Enhance your speaking skills with these tips
Public speaking is a skill engineers rarely master during their initial education and training - in many cases they never do, and the prospect of getting up in front of a crowd fills many experienced professionals with dread.
Any experienced speaker will tell you that confidence comes with experience, and taking as many opportunities to speak will definitely help you gain the ability to speak with confidence in front of a wide range of audiences.
Here are five ways you can find opportunities to speak, ranging from the easiest to the most challenging.
Become a STEM Ambassador
Becoming a STEM Ambassador has a wide range of benefits - not only do you get to encourage the next generation of engineers, but you can enhance your own reputation with your employer by representing them helping a great cause.
Schoolchildren are also a great audience, as you're guaranteed to be considered an expert in your field they will be keen to benefit from your knowledge and experience. STEM events can range from short talks about your time in education and work to multiple-event engagements with clubs or careers fairs, but they can all help you gain valuable experience of talking to groups in a low-pressure environment.
Organise a speaking event at work
Another low-pressure environment to practice speaking is in the workplace; take a meeting room over lunch with a few colleagues and talk about a project you're working on or a particular area in your field that they might be able to learn from you on. This is great practice for giving technical presentations, and you can be sure your colleagues will know the right questions to ask to give you valuable experience answering what can be difficult and probing queries from the audience!
Toastmasters is an international organisation dedicated to this very subject - practising public speaking. Members of the group take it in turns to give short speeches on any subject they choose, and is a great way to meet people if you've moved to a new city for work. Toastmasters members will vary in age and is also a great for networking and an opportunity to learn valuable advice from experienced speakers.
Institution speaking competitions
It's very likely your Professional Engineering Institution runs an annual competition for young engineers to give presentations. These can put you in audiences ranging from your local network all the way to a global audience over the internet or at prestigious events all over the world! There are often incentives as well, such as quicker progression within the grades of the institution, funding to pursue advanced study, or sometimes cold hard cash.
Here are a few competitions run by PEIs - some also accept competitors from outside their institution so don't despair if your institution doesn't have one. Better yet, why not try and start one yourself?!