Tips & Facts

Admin Soft Skills: Public Speaking

Can you recall the last time you gave a speech or got up in front of a crowd to make an announcement? While these moments are usually accompanied by feelings of anxiety, nervousness or fear, we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had to participate in some form of public speaking.

For some, this sought-after skill comes as naturally as breathing, but for the rest of us speech-giving is a terrifying task. As daunting as this endeavor may be, there are a few tricks of the trade that can improve your skills. These tips will ensure a smoother delivery and explain why public speaking is such a vital skill to possess, particularly for Jail Administrators.

Empathy and Engagement

We’ve all heard it before: “Just imagine the crowd in their underwear, and you’ll be fine!” That is a bunch of bologna. Not only does this strategy leave you wide open for a burst of nervous laughter, it often distracts you from the main points or purposes you’re trying to convey to the audience. Who wouldn’t be distracted by a small crowd of nudists?

The really important thing is to understand and empathize with your audience. In doing so, the specific message you are trying to send will be concise and coherent, and will really resonate with the crowd. Empathizing with your audience grabs their attention and makes your speech more engaging.

For jail administrators, public speaking is an important skill to master. Whether you are informing inmates of policy and rules, updating staff on new schedules or regulations, or delivering reports and statistics to your sheriff, good communication skills will pay dividends in the long-run. These skills are so necessary that the State of Washington jail administrator requirements literally spells-out how important effective oral and written communication skills are.

Since it is the jail administrator’s job to manage the systems, procedures and policies that govern facility operations, these individuals often play a key role within their sheriff’s executive team. As a member of this executive team, it is vital that jail administrators voice their concerns and priorities in organizational meetings. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Sheriff’s Guide to Effective Jail Operations, “Three keys to establishing a collaborative climate are:

  1. Clear roles and responsibilities
  2. Strong lines of communication
  3. Positive relationships

Preparation is Paramount

The phrase “practice makes perfect” isn’t a proverb for nothing. While absolute “perfection” may be an unattainable goal, putting in ample time to prepare for your speech will ultimately optimize delivery. According to Arina Nikitina’s book on Successful Public Speaking, “the outcome of a speech is largely predetermined by the weeks of preparation undertaken.”

Ample preparation is crucial for jail administrators preparing to give a speech in front of subordinates. People are generally hostile and unreceptive towards figures of authority, but by establishing credibility through preparation, administrators can make a greator impact on their audience. In order to establish authority, speakers need to take time to think like their audience does. What do they like and dislike, how will they respond to a given statement, how can an idea be made more palatable; these are the questions a speaker should ask themselves during the preparation phase.

Preparing a speech beforehand and really understanding your target audience will aid tremendously in getting your message across. This proves especially useful when it comes to clarifying complicated rules and regulations. Over time, the rules you routinely preach may begin to fall on deaf ears. Ensuring that your message is delivered in a prepared and candid way will inspire your audience to listen. To ensure your speech is eloquent and direct, follow these steps during your preparation phase:

  1. Form a goal for the speech
  2. Choose a target audience
  3. Choose the most efficient delivery method
  4. Give your speech a test-run

Public Speaking on the Job

Efficient communication is necessary to establish any rule or regulation. Even with new technologies like CIDNET’s electronic mail app, the best way to send a clear message is still face-to-face. It requires zero technology and is a learned skill that anybody can acquire with adequate time and practice. Jail administrators have their own goals when it comes to facility operations, but in order to work towards those objectives, jail staff have to understand the priorities of their superiors.

The ability to speak eloquently in front of a group is an extremely beneficial and lifelong skill, but few can say they actively practice it. The fact is that all professionals would benefit from better public speaking skills, and jail administrators have more opportunities than most to utilize them on the job.