When I was growing up, and even upon college graduation, I was an extreme introvert. It was difficult, almost to the point of painful, for me to talk with someone I didn’t know. Even calling to order pizza was threatening for my self-esteem.
Being so introverted is not a good quality to have in public accounting. It would have definitely worked against me if I had not seen the need to change early in my career. Interacting with different clients and team members every week helped get me out of my shell. But the thing that gave me the most confidence was writing and speaking.
Writing can be somewhat daunting if you know a lot of people will read what you wrote. Imagine, though, being asked to write a technical article about a complex accounting and auditing rule. That was daunting but I was able to write it. See my first article here.
Maybe that first article stirred my interest in writing more frequently. Now, I write two or three times a week for Intentional Employee and have written other public accounting-related articles.
Speaking is the one thing I was deathly afraid of. In fact, studies have shown that people are more scared of public speaking than they are of death. That was me when I was growing up.
Early in my public accounting career, I was asked to co-teach a two-day training course for the firm. It was nerve-racking to prepare. Just thinking about standing in front of 30 people and trying to teach was intimidating. Actually standing there wasn’t near as bad as I thought it would be though. In fact, after a few minutes, I felt right at home.
That first training session has turned into several others. I’ve now taught that session, and variations of it, for eight years. Those sessions though are focused on what I do on a daily basis. That’s easy. Anyone can do that, right? You can. You just can’t be too intimidated.
Could you talk about a topic for which you would have to study and prepare for hours? You can do that too. It’s all about preparation. As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
As long as it fits in my schedule, I now take every opportunity to speak that comes my way. I still get nervous and a little intimidated. The few minutes before I speak are the worst. My stomach hurts. I start to sweat. I silently repeat my talk over and over again. When I start speaking though, all that goes away. It’s like I was meant to speak.
Writing and speaking can be great for your career. Here are a few benefits of writing and speaking:
Name recognition – Being recognizable is a pretty awesome thing. I’m not to the point (or anywhere close to it) where someone will stop me in the airport. “Hey, you’re Bert Purdy!” It would be neat if that happened but that’s not what I’m trying to accomplish. Instead, I want to be famous in my industry.
When someone hears my name, they should think, “He’s that guy who loves his job and helps others love theirs.” Or, it could be, “He’s a risk management expert and helps banks across the country identify and mitigate risk.” Both of those are my target reactions. I can accomplish both of those by writing and speaking.
Being respected – More important than being famous is being respected. I’d rather someone respect the type of person I am and respect my abilities than just recognize my name. Respect means I’m recognized for my skill, honesty and professionalism.
Opportunities – When you speak or write and someone of influence sees or reads your comments, that person could be the catalyst for other speaking and writing opportunities. Each opportunity you have adds to your resume of achievements and skills. Those achievements and skills could lead to sales, promotions, etc.
Travel – As of the date of this writing, I’ve been blessed to speak in different cities in Missouri (my home state), Illinois and Massachusetts. While that is a short list, I hope to add other states to my resume soon. Traveling to Kansas City, Chicago and Boston to speak have been great experiences.
In my family strategic plan, I identified two opportunities to seek. One is to preach a Sunday morning sermon at my church. I’ve given short talks during Wednesday evening services but have never given a full sermon. I look forward to that opportunity. I also want to find an opportunity to speak in front of a group of at least 500 people. Small groups are easy to find but groups of 500 or more people are much more difficult to get in front of.
Have you been asked to write or speak but declined the invitation? Why? If you haven’t been asked to write and speak, have you asked for the opportunity? Why not? I challenge you in the next six months to find at least one opportunity to write and speak.
Trade magazines need articles to publish. Ask your company or office marketing director to help you identify an opportunity. Your company or a trade organization will also likely organize seminars or conferences at which you can speak. Take that opportunity as well.
Maybe you need some practice before you speak on stage in front of clients and prospects. Have you offered to teach a Bible study class at your church? Have you talked with a former high school teacher or college professor about speaking to a class? You could even offer to do some training in your company.
What do you say? Will you take the challenge to write or speak within the next six months? It will be great for you personally and for your career. You have to start sometime. Why not now?