Six Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

Millions of people struggle with glossophobia, more commonly referred to as the fear of public speaking. Prior to giving a presentation, they experience a chilling, stomach turning, and heart beating-out-of-your- chest feeling. This sensation can be paralyzing and ruin even the most well rehearsed speech. However speaking in front of groups doesn’t have to feel life threatening.

Whether or not you’re one of the millions who face this challenge on a daily basis in peer groups, monthly board meetings, the occasional huge client presentation, or annual keynote, there are ways to improve your presentation skills. Even the most seasoned Toastmasters practice and strive to refine and hone their skills.

There are tons of workshops, books, television shows, and professionals that claim they have the secrets to becoming a great public speaker, and they guarantee they will make you one, if you follow their program. Although most of the time they don’t work… because there are no secrets to becoming a great speaker. However, there are a series of skills that great speakers learn, practice and implement.

Six ways to improve your public speaking skills:

1.  Prepare.

Great speakers know their material inside and out, and can can give their presentations backwards. Whether they are interrupted mid-thought or they stop to take a sip of water, they can pick up like there was no pause.

2. Know your audience.

What do they want to hear? What’s their background? Why are they listening to this speech? These are questions great public speakers should be able to answer and adjust their presentation to fit the audience. Not all audiences are the same, which suggests not all presentations should be the same.

3. Respect their time.

Keep the presentation to the allotted time. Set your audiences expectations and stick to it. No one likes it when the speaker talks for longer than promised, especially if the audience is on a time limit and they have to decide between leaving early or staying through then end and risk being late for the rest of their day.

4. Keep your audience engaged.

Nothing is worse than a crowd full of people that are yawning, on their cell phones or slowly walking out the door. Introduce yourself, tell a funny story, and make eye contact. If you are  enthusiastic and appear excited to be there, the audience will reflect your energy.

5. Be confident.

Give the audience a reason to trust you. If you appear nervous, they will lose faith in the information you’re sharing. They may question you, as though wondering if you actually believe what you’re saying, or if you’re the right person to be presenting.

6. Relax.

Take a sip of water if you need a quick break. If you don’t know what to say, smile and pause. Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment.

Not everyone will be the next Steve Jobs, but perfect practice makes perfect. Rehearse in front of a mirror, and if possible rehearse in the same type of room where you will actually be presenting. Set up your smart phone to film your rehearsal. This will show you how you look and  sound. If you’re saying “um”, “uh” or “like”, you’ll hear it. You will see if you need to make larger or smaller gestures. You may hear that the joke that sounds so funny in your head, actually sounds terrible out loud. Make sure you look and sound the way your want to be perceived. Follow the steps listed above and let us know how you do!