Tom Webster, writing and speaking

The Skill You Need To Stand Out

Added on by Tom Webster.

A number of years ago, I was asked to give a speech to the incoming class at my old MBA program. I decided to talk about the three things that they wouldn't learn simply by getting their degree, but would have to actively seek out in order to get ahead and really make their degree count.

Here was my list:

  1. Working with groups and teams of varying quality (MBA students HATE team projects--but you'll never escape having to rely on others.)
  2. Sales skills (we are all selling, all the time.)
  3. Presentation and Speaking skills.

I think it's still a pretty good list. What they all have in common is that you can get through an MBA program without having to be particularly good at any of them--and indeed, you can wriggle your way out of them most of the time. I gave a lot of presentations in my team projects because other members of my team were all too happy to cede this dreaded task to me, the oddball who clearly enjoyed it.

I don't think those people did themselves any favors.

I developed my aptitude and eventual love for speaking for very practical reasons. I am an introvert, believe it or not--cocktail parties with strangers exhaust me. I'm not shy; people just tire me out. I can survive public events and even appear to thrive, but when they are over, I am wiped. Speaking anywhere and everywhere I can is my secret coping mechanism.

When you are naturally reticent to connect with strangers, nothing helps break the ice like having them come up to you first. When I speak at events, they do just that. So, perhaps counterintuitively, the best advice I can offer those who are reluctant to meet people is to speak for as many of them as you can.

On this week's Marketing Companion podcast with my friend Mark Schaefer, we talk about doing just that. Mark and I have both been speaking for decades, and have learned a lot about getting up in front of people and articulating an idea. And I've got loads of room for improvement. Maybe you do, too. 

I hope you'll give this show a listen--it's one of my favorites.

Link to Podcast on Public Speaking.

Other Ways to Listen to this Podcast:

Folks mentioned in this podcast:

Mitch Joel

Tom Martin

Tamsen Webster