How To Improve Your Public Speaking

Like Most Skills, Public Speaking Can Be Improved With The Right Training

If you’re anything like most people, you dread public speaking. There is a reason that public speaking is the number one fear for a majority of Americans. As unpleasant as the prospect might be, however, it is an important skill to master: many prominent jobs require it, as well as several important social occasions (if you’ve ever been asked to speak at a wedding, you know what we’re talking about). Fortunately, public speaking skills can be improved with the right training and education.

Overcoming Anxiety

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” This notion, spoken by one of our country’s greatest public speakers, applies to public speaking: nothing can ruin a well-written, well-prepared speech like speech anxiety. Anxiety can make you stutter, stammer, mumble, and shake. In short, it can turn a great speech into a dud. So, how do you overcome it? You might have heard the old line, “picture the audience in their underwear.” Let’s be honest though, in most rooms, this is the last thing you want to picture. Here are some practical ways to overcome your anxiety:

  • Practice
  • Familiarize
  • Envision Success

Preparation is the enemy of anxiety: the more you practice, the more confident you will be. Practice your speech in front of a mirror. Practice your speech in front of trusted friends and family members. As a bonus, your “captive audience” might be able to give you some helpful feedback. Practice will not only increase your confidence and reduce your anxiety; it will also help you memorize your speech. The less you need to read from a sheet or notecard, the better. Another tip is to familiarize yourself with the venue where you will be giving your speech, especially if it is a large venue. This way, you will not be like a “deer in headlights” as you approach the podium. Relatedly, if you plan on using any technology to aid your speech (e.g. microphone, projector, laptop, PowerPoint), familiarize yourself with the equipment you will be using. Finally, take some time to envision a successful speech. This will greatly boost your confidence especially if your facing fear of public speaking at your workplace.

Take Classes

Many companies that help people improve their public speaking. Speech classes will improve your elocution, help you choose relevant topics, engage your audience, and eliminate speech anxiety. People who have taken such classes report significant improvement in your speaking skills. If you know you have an important speech coming up in a few weeks or a couple of months, sign up for speech classes right away.

Extracurricular Activities

There are several “extracurricular activities” that will allow you to practice public speaking while building a community. For example, consider signing up for an open mic night at your local comedy club. This will help you hone your humor, which is a great way to engage just about any audience. If you do enough sets, you will be able to kiss your speech anxiety goodbye. Similarly, consider signing up for an improv class. This will help you think on your feet when giving a speech. Finally, check out your local Toastmasters Club, if one is available in your city. This will allow you to practice all kinds of speeches.

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