This post was originally published in April, 2015. It has updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Enter most workplaces and you’ll hear the same thing – professionals with strong soft skills have a leg up when it comes to advancing their careers. The same is true in the live event world, especially for those pursuing management positions.
Yet the development of these skills often takes a backseat. It makes sense. First and foremost, an event manager needs to ensure the safety of attendees and execute on a client’s vision.
But might it also be because most event workers are freelancers? Could be. Some managers see it as part of their jobs to mentor aspiring professionals. But other don’t. Event managers are busy, busy folks. They could be forgiven if they don’t feel responsible for nurturing the leadership skills of those that come and go.
Can you do this type of work on your own? When you’re constantly looking for your next project, when do you find time for reflection? It’s difficult, but possible. Some interesting and helpful tips actually can be found in the world of public speaking.
Public speaking is defined as the act of speaking to a usually large group of people. But the skills needed to become proficient – focus, poise, research, confidence – can also help you grow as a leader. Let’s go through 5 of them.
1. Know Your Stuff
Good public speakers rehearse their material much like a performer learning lines. The text no longer becomes a crutch but a foundation for deeper engagement. Whether stage managing a small theatrical production or running a corporate event team of 50, you’re the one the rest of the team looks to for guidance and structure.
Your ability to master the details of your project allows you to respond to the unexpected; conflicts that arise between team members, delivery delays, and changing needs of a client. It increases your team’s confidence in your leadership capabilities as well as the commitment they have to their own work.
2. It’s Us. Not You vs. Them
Public speakers are taught to treat their audiences as partners in a conversation. All managers go through this struggle as well and to be sure, there are probably some instances where you will find yourself in a battle. But the overwhelming truth is that your audience (or team) wants you to succeed!
Often, we stress about the position we are put in as a result of our job titles. We fret that our teams resent us for having some semblance of authority and are secretly rooting for us to fail. In reality, a manager’s success is the team’s success! The more you are able to achieve your project goals, the better the team performs as well. Approach your teammates as partners, not combatants. You will exponentially increase your efficiency and likelihood of a positive outcome. And may even experience a happy workplace along the way!
3. Look Me in the Eyes
This is a tough one. It is often one of the most difficult things for any of us, even the most seasoned public speaker to achieve. But the more you are able to connect by making eye contact, the more you are able to profoundly ground your connections with your team members on an individual basis. This is true when you are speaking AND listening. It forces you to actively engage with the issues at hand and ensures you are accurately exchanging vital information.
4. Mistakes Happen, So Don’t Dwell!
This too is tricky, especially for managers still trying to establish their voice and presence. Public speakers fight this all the time – every “um” or “like” or flubbed word raises an almost primal need to apologize for the hiccup.
Here’s a common example. You make a mistake. You feel a little embarrassed, maybe a little humiliated. So what do you do? You apologize. And apologize. And apologize some more. And then the next day, you start off by apologizing for yesterday. At a certain point, all these apologies begin to add up. Without realizing it, you’ve begun to to undermine the trust your team has in your ability to manage them to a successful end.
Spoiler alert: you are going to make mistakes. Some big, some small. Does this mean that when you make one, you should brashly ignore it and plow on? Of course not. But trust that your team understands that mistakes happen. Be professional enough to acknowledge it, learn from it, and MOVE ON. Know that it is how you proactively respond and recover from a mistake that rallies your team, not your ability to apologize it into the ground.
5. Bring the Passion
When you hear someone give a speech and you don’t think they care about the topic, how quickly do you tune out? Points to you if you hang on more than a few seconds.
Managers face the same challenges. Your passion for the work has the single greatest effect on your team. Will they buy-in to the project? Will they work for and with you? Will they stay late, show up early, roll with last minute changes and cancellations? If you don’t believe in your work, how can you lead a team to believe in it?
Managers – what tips do you have for communicating with your event teams? Let us hear about them!