I am going to share my secret fear with you. My shrouded scare paralyzes me with dread, leaves me speechless, and ties my tongue tight. OK, here goes, I am a terribly shy introvert who cannot stomach the slightest notion of public speaking. Just writing it out strikes terror into my heart, dampens my armpits, and erupts hives all over my body. Sexy.

The terrible truth is, I freeze when confronted with a stage and a group of unknown people. Perhaps this terror is residual fear from my high school days when pimple-faced teenage girls poked fun at me while I played my trumpet for band ceremonies. Perhaps I was a teenage knob and deserved the ridicule. Regardless of why I hated standing up in front of a crowd, I knew I had to do something about it later in life.

The realization my public speaking skills where holding me back hit me hard last year when my 90-year-old grandmother asked me to give a eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral. I was touched and honored by her request. I was also sweating a small river through my shirt.

toastmasters_blog1.JPG

My grandfather was a popular fellow in his town of residence. He was a decorated veteran, a respected business man, and he dedicated his life to several volunteer service groups. Due to his community service and popularity, I knew the whole town would be in attendance for his closing ceremonies. I knew I had to speak to hundreds of people. I knew I had to speak well. I knew I had to do my grandfather proud.

I joined Toastmasters for help. Toastmasters is a group of talkative folks who get together weekly to speak publicly. Toastmasters spend several hours a week preparing, practicing, and verbalizing speeches. Some are master communicators, others are sweaty-pitted neophytes like myself.

I was surprised by the depth of skill at Toastmasters. I was also surprised with the welcoming and friendly faces who greeted me each meeting. No one laughed. No one pointed. Everyone wanted to see me do well. They wanted me to grow. They wanted me to succeed.

The path to exceptional oratorship is not an easy one. To be an experienced Toastmaster you must be able to introduce speakers, use body language effectively, use vocal tones with ease, and speak on a topic with enough grace to engage an audience. Toastmasters are sticklers for grammar. They care about speech organization, topics of passion, and speech length. I was surprised they timed each speech with tools usually reserved for professional athletes standing on starting blocks. I was also surprised at the end of each meeting when the “official um counter” delivered the tally of everyones vocal slips. My best night was “2 ums” for a 3 minute speech. My most prolific tally was “16 ums” for a 2 minute mutter fest.

I’m far from crossing the finish line to “Master Toastmaster” status. I’m still a fledgling speech crafter working my way through the um’s and ahh’s of clearer communication. But during my vocal journey I’ve discovered some surprising financial benefits to becoming a better public speaker.

Here are five reasons why becoming a better public speaker can help your finances:

1. Negotiation:

Can you talk money? Can you ask your boss convincingly for a raise? Can you close the big deal? Being a better public speaker can help you negotiate raises, deals, and conduct money matters to your benefit. Sure, it may take some brass balls to ask your boss to “show you the money”, but the ability to formulate an argument and persuade your case is really half the battle. Not uming and ahhing your way though “the big ask” helps too.

2. Business presentations:

I’m not a fan of the boardroom. But the ability to speak to any level of management without sounding bored is essential in business. Career-defining speaking situations can happen at any time. The trick is to know how to speak to these money making encounters when cornered in your office, hallowed in the hallway, or elevated in the elevator. The ability to give a quick sales pitch, present a proposal, or bellow a business brief with skill and ease can impress (or depress) those with career influence. Presenting ideas successfully can only help your career and money earning potential down the road.

3. Listening:

You may hear, but do you really listen? Improved listening skills are an unexpected side benefit to becoming a better speaker. Listening thoughtfully raises the financial stakes in any conversation. Paying attention to the audience, watching their reaction to your words, and understanding their body language helps to gauge success. If the audience looks uncertain, why not ask “is this clear?” to reestablish rapport and clarify any loose ends. The ability to listen to your audience can make or break the deal.

4. Networking:

How are you with mingling and working a crowd? Do you get introduced to people or do you do the introducing? Joining Toastmasters has had a huge impact on my ability to introduce colleagues and business acquaintances with grace and ease. I used to be a wall flower, now I’m better at working the room and growing relationships.

5. Pick up chicks:

My “better half” suggested this one. Like me, my “better half” is a shy introvert. But when we first met eons ago, he was pretty darn happy I persuaded him to see a movie. He says he’s a richer man today because I was the better communicator. While this sounds silly, my “better half” may be on to something. Being a good communicator, presenter, listener, and negotiator can only help you build a stronger relationship with your spouse. If you can’t talk money openly, or balance a budget fairly, the road to riches can be stifled. Learn to bridge the communications gap with your spouse and get wealthy through your years together.

Indeed, along with doing weddings and funerals, there are many financial gains to garner by being a better public speaker. Do you fear public speaking? Do you see a financial gain to speaking up loud and clear?