How to Improve Public Speaking Skills

Oct 15, 2020

Being able to speak in public to a group of people is an important skill to have, and certainly one which will help your career as a graduate. A lot of graduates will not devote time towards improving their public speaking skills as some will think this is a natural skill. 

Truthfully, there are many things you can do to improve public speaking skills. And If you become a competent, able public speaker then you will be able to engage your audience and retain the audience’s attention. Mastering your ability to speak to a group of people will stand you in good stead when it comes to presenting or talking in a team meeting.

A publicly man speaking to a room of people

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

7 Steps to Improve Your Public Speaking skills 

For many people the idea of speaking in public to a group of people is a daunting one. Even people who are seemingly the most confident among us will struggle with stage fright.

Luckily, public speaking is a learnable skill which means that there are steps we can follow to improve our public speaking.

Plan

Spend as much time as possible planning out what you are going to say in your speech. Make sure your speech has a logical flow and you cover everything that needs to be said.

The ability to speak well in public is fairly useless if what you are saying is no good. The ability to write a good speech or presentation is equally important.

For a closer look on how to 

Practice

The more you practice your speech, the better your delivery will become. You can’t become a compelling, confident speaker without a significant amount of practice. The content of your speech will become second nature and will roll off the tongue, leading to you to feel much more comfortable. 

Practicing with an audience is a great way of preparing yourself for the real thing. Practice the speech to someone and get them to give you feedback on your volume. Your speech will suffer if the audience can’t hear you properly, so make sure you are audible.

You should practice the speed of your delivery of speech, you don’t want to talk too quickly. For the audience, it will be much easier to engage with what you are saying if it is delivered in a calm, composed manner.

3 Things to Practice

  1. Verbal delivery – Focus on how you sound in terms of pitch, volume, pace,emphasis, etc.
  2. Physical delivery – Think about your stance, movement, facial expressions and use of hands. Your body language can be perfected as much as your verbal delivery.
  3. Content – Make sure that the message you want your speech to convey comes through clearly. Practice where you lay your emphasis in your words. 

Engage the audience

Try not to be robotic, show as much of your personality as possible. An audience won’t be engaged by a talking head reading from a piece of paper. 

Make sure what you are saying is informative and try to make it as interesting as possible. beginning and the end of your speech as memorable as possible. Make sure your start really grabs the attention of your audience. 

Try to make eye contact with everyone in the audience to really make them feel engaged with what you are saying. Focusing on one face at a time will make your speech feel more like a conversation, and make your audience feel involved.

Body Language

Your body language is everything when it comes to being an engaging public speaker. Even if what you are saying is interesting, your audience won’t be engaged if your body language is poor.

Remember to stand up straight, take deep breaths and keep smiling. The way you present yourself is equally as important as what you are saying. 

Here are five tips for specifically improving your body language whilst presenting. 

Nerves

Nerves are a natural part of public speaking but there are ways to cope with public speaking anxiety and make sure it doesn’t negatively affect your speech.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health public speaking, or glossophobia, affects 73% of the population. Which makes it the most common phobia in front of death, heights and even spiders

The nerves and pressure from public speaking can actually help us to thrive. The way to combat nerves is to work on your mindset. Try to think less about yourself and more about what you are actually going to be speaking about. Our nerves can make us begin to doubt ourselves and our ability, 

Watch Yourself 

Have a go of filming yourself delivering your speech and watch it over. Try and see what you could do better, and look at your performance from the point of view of the audience.

You can get a much better perception of how your body language is through watching yourself talk. Think about whether you would be engaged as an audience member. 

If you are self conscious when it comes to public speaking, then by watching yourself you can gradually become more confident in your delivery.

Sleep

So many skills in life can be enhanced by a proper sleeping pattern. Practising your speech the night before is important, but not if you are losing out on valuable sleeping time because of it.

Trying to deliver an energetic, engaging speech will be immensely difficult if you are not well rested. 

Here is more information on how improving your sleep will improve your career.

How to deal with public speaking nerves

The fear of public speaking can lead to very visible nervousness and anxiety. Nerves are the biggest reason why people struggle with public speaking. 

We can take steps to improve the way we are able to cope with these nerves. 

Remember to breath

Before a speech or a presentation it is hugely beneficial to perform some deep breathing exercises. This will reduce the stress levels in your body by lowering your heart rate and your blood pressure. 

Your public speaking can benefit by remembering to breathe during your speech, not just beforehand. Improving how you breathe will help to improve your public speaking skills.

Here are 8 breathing exercises that can help you to deal with the anxiety of public speaking.  

Use Silence

Nervousness can force us to speak far quicker than we should, we think that silence is our enemy. However, silence is the key to a good speech.

Do not be afraid to take your time, and give your audience time to take in what you have just said.

The objective should not be to get the speech done quickly in order to get it done and out the way. The object and focus needs to be on the message you want your audience to engage with.

Smile

It may sound like a basic piece of advice, but the more positive and happy that you appear the more engaging you will be for your audience. 

Dr. Nick Morgan, one of America’s best communication theorists has explored the link between happiness and public speaking.

Familiarise the surroundings

Get accustomed to your surroundings, if you have the opportunity. Particularly if you know you are going to be talking in a large venue. This can help you know what volume you need to be projecting at.

If you are using slides or diagrams to assist with your talk, then make sure that they will be visible to all. 

Practice

Experience is a huge part of being able to conquer these nerves. The more often we do something, the more accustomed to it we become. Unless you put in a significant amount of hours into a skill then you won’t be a master of it.

If you have practised your speech a thousand times you will be far less nervous than if you are only reading it for the fiftieth time. 

Practising does not mean you have to memorise what you are saying as this will only add more unnecessary pressure. We often freeze when we have forgotten something or stumble in our speech. Since none of the audience knows what you are planning to say, it really does not matter if you forget any words. 

Experienced public speakers like Richard Branson recognise that having the skill to be able to stand in front of people with confidence is a learnable skill. 

Why Public Speaking Is an Important Skill

Interviews – If you can build up your confidence through addressing groups of people, then this will help you when it comes to a job interview. The nerves and anxiety we experience are very similar in both situations. 

If you can overcome the nerves associated with speaking, then you will be able to beat interview anxiety.

Virtual Communication – With the advent of coronavirus a lot of talks and speeches will now be conducted via video call. Being able to talk to a group of people still remains an important skill, even if the setting has changed.

Here are 19 specific tips to help your presentation on a video call. 

Employability – If you can demonstrate your verbal confidence to an employer it will be very attractive to them. The spec for most graduate jobs will require you to talk in front of a crowd of people. Thus the ability to communicate is an incredibly important one to get right.
Employers are looking for those who have developed a growth mindset and know that they can improve their public speaking skills.

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