I love public speaking. Maybe a little too much because I get all excited and giddy and tend to talk too fast when I do it. Sometimes I catch myself actually breathing a little heavy, out of breath because I’m moving around like some nut job on Red Bull. When I am aware of it I have to slow things down a bit – then I worry about there not being enough energy in the room.
How Do You Improve Public Speaking Skills?
The old advice of “just imagine everyone naked” never worked. The older I get, the more I’d really just rather leave if the audience is all naked.
In this post I’ll share a few things that work for me and then a couple of online resources that may provide some helpful information.
Don’t project a bunch of words on the screen behind you – and then read them all
We’ve all been there. Sitting in a meeting where someone is going through endless slides that have 20 bullets per page or written in complete, long paragraphs. Then the presenter reads each line word for word. There are never enough pencils in the room to jab into my eye to keep me awake during these kind of presentations.
A better approach is to use a few, short bullets that do 2 things: one, give the listener just enough information to think about the topic and two, keep you on point.
An even better approach is to use images that do the same thing. Avoid being cute and adding images that are just there to look cute or funny but don’t really relate directly to the point you’re trying to make.
A combination of short bullets and meaningful images is also very effective.
Watch your tone and energy
Have you listened to speakers and after a few minutes all you can hear is “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”
Don’t be that speaker.
Use inflection and tone in your voice. Even if you are in a bad mood, terrified, or sleepy. Remember the people in front of you are there to hear you speak. It is not about you and how you feel. It is about them and what they came to hear. So make it about them and speak in tones that will keep them engaged.
While you are doing this, smile when appropriate and make eye contact from time to time. Nod your head “yes” when you want them to really take home a point. They’ll nod with you.
If you are really uncomfortable making eye contact, look just over their shoulders. From a distance, no one will know the difference.
Fear of public speaking is pretty common
Don’t let it stop you. You’d be surprised at the number of natural sounding speakers who are secretly terrified to speak in front of people. The best thing you can do about that is just do more public speaking. Find a few tricks that work for you, practice them, then get out there and do it.
A couple of quotes from some people who’ve done a lot of talking
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie
Sounds a lot like Nike’s old campaign “Just do it” doesn’t it?
I always ask, “What’s the worst that can happen?” If the answer falls short of “People will die”, “You’ll go to jail”, or “Your loved ones will be hurt and disappointed,” hey, I’m in. Let’s give it a go.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I’m not sure I am COMPLETELY on board with “Ellie,” as I used to call her. I’m scared of jumping off a three story building…and probably won’t be trying it any time soon (see my previous rules-of-thumb). But I get where she’s coming from. Again, don’t be afraid to try something that you don’t find entirely comfortable.
As Ellie’s husband once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
A couple of helpful links
Ana Flores of #WeAllGrow Latina Network advises in her video at Inc. that it helps if you truly feel comfortable with and know the topic (don’t fake it), and talk about things that inspire you, public speaking is much easier (and effective).
In this additional article at Inc., the author suggests we can take a lesson from dogs at a dog part. Lesson one – confidence breeds confidence. To Flores’ point, know the subject – and just as importantly, make sure everyone else knows you know it (including you).
I hope this helps
Hopefully you found something in here that helps. Never miss a blog post or podcast when you subscribe to my Newsletter by clicking here.