Public speaking is hard. It requires refined communication skills and a lot of confidence to be able to step up to a podium and share a message or story. For business leaders, public speaking is an essential skill that allows for genuine connection with clients and audiences. On May 18, communication leadership expert John Bates joined the Salt Lake Chamber’s Business Women’s Forum (BWF) to give his presentation entitled “The Science Behind Being a Powerful Speaker.”

The virtual forum began with a series of polling questions posed by BWF Committee Member Jennifer Goodwin. Participants were asked if public speaking had ever interfered with their success, if they had experienced impostor syndrome, and what their greatest fears were.

Poll results of participants indicated that:

  • 48% stated that public speaking had hindered their success
  • 72% had experienced impostor syndrome
  • 28% listed public speaking as their greatest fear

Following a brief networking breakout session, representatives from Neighborhood House, an organization providing care for children and adults, spoke as the BWF Nonprofit Spotlight portion of the event. Founded by Emma K. McVicker in 1894, Neighborhood House has been providing quality care, resources, and opportunities to support families. “The goal of the Business Women’s Forum is to influence positive change in our community,” Goodwin said. Not only is the organization committed to inclusion and accessibility, it is also women-owned and women-operated, making them a perfect guest for the forum.

The last segment of the event was reserved for Bates’s presentation. The public speaking extraordinaire and CEO of Executive Speaking Success received his degree from UCLA in sociology and social psychology and is fascinated with the science behind communication. He has coached TED Talk speakers and even NASA’s active astronauts on the art of public speaking.

“I want to give you the ability to empower your own voices,” Bates said.

Bates explained to forum participants that communicating with other humans is not logical but biological. Viewing communication from an evolutionary perspective, he stated, is the only way to make sense of it. By listening to Bates explain neurological factors such as mirror neurons, participants were taught how to turn their nervousness around an audience to excitement.

“Don’t be nervous, be at their service,” Bates said, quoting rapper Snoop Dog.

Bates wrapped up his presentation by leaving participants of the Business Women’s Forum with three final pieces of advice. First, he told the group to connect with others using what he called “insightful vulnerability.” Next, he encouraged participants to find a good coach, and more importantly, to be coachable. 

“Finally,” Bates said, “Don’t be the hero of your own talk. Let the audience be that.” He reached off-camera and pulled out a lightsaber and handed it to his virtual audience. 

“Don’t be Luke. Be Yoda.”

Each month, the Salt Lake Chamber hosts a Business Women’s Forum luncheon or mixer that includes networking opportunities, nonprofit spotlights, and a featured speaker. Learn more or register today for the next event on June 15 here.