Whether we are talking in a team meeting, in a social setting, or in a presentation in front of an audience, we all must speak in public from time to time. The way we speak affects the way people think about us, so it is understandable that it often comes with nerves and anxiety. While we may never be the best public speaker there ever was, with some preparation and practice, we can learn how to calm the nervousness and overcome the obstacles that are keeping us petrified every time we need to speak in front of others.
Why Public Speaking Is Important
The ability to speak in public is relevant in most aspects of life. Even if you don’t work in a career that demands a lot of this skill, there will be times you may need to speak in front of a crowd, at a social event, at a friend’s wedding, or to give a eulogy. In the work setting, having good speaking skills can help to advance your career and create growth opportunities. For example, you may have to teach a class to recruits, do online presentations with an audience or team members, or speak over zoom to your customers. Being a good public speaker will boost your self-confidence, self-esteem, and in some cases, your reputation.
Not having the proper skills to speak in public, on the contrary, can be detrimental to both your personal and your career. Having to miss out on important moments that may otherwise have been a great opportunity for you to speak can happen when you haven’t made efforts to learn how to deliver a confident speech. Even if you have written the perfect speech that conveys your points, it can all go to waste if your delivery doesn’t back up your words. It could be ruined by poor posture, lack of eye contact, and nervous shuffling. Your audience judges you on what happens on the stage, so it is important to not undermine your credibility by lessening the impact of your carefully chosen words by giving a badly delivered presentation.
Ways To Become A Better Speaker
While speaking in public can seem intimidating, the benefits of being able to speak well will outweigh any perceived fears. Public speaking can help you get a job or a job promotion and can open the door to other opportunities as you build your confidence. The good news is that speaking in public is a learnable skill, and these are some of the strategies that you can use to become better at it.
- Practice. As the saying goes, practice really does make perfect (or close to it), and the more you do so, the more confident you will become as a speaker. Look for opportunities to practice and start to bring public speaking to the forefront of your daily life when possible.
- Plan appropriately. Think about your speech from beginning to end and find ways to intrigue your audience. Planning can help you think on your feet and will be helpful if an unpredictable question or answer or last-minute communication comes up.
- Engage with your audience. Doing this will help you feel less isolated and will help keep the interest of your audience. When possible, get your audience to participate—involve them in the conversation.
- Pay attention to body language. Stand up straight, take deep breaths, look people in the eye, and smile. Your body language will tell your audience a lot about your inner state, and if you aren’t feeling confident and compelling, your audience will know.
- Think positively. A little bit of self-love and verbal affirmations can go a long way! Think positive thoughts and believe in your delivery strategy and you will get a boost in your confidence and increase your chances of giving the speech you are capable of.
- Address your nerves. Because speaking in public can elicit your fight or flight response, it is natural that your adrenaline kicks in and your heart rate and breathing go up. Deep breathing exercises to get your body the oxygen you need will be helpful. We can often get in our heads and imagine our worst fear of failure happening, but by changing your mindset, you can use that nervous energy to your advantage. Stop thinking about yourself and the way you are feeling and focus your attention on your audience and remember what you are saying is about them. You are trying to educate them, and the message is more important than the fear. If possible, focus on one friendly face at a time, and pretend they are the only ones in the room.
- Watch video recordings of yourself. When you can see yourself from an audience perspective, you can improve upon your skills—and work on the areas of your speech that were lacking. Are there verbal stalls, or are there gestures that feel forced? Also, pay attention to your reaction during crowd or audience interruptions, such as sneezes or coughs.
Mastering the art of speaking in public is not an overnight process—it will take time and dedication to grow these skills. But factoring these simple steps into preparing your presentation will help you build your self-confidence before stepping in front of a crowd—and that confidence will build credibility with your audience.
“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.” – Dale Carnegie