The way you engage with other people in conversation and when presenting to a bigger group is very important for your professional image. We talk to people all the time: family, friends, and a stranger at the shops or in a taxi so is speaking in the work place different? When you’re speaking outside the work place you’ll adapt the way you speak or what you speak about to the situation. It’s the same in the work place! Remember that you are at work and that will help guide you.

Conversations in the Office

When you are talking to others in your office, even just in chatting around a desk, always be friendly and polite. Work places need a positive energy to work well and it helps if you don’t create a negative atmosphere. If you do have a problem with something it is best to speak either to the person concerned or your manager so that the matter can be properly resolved.

We are a country of many languages so people will use different languages at work depending on the group of people that are meeting. English is often the language used in work communication but accent doesn’t matter. People in a work space just need to be able understand each other.

Because there are often a number of people working in the same space, it’s good to communicate in a way that doesn’t disturb others in the space if they aren’t part of the conversation.

Although most of your speaking will be about work related matters, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have passing chats with others. This is normal and healthy. Be aware, though, that this shouldn’t take up too much time of your time.

Speaking on the phone

In general, your conversations on the phone should be about work. If you are answering or making work calls, greet the person on the other side and introduce yourself. If it’s you that made the call, then it will also be important to tell the other person what organisation you’re phoning from and your position in that organisation. Once you’ve done that, outline the reason for the call. From there it should be easy to discuss why you are calling. It’s always helpful to have a notebook and pen on your desk (instead of having to run around to find one!) so that you can make notes of what decisions are being made on the call.

Sometimes we really need to make a personal call. Or perhaps a family member phones to tell you something you need to know. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you keep your conversation short and to the point. If you’re in a shared work space, you may want to walk away from your desk so that you can speak in private. It’s generally not a good idea to use the office phone for personal reasons as it will cost the organisation money.

Speaking in Public

Do you know that many people are more scared of public speaking than they are of dying? But, being able to speak at meetings and in small groups is really important even if you’re not ready for large presentations. Remember that most people are actually afraid of speaking in public so don’t feel alone. When we’re nervous about doing something we feel anxious and nervous. Our hearts pound, we feel sick, we might sweat and shake and even feel short of breath. Despite all of this you aren’t actually ill and no one in the audience will know how you feel. So all you have to do is look calm and confident and everyone will believe you are! So fake it until you make it!

Tips on overcoming anxiety when speaking in public:

Preparation is everything. If you have prepared and practiced what you want to say, it will be much easier. If you’re in a meeting, think for a few seconds about what you want to say and then give your feedback.

It helps if you know who your audience is. Make sure that what you are saying and how you are saying it is suitable for that group of people.

Don’t try and learn what you are going to say off by heart. Know what the key points are and then discuss them naturally. If you have written it down, remember that no one knows what is on your page so if you make a mistake no-one will know. There’s no need to say, “Sorry”!

If you forget what you were going to say next, take a few moments to breathe and calm down and the thoughts will flow back. When we panic our brains stop functioning properly so breathing helps to get the oxygen back to the brain. Actually, pauses in public speaking are also very effective and audiences like them, so again there’s no need to apologise.

Breathing is so important so take some deep breathes even before you start speaking as this helps to calm you down. It helps to smile too because it makes you look confident to your audience and smiling sends calming chemicals to your brain.

The last tip is to realise that your audience or listeners actually want you to be successful. This helps because you understand that no-one is looking for you to make a mistake and it takes the pressure off you.

Appearing confident when you speak does help you to feel less anxious and your colleagues and boss will be interested in what you are saying. Speaking in public is a very useful skill and can be very good for your career, even if it is your biggest fear!

Public speaking may take some practice but conversations in the office and on the phone won’t take much time to get right. Relax and remember that there are no hard and fast rules about conversations – just guidelines. Each work place will be a little different so watch your colleagues and you’ll soon see what the norm is and you’ll fit right in.

Tell us: Do you have tips about speaking at work?