Public speaking is a skill that is not only in demand but also can help grow your career. Unfortunately, it’s not something that comes naturally to a lot of people which makes them either avoid it or do poorly when they try.
I’ve been there, but I’ve also improved my skills over the years and want to share some tips with you on how to be better at public speaking.
What is public speaking?
Public speaking is the act of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners. It is closely allied to “presenting”, although the latter has more of a commercial connotation.
Let’s get started by breaking down what public speaking is and isn’t. Public speaking can be done in any situation where one person needs to communicate with a group of people.
Anything from an informal chat about last night’s sports game at work with your colleagues, to a formal presentation on insurance plans for your client base—it’s all a form of public speaking.
And while you may think that it only happens during speeches and presentations, the truth is that it happens every day, in various situations and contexts.
During each interaction where you speak in front of an audience (whether it’s three people or three hundred), your goal should be to connect with them and direct them towards action; whether that involves buying something you’re selling or simply understanding your premise and adopting your perspective (for example).
These are things that all good speakers strive toward no matter what their topic is or who their audience is. Public speaking skills are life skills: having good public speaking skills will improve not just your career prospects but also help you become more involved in civic duties such as voting and volunteering at social events.
Who needs to practice public speaking?
- Also, me.
- And you and me’s friends.
- And that person we met once in passing.
- Everyone, really! Public speaking is a part of life—from job interviews to closing deals to public presentations, there are countless examples of public speaking in practice throughout our lives—and it’s an essential skill that can be learned through practice. While many people have a fear of public speaking, it is important to remember that it is just like any other skill: one that can be mastered with the right techniques and training. In fact, most top leaders agree that mastering public speaking is one of the most important skills for success in the workplace (along with time management, stress management, etc).
- If your job requires you to explain or talk about things at work (which would include nearly everyone who has a title) then you’ve likely had some experience with public speaking already! Even if you have been doing so for years already and feel fairly comfortable doing so already… practice still couldn’t hurt!
What are the benefits of mastering public speaking skills?
Public speaking can seem a bit intimidating to anyone who hasn’t taken on the task before. The prospect of having to get up in front of hundreds or even thousands of people and make a speech that you’ve crafted from scratch can feel daunting.
As someone who has no issue standing in front of crowds, I know how important it is for those fears to be put at bay.
It’s important to keep in mind that public speaking is not only about delivering an exciting speech but also about transferring what you know and developing as a fully rounded individual—by approaching every situation as though you were giving a presentation in which your audience is watching you closely.
So, with all this in mind, let’s look at some useful tips for conducting yourself when you’re presenting:
A great way to start any presentation well ahead of time is by practicing getting up there by practicing giving talks! This will help build the confidence necessary for delivering your message. There are plenty of sites online that allow you to create speeches or presentations based on specific topics and prompts; however, if you don’t have access to computers or the internet, try asking friends or family members back home for hints on how to conduct yourself during a presentation (e.g., general questions such as “What should I say?” or “How do I pace myself? Is there anything I should eat before I go up?”).
There are also plenty online that can be found through search engine results; just type something along the lines of “how-to give-a-presentation” into your browser bar and have some fun!
How do I begin to master public speaking?
If you’ve ever seen an audience of people sitting in silence for an hour, you know that’s about as terrifying as it gets.
There’s something infinitely more terrifying than feeling like a stranger in your own skin, even if you are that stranger—the idea of being so terrible at giving a speech that no one will remember it by the end of the night.
This is where joining a public speaking club comes in handy.
You can ask to join dozens of them all over the world, while still seeing your friends and eating your meals. One thing we’d recommend here is practicing in front of a mirror: practice gestures and makeup and everything else.
If you want to be awesome at public speaking, there’s no way around this step.
I get nervous when I approach a podium. What should I do?
A lot of people get nervous when they find themselves on a stage and up there giving a speech.
Being able to confidently present yourself to an audience is a learned skill that can take years of practice.
With the right preparation, though, you’ll be able to overcome your fears and gain the confidence needed to deliver a meaningful speech with poise! Here are some tips for tackling your first speech:
How can I keep my audience interested in what I am saying?
- Stories and humor
- A wide vocabulary
- Eye contact with the audience
- A memorable finale
How can I convey confidence, even if I am not feeling confident inside?
It’s understandable that you might not feel confident when you step up to the podium, especially if you’re a new speaker or have never spoken in public before. We know how intimidating it can be, but we want to share some tips that will help you get through your presentation.
Our advice is simple: breathe, focus on your breathing, and remember that you are the expert. You’re going to do great!
Public speaking is one of those skills that everyone can refine and become better at over time.
In the two weeks before our Toastmasters meeting, we read a book called
“Body Language for Dummies”. We practiced our presentation every evening for about an hour. In the time leading up to speaking in front of the club and practicing, we were very nervous but had a sense of confidence that we could do it.
Our confidence grew week by week as we got better at giving presentations.
At the meeting, there were only seven people in our group so most of the time they didn’t even notice us. The group was very helpful during practice and it was great having other people who had gone through similar experiences with public speaking to talk with, share their tips and give advice when needed.
It was also interesting to see how long some speakers took before they started talking or how hesitant others seemed at first until they were more comfortable with taking the stage. The more I work on my public speaking skills, the better I will become!
I want to finish with a few final suggestions. If you’re an absolute beginner, remember that the best way to get public speaking experience is to start speaking publicly. Don’t worry about how you’re going to do it or how you’re going to get people to listen–just find opportunities when they present themselves and take advantage of them. You can always refine your skills later on.
What’s a public speaking tip you can give?