- Mason Bledsoe
How to Become a Better Public Speaker
Public speaking is an anxiety-filled nightmare for most people. That will never change. Despite being an extrovert, public speaking has always made me quiver in my boots. Against my better judgement, I even took a class on it. That’s right, I am talking about a class where the only assignments are speeches. If that doesn’t make you vomit, then I don’t know what will. Speaking in front of a crowd big or small will always be a beast, but the idea here is to provide some tips to help tame that beast.
Firstly, and most importantly, know what you’re going to say. I know that sounds obvious, but the privilege of a speech can be lost in the thick of your own anxiety. Try to remember that whoever you are speaking to is there to listen. That means that you should do your best to prepare.
Preparation is key in this step. Ask yourself some beginner questions like:How much time do I have? Who is my audience? What is the best way to organize the information so that my audience understands it? Do I have any personal stories to help connect with my audience? Try to realize that the audience isn’t there to judge you.
Practice, practice, practice. Understanding your own material inside and out helps negate any mistakes. You should be able to recite your speech from memory, but you don’t want to sound like a robot reciting its own software code.
When you’re practicing, try to simulate any conditions you’ll face. Imagine a large crowd. Imagine the utter silence. Imagine your own blinding nerves. As always expect the best but prepare for the worst.
Try practicing in front of a group of friends or family. This will help with making eye contact since you trust them. They can also provide feedback.
An easy way to divert the audience’s piercing stare is to use visuals. A speech or presentation is always more interesting with visuals. The last thing you want is a zombified audience. Keep them awake and attentive with visuals. These visuals will also provide checkpoints in your speech.
As you do research on the material of your speech, you should also do research on the skill of speaking. Look up your favorite actors and take notes on how they present information. Try to embody their confidence and charisma. Not everyone has the confidence of a thespian so watch TED talks. These people aren’t actors or celebrities, but they know how to articulate their opinions and speak clearly.
Lastly, don’t be so hard on yourself. Public speaking has never come easy to anyone. If they say it has then they’re lying. Like any other skill, it can only improve with experience and repetition. It’s not like you’ll wake up one day and be the next Winston Churchill. Take it step by step and remember to reward yourself when it’s all over. You deserve it.