It’s time to set the stage for your communication success. Do you want to know how to improve your public speaking? There is no room in 2019 for stage fright, performance anxiety, and poor communication.
This article (and video) is going to walk you through 6 strategies to improve your public speaking. Try out these time-tested tools to help you prepare for your next speech. My goal for you is to become a more confident and comfortable speaker.
Here are my 6 strategies to ramp up your public speaking:
(1) Talk about your interests
It is so much easier to talk about things we like than things we take absolutely no interest in. When practicing, choose a topic of interest and speak about it. As you’re talking about that topic, you’ll notice how comfortable, happy, and passionate you are. If you want extra XP points, give the talk to someone in your inner circle (e.g. spouse, parent, sibling, BFF). Next time you have to give a speech, channel all those positive feelings that you project onto your audience while talking about subjects that interest you onto this new (albeit less exciting) topic. When we’re interested and enthusiastic our performance anxiety and nervousness dissipate.
(2) Channel your avatar
I wrote an entire article about one of my proprietary coaching and teaching methods, grounded in 10 years of empirical research and case studies. If you haven’t had the chance to review it, you will want to check out “The Avatar Effect” to learn how to implement this terrific tool. In a nutshell, the avatar is your alter ego. When practicing (and later, giving) your speech I want you to channel your avatar during the delivery of the talk. When we get nervous about being on stage or in front of an audience, we get sucked into negative thought cycles focusing on us and how we’ll be perceive and received by the audience. But if we are playing a character (read: Avatar) then suddenly the pressure for us to give a stellar performance decreases because all eyes are on our Avatar. Choose your Avatar wisely, it has your back!
(3) Get inspired
Get inspired by great speakers! There are free resources out there, such as TED Talks. I would start with that because they have an extensive database of high-impact and high-quality talks. Here are some of my favorite talks but have a look around and you can even subscribe to their mailing list to receive a recommended TEDTalk each day. They will send you a video they think you’ll enjoy based on your selected preferences. My advice, when you’re browsing their library don’t just listen to the talks that you think you’ll enjoy (based on the allure of the title, the charisma of the speaker, or the thumbnail) because then you’ll miss out on other speeches you would never have stumbled across. The idea is to expose yourself to a diversity of speakers and talk-giving styles because there is no real formula to giving a successful speech. Everyone is unique and so too will be the ideas that they share with the world. When you’ve chosen between 5 and 10 talks, I recommend doing this exercise. Observe and take note of the following:
- use of humor
- body language
- use of pause
- inflection patterns
- facial expressions
- hand gestures
- pacing / movement on stage
- voice projection / volume
- eye contact
- stance / posture
After you’ve taken great care to note these various elements of public speaking from the 5 to 10 different TEDTalkers (look, we’ve turned it into a noun) then decide on incorporating their treatment of those elements into your own talk. My advice to you is to practice 3 different ways of doing each of the bullet points above. Stick with the ones that feel most natural to you — you want to make sure you are being your authentic speaking self. Once you’ve narrowed it down for one style per element, make them your own and weave them into your own talk.
(4) Practice out loud.
Now, comes the part where you practice, practice, practice! It is essential to practice your talk aloud so that you can have a feel for all the elements you’ve chosen and honed to your liking. Imagine that you’re speaking in front of a live audience. Treat your living room like a stage, plan out your paces right, middle, left, and try out your nonverbal (e.g. gestures, facial expressions, and body language) as well as verbal (e.g. inflection patters, language use, register, etc.). If you haven’t yet finalized your list of elements, maybe you’re vacillating between two different ways of doing “stance” then now is the perfect time to practice aloud and in front of your pretend audience so that you can decide on your elements.
(5) Seek out opportunities
After you have practiced your talk aloud several times to the point where you sound prepared, not rehearsed, now is the time to take that talk in front of a real, live, audience! Believe it or not, posting your talk on IG or YouTube can help, but I really encourage you to do this live and in front of people … IRL. You need to start acclimating to the energy of having an audience and making eye contact with other humans. Speaking of humans, I suppose if you have a well-trained dog at home you could seek the audience of your dog as well…why not. In all seriousness, though, seek out opportunities to practice your talk. Try joining a toastmaster’s group, hosting a meetup and giving a talk on your [insert interest here], running a seminar at your school, workplace or children’s school. Get out there and find some free resources, there are loads!
(6) Work with a communication coach
Lastly, after you’ve implemented strategies 1 through 5. If you really want to take it to the next level, then it is time to work with a coach. The benefits of working with a trained communication professional is that you’ll received personalized feedback, tailored instruction (based on your personal/professional needs), and a clear game plan on how to progress. Be happy that you’ve done quite a bit of heavy lifting (steps 1 - 5) if you’re serious about becoming a better public speaker and communicator then working with a coach should be a priority. The corrective feedback and constructive criticism trained professionals can provide is invaluable and JUST FOR YOU!