Public speaking can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences. Even the most experienced, and seemingly perfect, public speakers know that good public speaking is an acquired skill that takes practice and preparation and there is always room for improvement. Here are 5 key tips to improve your public speaking skills:
1. Practice Makes Perfect
The saying “practice makes perfect” applies to almost anything in life. But, in order to refine your public speaking skills, practice is essential. The more comfortable you are with the material and your delivery, the more comfortable you will be when you are giving your presentation in a boardroom or you’re standing in front of a room full of hundreds of people. Practice in front of the mirror, or practice your speech out loud while you’re driving. Enlist willing (or unwilling) family members or friends to rehearse your presentation to and ask for their feedback. Knowing your material inside and out will help you beat your nerves when they do creep up.
2. Seek Feedback
Speaking of feedback, it’s an extremely effective tool when you are trying to improve your public speaking skills. Feedback from friends and family or a professional mentor can be invaluable for improving your public speaking skills. Another great way to receive feedback is from yourself. You are your own worst critic, so try videoing yourself giving the presentation. You’ll probably cringe when you watch it, so be forewarned. Use this incredibly helpful tool to improve your public speaking skills by looking out for nervous habits like saying “uh,” “like,” and “um.” Observe if you have any nervous tics like wringing your hands, crumpling your notes, or licking your lips. Reviewing a video of yourself can also help you avoid distracting body language during the presentation. Use it to see if you are making eye contact, standing up straight, and smiling.
3. Mind Your Audience
Another form of feedback happens during the presentation or speech and it comes from your audience. Your audience will give you clear cues if they aren’t engaged. Is everyone on their phone or chit-chatting in the back? You may need to adapt your speech or presentation if necessary to get the audience engaged. Ideally, you would want your presentation to be engaging from the get-go, but some audiences are a tough crowd and you might have to reel them back in from time to time. Engage your audience and make it a conversation. If you’re feeling a little nervous, tell them that! They will appreciate your authenticity and honesty. Make it personal, tell some stories, and make it relatable–nothing helps to connect with your audience better.
4. Your Presentation is Powerful
A good, professional presentation can make a huge difference. Use your slides to help you get organized before the presentation and stay on track during it. Great looking slides that clarify and enhance your story can give you a real confidence boost. If you need design help, use a professional platform like Beautiful.ai to create a sleek presentation with ease. However, don’t rely too heavily on technology. You should be able to give your presentation without it. If you get nervous and lose your train of thought, you can look to your slides to jog your memory and seamlessly carry on. Your slides should enhance, not define, your presentation.
5. Be Natural
Don’t script your speech or presentation too much. Experienced speakers, with amazing public speaking skills, always feel like they are having a conversation with the audience. Whatever you do, don’t memorize your speech! The littlest thing could throw you completely off track and you could forget the whole thing. You also don’t want to read your speech. You might as well just send it out in an email at that point. Do whatever you need to do to get organized. If you find you absolutely need notes, make sure they are large enough to read and put together in a way that makes it easy to pick up where you left off by glancing down. Let your delivery be natural. If you’re the one giving this speech or presentation, you are likely the expert, which means you should be able to speak to the topic without having to read word-for-word off the paper. You’re the expert, you know your stuff, and you’ve got this!