Over 2,000 years ago, in the great city of Athens, it was a civic duty to stand up in front of the assembly and speak one’s mind on issues of importance. The art of rhetoric, or the ability to persuade through speeches, was highly valued. Since then, prophets, politicians, and poets have all used the power of public speaking to change the course of history.
However, not everyone is born a natural public speaker. Many people get nervous at the thought of having to stand up and give a speech, and that’s perfectly normal. You might be naturally introverted, or you might have had a bad experience in the past that has made you hesitant to speak in front of groups.
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of things you can do to improve if you’re uncomfortable with public speaking. This article will provide some tips on how to become a better public speaker.
The Importance of Public Speaking
In today’s world, public speaking is still an essential skill. Even with the advent of social media and other digital communication tools, you should still be able to stand up and give a presentation or speech when the situation calls for it.
There are many different situations where public speaking might be required, such as:
Business is all about persuasion. Whether you’re trying to sell a product, raise investment or close a deal, being able to capture an audience and deliver a persuasive speech is essential. Business presentations are generally meant to be informative, but they should also be inspiring and motivating.
Most people would prefer to avoid speaking in front of a large group, but at some point in our lives, many of us will be called upon to give a speech at a friend or family member’s wedding. These are a great starting point for getting more experience with public speaking, as the stakes are usually not too high, and the duration is limited.
And while the flowing alcohol may help boost your confidence at a wedding, the same can’t be said for eulogies. You need to be able to deliver a touching and appropriate speech at a funeral, even if you’re not feeling all that good yourself.
There are many situations in life where you need to be able to negotiate, such as buying a car or house or asking for a raise. Being able to stand your ground and make your case in a calm and convincing manner can be the difference between getting what you want and walking away empty-handed.
Negotiations make for excellent practices, as they also require you to think on your feet and come up with persuasive arguments on the spot. It can quickly become a conflict if you’re not careful, so it’s a situation where you need to be able to keep a cool head and speak confidently.
If you’re in a managerial or leadership role, giving clear and concise speeches is essential for providing directions and motivating employees. Similar to coaching a sports team, you need to be able to give a halftime speech that can inspire your team to come back and win, even if they’re behind.
If you’re still in school, chances are you’ve already had to do your fair share of presentations. And if you’re planning on going to college, you can expect to do even more. Classroom presentations are usually not too complex, as the topics are typically familiar, and the audience (your classmates) is generally friendly.
Preparation is key here, as anxiety usually creeps in when we’re not confident about our material. Make sure you understand the topic inside out before attempting to present it, and you should be fine.
These are just some of the situations where public speaking might be required. So, even if you’re not planning on becoming the next great rhetoric master, it’s still a valuable skill to have in your toolbox.
Daily Practices That Can Make you More Comfortable
At the end of the day, public speaking is a skill. Like any skill, it can be learned and practiced. If you’re not comfortable with public speaking, you can do plenty of things to improve. Here are some daily practices that can help:
A big part of public speaking happens before you even take center stage. The ability to write a clear and concise speech is essential for any public speaker. It isn’t quite like writing a novel or short story, but it does share some commonalities.
Both require you to capture your audience’s attention and hold it until the very end. That means an introduction that hooks the listener and a conclusion that leaves a lasting impression. In between, you need to keep the listener engaged with interesting stories, facts, or anecdotes. You also must make sure your speech flows smoothly and logically from one point to the next.
If you’re not used to writing speeches, it might help to start small. Write a two-minute speech on something you’re passionate about and practice delivering it in front of a mirror. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can start working on longer speeches.
Another way to practice your public speaking is to record yourself giving a speech and then listen back to it. This can be a bit painful at first, as it’s easy to be critical of ourselves. However, once you get over how weird your voice sounds on tape, it can be a helpful exercise.
First, it can help you identify any verbal tics or fillers you use, such as “um” or “like.” These are perfectly normal, and we all use them in everyday conversation, but they can distract listeners during monologues. Try to catch yourself when you use these words and eliminate this bad habit.
Second, recording yourself can also help you identify any issues with your pacing or delivery. If you tend to speak too quickly or too slowly, this will be evident when you listen back. You can then work on finding the right balance. Enunciation is also a critical part of delivery; it can be easy to mumble our words when we’re nervous. Pay attention to how clearly you speak and try to enunciate each word correctly.
Finally, a recording can also help you assess your speech’s overall structure and flow. If certain sections are dragging on or if you’re losing your audience’s attention, this will be evident when you listen back. You can then make the necessary changes to improve the overall delivery of your speech.
Posting said recording online or playing it for your family and friends might be less nerve-wracking than speaking in front of a live audience, so this can be a good way to ease into public speaking.
Joining Workshops or Signing Up For Classes
If you want to learn more about public speaking, plenty of resources are available. There are often workshops or classes offered at community centers, libraries, or even online. At CreativeLive, we offer a variety of public speaking courses taught by experts in the field.
These classes can be helpful if you want to learn more about the mechanics of public speaking. You’ll cover topics like breath control, vocal techniques, and body language. These are all crucial aspects of public speaking, and they can significantly affect how confident and competent you sound.
Additionally, these classes can also help to build your confidence. Confidence is contagious; the more confident you are, the more likely your audience will believe in what you’re saying.
Listen to Podcasts
If you can’t make it to a class or workshop, there are still plenty of resources available. There are tons of great public speaking podcasts out there that can help you learn more about the subject. The Public Speaker by Lisa B. Marshall is a great option that has been downloaded over 16 million times.
Podcasts are a great way to learn about public speaking because you can listen to them anywhere, anytime. And, most importantly, they’re usually free! You can also pause and rewind if you need to hear something again.
Study the Greats
Perhaps the easiest way to become a better public speaker is to study the greats. There are plenty of excellent speeches available online, and you can learn a lot by watching how they deliver their message.
Pay attention to how they use their voice, body language, and words. Notice how they keep their audience engaged and make complex topics easy to understand. Start with TED talks on Youtube, as there are thousands of great speeches to choose from. Then, you can dive even deeper into the rabbit hole and watch speeches from presidential inauguration ceremonies, the Academy Awards, and more.
You’ll even find Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” and “I’ve Been to The Mountaintop” speeches!
Subscribe to CreativeLive
If you want to learn more about public speaking, check out our public speaking courses. From “The Power of Body Language” to “Strengthen Your Stage Presence,” everything you need to become a well-rounded public speaker is right here at CreativeLive. And, with new courses added all the time, you’ll always have something new to learn.
Enroll in a public speaking course today and become the confident, competent speaker you’ve always wanted to be.