Fixer: Should I take on public speaking duties for my company?

I’ve been asked to take part in executive presentations, but I’m not a confident speaker 

I am an HR director in a mobile technology business. I enjoy the role and have been appraised well since I joined, but I am increasingly being asked to get involved in executive presentations. I’m not confident as a speaker – I have taken a couple of workshops to learn the skills and I can get by, but I lack the confidence to do it on a big scale. Is preferring not to do this likely to hold me back in my career?

Communication, in all its facets, is an underrated leadership essential. But first things first: your positive performance reviews and the fact the senior team wants to share platforms with you has to be a plus. It implies they have confidence in you, perhaps more than you have in yourself. 

That said, there is an unconscious bias that extroversion and being the centre of attention is a sign of a great leader. It isn’t, necessarily. Leaders come in many shapes, sizes, traits and preferences and diversity applies as much to communication style as cultural or other difference. If there are team members better suited to presenting or who enjoy these sorts of situations more than you, why not play to your relative strengths? It can be a sign of strength to concede that, in the corporate theatre, you’re more producer/director than lead soloist.

However, someone in your position is expected to retain a learning and development mindset. It is likely you will need to lead from the front at times, however uncomfortable you may find it, and there are plenty of ways to overcome your blockers – be they your personal preference or a genuine phobia. So give some self-development a try. Practise what HR preaches and, who knows, you may even grow to enjoy the big stage.