Why are presentation skills so important for success?

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Janet Barclay speaking at WordCamp Hamilton 2015

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of giving my How to Write Blog Posts that Get Results presentation at WordCamp Hamilton 2015.

If just the thought of public speaking makes you anxious, you might be questioning how I can describe such an experience as a pleasure. I get it!

Not long after I started my business, I was invited to speak at a local bookstore, and it was just too good a marketing opportunity to turn down. I was so terrified, that I was actually relieved when no one showed up – scheduling it at the same time as an NHL playoff game was probably not the best idea – even though it meant I didn’t get the chance to promote my services.

Since then, I’ve had many opportunities to share my expertise with a variety of audiences, including NAPO, POC, and many others, and it’s definitely gotten easier. Even though I’m still anxious for days ahead of time, once I get up to speak, it’s a great feeling to realize how much I have to offer. Because I didn’t shy away from public speaking –despite being an introvert who had only spoken to groups when it was required for grades – I’ve reaped many rewards that might otherwise have passed me by. I’ve listed several of them here.

7 Rewards of Developing Presentation Skills

  1. Your exposure extends beyond the people who hear you speak to anyone who sees the event promotions (and of course, to their extended networks as well).
  2. Those who hear you speak get to connect with you on a personal level, contributing greatly to the ever important “know – like – trust” factor.
  3. The audience become aware of your expertise and how you can help them or others they know.
  4. Giving free presentations allows you to build the confidence and competence you’ll need if you’d eventually like to get paid to speak.
  5. Listing your past presentations and workshops on your website causes it to come up when local organizations search for a speaker or presenter.
  6. Once you have some presentations created, you can quickly step in when someone needs a speaker on short notice.
  7. Workshop content can be repurposed into blog posts, e-books, and other applications.

The benefits aren’t limited to business success, either. Becoming a competent public speaker will help you to communicate more effectively in every aspect of your personal and professional lives.

How to Become a Confident and Effective Speaker

Just like any other activity, your speaking skills will increase as you gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Trial and error is not the fastest way to develop competence at most things, so you might want to add presentation skills training to your professional development plan

I attended a public speaking seminar at our community college, which was quite helpful, but there are many other options. There’s a vast range of presentation skills courses available both on and offline and some companies, like Activia, even provide you with free eLearning revision materials to use after your classroom session to help you get the most out of your training.

I’ve never been to Toastmasters, but I’ve learned some really useful strategies from people who are members. They have thousands of clubs in hundreds of countries, so clearly lots of people find it beneficial.

Your Turn

If you’re an experienced speaker, how have your presentation skills contributed to your success?

If you haven’t tried it yet, what’s holding you back?

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

Join the Conversation


  1. Avatar Ellen Delap on June 16, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I remember taking a class at NAPO conference about presentations many years ago. It was empowering because the presenter shared basic ideas on how to give great presentations. Having a resource to improve your skills makes it easier.

    Speaking is one of the best ways to be identified as an expert. It’s also a great way to have potential clients have a “test run” with you. Speaking also gives you great recognition in your community. Without a doubt, speaking is one of the highest returns on investment for my business.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 16, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Agreed on all accounts! And what a lot of people who are hesitant to speak don’t realize is that nearly everyone gets nervous – even professional speakers! If you can get past it, it’s sooo worth it.

  2. Avatar Sabrina Q. on June 16, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Public speaking is not easy but like anything else, practice makes perfect. I use to do presentations for my organizing business but for the amount of work to setup, I really wasn’t seeking a return on investment. I always felt that public speaking was like stand up comedy, you need to be able to entertain your audience. Thanks for sharing.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 17, 2015 at 6:42 am

      I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. Some audiences are easier to click with than others. I know that some people don’t find me energetic enough for their taste, but many others appreciate my calm demeanor.

  3. Avatar Seana Turner on June 17, 2015 at 8:09 am

    I do a fair amount of speaking, and I always consider it a joy. I love meeting people and hearing their questions… I hear honest stories and love interacting. I do think it is one of the best forms of PR, and although it doesn’t always translate into immediate jobs, it often pays off in the long run when someone remembers me and calls in a time of need.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 17, 2015 at 8:36 am

      Same here! I’ve spoken dozens of times, but I can only think of one occasion which led to work almost immediately – and apparently that client already had me in mind before hearing me speak. I also love interacting with the audience, and find that the Q&A session is often the most valuable part for both the audience and myself. (In fact, one time when I was asked to speak on short notice, I suggested a purely Q&A session, and it was very successful!)

