Public speaking is a common fear and can be daunting, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can be fun and fulfilling instead. If improving your skills is one of your goals, these ten tips on how to improve your public speaking skills will get you up in front of that podium in no time.
Note: I’m always open to speaking engagements, so if you need a dynamic speaker on leadership or social media, here’s how to hire me to speak at your next event.
The more you speak in front of an audience, the more comfortable you will become. Start by giving presentations to small groups and work your way up to larger audiences. Remember too that speaking doesn’t just happen behind a podium. Start practicing by leading meetings or asking questions when you are in a large group. Remember this is public speaking too.
2. Know Your Audience
Understand who you will be speaking to and tailor your speech to their interests and level of understanding. Put yourself in the mindset of an audience member and ask yourself what they would like to get out of your presentation. What do they need and care about? Give them that.
3. Be Prepared
Research your topic thoroughly and organize your thoughts in a logical and easy-to-follow manner. Use visual aids, such as slides or props, to help convey your message.
Pro tip: Keep your slides clean and easy to read, and avoid the use of too much text. Also, avoid reading directly from your slides. They should serve as a reference only.
4. Speak Clearly and Slowly
There’s nothing worse than sitting through a presentation with a nervous presenter rushing through the program to “get it over with.” Slow down, project your voice and enunciate your words. Avoid filler words such as “um” and “ah”.
Pro tip: if you are tempted to say “things like that,” “um,” or other fillers, use a pause instead. Pauses are powerful tools to help your audience absorb what you just said while you gather your next thoughts together.
5. Use Body Language To Your Advantage
Talk like a real person would at a gathering. Look around the room and make eye contact with people who are looking and listening. Use gestures to emphasize your points. Take up space. Stand up straight with an open body posture, and use a power pose every so often. Doing so will help you feel more confident because your body is sending confident signals to your brain when you use confident body language.
Pro tip: avoid nervous habits such as fidgeting or pacing like a lion.
6. Be Yourself
Speak in a way that feels natural to you and don’t try to mimic someone else’s speaking style. Bring your personality and your style to this presentation. Remember that your delivery is at least half of the presentation, and they came to hear you, not a robot.
7. Show Confidence
Speak with conviction and passion. If you don’t believe in yourself and your message your audience won’t either, so let your passion for the topic show.
8. Be Open To Feedback
After you’ve presented, seek out constructive criticism using an audience survey, or by asking your boss or your trusted peers. Use that feedback to improve your public speaking skills.
9. Record Yourself
I know this can be cringe-worthy, but set up your phone and record yourself giving the presentation. Watch and listen to yourself speaking, and take notes on areas you want to improve. Rock stars, professional speakers, and professional athletes all take this approach. Remember, you can’t change what you can’t see.
10. Join A Public Speaking Group
Think about joining a group like Toastmasters International for example. These groups provide a supportive environment to practice your speaking skills and receive feedback from others.
Public speaking is a skill that can be developed with practice and effort. I specialize in leadership skills such as public speaking, so if you’re looking for an executive coach, learn more about my coaching, or hire me to speak at your next event!