a dozen of us from various companies and professions went to the two-day class and evolved from being okay public speakers to wowing each other with our new-found confidence and skills.

We spent one morning taking a dull speech on Einstein and making it interesting by using gestures and projecting enthusiasm. We took turns sitting on the hot seat, learning how to handle stressful situations during a mock question and answer period. And we practiced moving our audience to action through a three-minute presentation.

Later this week, I'm speaking to a group of female bankers about work/life balance and success strategies. I plan to use my new bag of tricks to get them see me as an expert and read my column in The Miami Herald. I would imagine some of my peers in the class already have used their improved speaking skills in their jobs -- to land a new client, gain the confidence of the boss or convince a group of co-workers to see their viewpoint.

How are your public speaking skills? Do you think it's important to know how to speak up at work? Have you ever invested time in improving your presenting skills? Was it worth it?

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