This Computerworld survey came out in 2007, suggesting that communication skills have become a desirable skill of IT workers:
"Survey respondents said writing and public speaking are two of the most important soft skills they look for when hiring new employees."
In this survey, oral communication places fifth of 29 non-technical skills perceived to be needed by manufacturing engineering graduates for professional success.
In this study, mechanical engineers were asked, "How prepared were you to start the practice of engineering?" and "How prepared does your supervisor think you were?" The perceptions of the engineers vs. their supervisors about their communication skills indicate a lack of sufficient training:
"For example, in response to a question about the strength of the degree program/strength of employee preparedness in 'Communication, Oral and Written," 65% of the early career engineers responded with 'sufficient' or 'strong.' But over half of the industry respondents who supervised MEs felt entering MEs communication skills were 'weak.'"
The Journal of Accountancy asked financial executives to rank the top three skills important to them when hiring staff and managers:
"Communication skills stood out, ranking higher—third overall for both staff and managers—than finance staples such as financial analysis and budgeting and forecasting. Since oral and written communication are often not emphasized in accounting curricula or CPE, these results suggest CPAs in business and industry should consider pursuing specialized training."
More recently, the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2011 report ranked verbal communication as the #1 most desirable employability skill.
What's my point? In almost every industry -- even technical professions, where traditionally oral communication was not considered a critical part of the job -- communication skills are one of the main factors that will lead to workplace success.
If you didn't get this training in college (and even if you did, heck, college was a long time ago for some of us), where can you go to improve your speaking skills? In my blog post "5 ways to stop repeating the same mistakes," I pointed out that, while practicing is important, getting useful feedback is more helpful in fostering growth and improvement as a speaker.
To build on the skills you already have, or to start from scratch, you will need training. Join a program (this one is soon to be offered online), get one-on-one coaching and, at mininum, get honest feedback from your supervisors about what they expect from your communication and presentation skills.
The world is changing; not many employees can hide away in a "mad-scientist cave" (as one of my clients put it) anymore and avoid communicating with fellow staff, team members, clients or prospects. Make yourself a marketable new-hire or increase your value to your current employer: Get public speaking training.