  4. Avatar Olive Wagar on June 17, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement, Janet! During my first month of business, I created a complimentary presentation called “Organizing ABC’s: 26 Amazing Organizing Ideas” that I offered to 6 local libraries and 1 community center as part of GO Month in January 2015. It resulted in a full page newspaper story,a radio interview, and a list of email addresses for my monthly newsletter and weekly blog. It was a great confidence builder for me! I now call that my signature presentation and offer it as an introduction to new audiences. Currently I am returning to those libraries, plus 3 more, for a summer program, “Confidently Conquer Clutter” for which I am being paid. It seems to be a perfect way to build trust and credibility. 🙂

    • Avatar Janet on June 17, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      That’s fabulous, Olive – living proof that speaking pays off!

  5. Avatar Sarah Soboleski on June 17, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Great post! I hadn’t thought of #5 before, but it makes so much sense. I’ve been building my public speaking skills and though I dread it, I do get a rush when it’s all done as it’s a definite confidence booster for me. I even appeared on a local cable show (twice!) this year. I find the more I can bring in real-life examples from working with clients, the more engagement I get from participants. And they love before & after pictures!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 18, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Congratulations on the TV appearances! I had a couple of those too, when I was an organizer, though never in my current role – I guess web design and virtual assistance aren’t exciting enough for TV viewers 🙂 . And I love that rush when it’s over, especially when it’s gone particularly well!

  6. Avatar Autumn Leopold on June 18, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    I actually love public speaking! I love interacting and I have to admit I love making people laugh! So most of my speaking engagements all have some form of humor! The best part is when people laugh and I didn’t even mean to be funny!
    #5 is an awesome tip! I just started listening to my coaching calls this year and I always get something out of it that I missed when it was live. I imagine re-listening to speaking engagements can be the same way. Great post Janet!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

      I like your idea about re-listening to speaking engagements. I have been given recordings of some of my presentations, but I can never bring myself to listen to them. You’ve helped me to realize that it would be a great way to discover what worked and what didn’t, instead of relying on my memory!

  7. Avatar Alison Lush on June 20, 2015 at 7:15 am

    Excellent points Janet!
    One of my biggest takeaways from public speaking is actually from the preparation itself.
    I’m forced to review, reflect, prioritize and package my thoughts, images and strategies so I present them in the most helpful way.
    This review has a powerful effect on my OWN thinking, and I gain much clarity and confidence which extends way beyond the presentation.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 20, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Yes! Sometimes as I gather my thoughts and resources I realize, I really do know this stuff! 😉

  8. Avatar Kim on June 20, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Hi Janet,
    I remember feeling very anxious many years ago about attending a group as a participant and then moving on to actually co-facilitating a group. It caused me a lot of stress.
    I have since facilitated many groups and I now do regular speaking engagements at a Family Counselling Centre and also downtown at our main library in London, Ontario. Because I am a huge introvert it does take a lot of energy from me but I find that I am not even half as nervous anymore. Also, once I get started its all good. I think if you know your stuff that is half the battle as well. The one thing I haven’t gotten a handle on is actually promoting myself at the end of the talk with something I can offer. I work full time in mental health so have little time and energy for private individual work.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 20, 2015 at 9:07 am

      Kim, even closing with an invitation to subscribe to your blog would be worthwhile. To make it easy for them, pass around a sign-up sheet and enter the names yourself. Explain that they will receive a confirmation email which they’ll have to click on in order to be added to the list. That will keep your name in front of them until they’re ready to work with you – and maybe at that point you’ll be ready to take on new clients.

  9. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on June 20, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Sometimes I get hung up on how I look and sound, and I have to remind myself: “It’s not about you. It’s about them. They just want some tips and encouragement and inspiration. You can do that!”

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 21, 2015 at 6:46 am

      That’s a great point, Hazel. It’s so easy to fall into that trap!

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