Johannesburg - There was no substitute for hard work, Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus told a gathering of women last week, at an event to commemorate the women’s march to Pretoria in August 1956. Marcus, who lectured in gender studies at the Gordon Institute of Business Science at one point in her career, directed her advice to women. But her comments apply to anyone wanting to get on in life.
“Don’t expect life to be fair,” she said. “It isn’t. What matters is how you tackle the situation.”
The gist of her message was that there are no short cuts to success.
“Know your subject,” she urged. “You get voice because you know your subject matter, because you have read the documents, because you are prepared. People want to work with someone who works, someone who is going to produce the best results. If you have done the work people will listen to you.”
Marcus talks from experience. She is recognised as a speaker who is exceptionally well prepared. At a recent labour law conference in Johannesburg, delegates and others in the audience, speaking on the sidelines, enthused about her address, praising her for, among other things, her thorough preparation. This is a common response among her listeners, who appreciate her clear and carefully thought out delivery.
The wealth of information she provides does not make for difficult digesting. On the contrary, she uses simple language to provide valuable insights into economic realities. Moreover, she has a light and engaging touch and keeps her audience entertained.
At question time, she answers questions directly. This is not always the case among people speaking from high places. Hedging and fudging is a common response from highly paid officials whose duty it is to provide information to the public – including by answering journalists’ questions properly. The same can be said for spokespeople in the private sector who cannot distinguish between communication and spin.
Perhaps Marcus’s greatest asset as a communicator is her skill and patience when responding to stupid or provocative questions – and very often stupidly provocative questions.
Not everyone has this effective combination of communication skills but there is a lot that public speakers can do to improve their performance. Particularly important is to remember there is a listener at the other end of your words; a listener waiting for you to get to your point.
There are many ways to mess with the message you hope to get out, including endless repetition, tangled syntax, techno speak, a bumbling stumbling delivery and a failure to get your voice out of your voice box. Unless your audience hears and understands your thoughts, why are you standing at a podium and speaking?
Most important: you must actually have thoughts. Which brings us back to another point made by Marcus: if you prepare well, you will have informed views.
This is important not just for public speaking but in daily interactions in the workplace. Knowledge and insights are cumulative: the more you know and understand, the better equipped you are to learn from new experiences and gain further knowledge and additional insights.
A job is about more than collecting a salary at the end of the month. When you simply go through the motions at work you are not just contributing nothing to the economy, you are taking something away. Other people have to work harder to keep you employed. - Business Report