I think one of the responsibilities of any manager, and especially the CEO, is to help present the face and spirit of the company to the public. This isn't an ego thing, indeed it's a chore, but in helping to put a real face to the business, the manager is reaching out to customers in a human way that general marketing can't replicate.
Speeches help sell the company to a number of constituencies: most obvious among these are prospective employees, future partners, and future customers. All of these audiences react well to not just the economics of a venture, but also the human factor as well. Speeches are also good for the manager. They force you to become an expert in at least one particular field - sometimes its useful to be in a room of potential clients when you're considered the expert! Speeches also help you clarify what you want to say in front of a crowd. This skill can come in handy when you are trying to give employees some encouragement and a sharing of vision and inspiration for the future.
I try to give at least one speech per month. When I first started out, I had to ask organizations for speaking opportunities, and I positioned myself as an expert on IT and in particular bilingual outsourcing - which I pretty much started in Japan back in 1990. Although it was difficult to push people to let me speak to their group members, after I got reluctant approval I'd spend a lot of time preparing and rehearsing my delivery so that I could make an impact on the audience. The preparation worked, and over time I became more in demand and further bookings got a lot easier.
These days, most of my public speaking is for the Japanese and foreign governments - all of which are trying to encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Japan.
Giving a speech is not hard so long as you know your topic. So the trick is to talk about some interesting segment of your daily business. Since you won't be trying to remember every little detail, this will allow you to focus on your delivery and less on the content. People new to the speaking game often find themselves getting stage fright and forgetting what they want to say. I admit that I still get nervous before going out in front of an audience, but a little trick I learned is to NOT focus on the eyes of anyone in the audience. Instead look just above the heads at the back and imagine that you're talking to a friend. Thiscan really take the stage fright factor away from your presentation and let you get on with the job.
Needless to say, the speeches that are most successful are those covering a subject that people are interested in. In this age of bad news and economic fear, so I find that focusing on successes, tricks of the trade, ideas on cutting costs and boosting profits all work very well. I also find that inspirational periods within one's life allow you to "hook" an audience and connect with them. I often talk about my first few years in business here in Japan, where I was so broke I had to borrow money for the first phone line. This usually gets the would-be entrepreneurs in the audience coming up later for more advice.
Lastly, public speaking also creates a risk, in that you become a lot more vulnerable to public criticism and professional jealously. You really need to be sure that you are willing to live in a fishbowl and take on the extra pressure. In particular, you may wind up spending a lot of time fielding questions and challenges from people that you normally wouldn't spend time with. My thinking, though, is that "what goes around comes around." By that I mean that in giving yourself to the community in an open and honest way, you create a pool of goodwill and friends that you may need some time in the future. I find that this belief in giving in order to receive is a major reason why people get involved in public speaking.
If you are considering a career in the recruiting industry, you can drop Terrie Lloyd an email for more advice at email@example.com. You can also see his weekly newsletter, called Terrie's Take, at www.terrie.com.