How to Improve your Public Speaking Skills

See also: Giving a Speech

A lot of people struggle with public speaking. The nerves take over and we can end up losing our train of thought. Our voices can stumble. We end up waffling. The situations vary!

However, there is good news, and this is that you can improve your public speaking skills. It simply takes a bit of hard work and dedication on your behalf. To give you a helping hand, we have put together some must-read tips:

Presenting to a large audience

1. Provide transcriptions for everyone in attendance

You can use speech to text software to provide transcriptions for everyone who is going to be in attendance. This can give you more confidence because you know that everyone in attendance is going to have a written version of your presentation.

Therefore, if you do trip up or accidentally and miss out a sentence, it is not going to be the end of the world.

Plus, people find transcriptions to be better than note-taking. It means that rather than scribbling down notes frantically, everyone in attendance can focus on you.

2. Take public speaking classes

One of the most effective ways of improving your public speaking is to take a public speaking class. You will gain the key skills that you need to quickly enhance your ability to speak and present a topic to an audience.

You will also become more confident as you learn from an expert and get support from your peers.

If you are scared about public speaking, it really helps to connect with others who are in the same boat as you. You will be able to study and learn with those who experience the same challenges you are facing.

There are a number of different options available to you in this regard. You can do a quick search to see if there are any public speaking courses or classes in your local area.

If there are not any, do not overlook taking a public speaking course online. While you won’t get the benefit of being able to practice in front of a live audience, you will learn all of the skills needed and you can practice virtually. Of course, we would always suggest an in-person class where possible, but this will depend on your location.

Man presenting at a conference.

3. Record your speeches

Another tip when it comes to becoming a better public speaker is to use a camera to record your public speeches. You will then be able to look back and watch yourself. We know that this may be a little bit difficult at first, as most people do not like looking at themselves on camera. However, you will be able to understand what you’re doing right and where improvements can be made.

You should evaluate elements such as your pacing, how your voice sounds, and your body language. You can even make notes on your performance so that you can address these elements during your next practice session.

Even the greatest public speakers do this on a regular basis as they are always looking for different ways to take their public speaking skills to the next level.

4. Add a visual aid

Next, we would recommend adding a visual aid to your speech, if possible. A presentation is an obvious example here, and you can easily put one together using the likes of Microsoft PowerPoint.

This can help you make your chief points in an engaging manner. However, remember that your visual aid is there to support everything you are saying. It is not there to distract from it.

Do not read verbatim from your slides. You should also make sure your PowerPoints are not text heavy. Put together slides that contain images and graphs that will reflect the points you are making. If you do need to incorporate text, you should only add in a few short bullet points.

5. Understand your audience

Next, understanding your audience is key. You need to do your research and get a better understanding of the demographic you are going to be speaking to. This is vital so that you can tailor your speech.

Not only is this imperative in terms of understanding what is important to them and what they will find the most helpful, but it also helps you to determine what style of presentation to give and how to engage with your audience. There is no point in making a reference to someone who was popular in the 50s if you have an audience of 18-year-olds.

The kind of event where you are going to be speaking is also going to have an impact on your approach. For instance, you may need a different type of approach at a formal gala in comparison to giving a speech to a group of employees on a training day.

Delivering a keynote address at a conference.

6. Prepare talking points

Next, we highly recommend that you put together a number of talking points before you give your speech. Your talking points should feature the key messages you want your audience to know, understand, and feel by the time you have concluded your presentation.

Start with between three and five broad messages, and then you can outline a number of underlying points that can support every message.

Your talking points should be organized in chronological order, beginning with the message you wish to cover first.

If you have an outline of your messages on hand, it will help to stop you from getting off track during your presentation and ensure that you do not forget to cover any of the critical points.

7. Practice breath and voice control

For a lot of individuals, speaking in public can warp their sense of time, resulting in them speaking a lot quicker than they usually would if they were talking to a friend or colleague on a day-to-day basis.

This is something that you need to be aware of so that you can maintain a steady pace when giving a presentation. This is going to help keep your nerves calm, enabling the audience to better understand what you are saying.

What helps here is having effective breath control. You should practice using your stomach to push air in your lungs and out of them. Before you start any speech in public, take about 10 deep and slow breaths.

8. Relax your body language

If you are scared of speaking in public, it can cause you to feel tense, which has a negative impact on your body language. The best public speakers maintain correct posture, move in a manner that looks natural, and keeps eye contact with their audience.

Having positive body language will enhance your performance. It assists your audience in taking in the words you say.

You should not cross your arms, nor should you put your hands in your pockets. Instead, you should begin with your arms by your side, using purposeful hand gestures while you make your points.

Do not stare at your notes for extended periods of time. Do not look down at the ground. Instead, look out into the audience. You can focus your eyes just above their heads if it makes you feel more comfortable until you get used to making eye contact with those in the crowd while giving your presentation.

9. Study great public speakers

Our final piece of advice is to spend some time studying exceptional public speakers. Thanks to YouTube, this is a lot easier than ever before. You can look for speeches in your field of study, as well as those being delivered to the sort of audience you are going to be presenting to.

When you are watching the best public speakers, you should assess their body language. You will typically find that they have an inviting and open stance. They use their hands and arms in a manner that accentuates their main points.

They also avoid fidgeting unnecessarily, and they wisely use the space that is provided to them so that they can capture the attention of their audience.

You should particularly pay attention to how these great speakers pace their speeches. Their words are delivered intentionally, and they take their time. Furthermore, they use pauses to ensure their audience is engaged and they do not rush. They may also use anecdotes and humor in effective and appropriate ways

Final words on improving your public speaking skills

So, there you have it: some of the different steps you can take to improve your public speaking skills. We know that it can be nerve-wracking to speak in public. However, practice is key. The more you do it, the more confident you will feel. Hopefully, you will be able to get to the point whereby it becomes second nature and you do not feel any nerves at all.