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How to improve your public speaking skills

How to improve your public speaking skills

For many people, the idea of public speaking is terrifying and fills them with dread. However, no matter how shy you are, there are going to be times when you have no choice but to talk in public, so it’s a skill you would be well advised to develop.

Rather than wilting under the pressure of a public speaking engagement, there are a number of recommended exercises you can do to help you maintain better composure if you’re required to speak in public. With time and a little training, you may actually come to enjoy speaking in front of an audience.

Plan ahead properly

Like most things in life, planning ahead for your event will pay huge dividends later. Unless you have great improvisational skills, your audience will immediately recognize when you haven’t done adequate research or planning and there are few things worse than sitting through a talk that has clearly been badly prepared or is disorganized.

Instead, try to think about how you’ll structure what you’re trying to say, giving it a logical opening, middle and end. If you’re nervous about your voice, accent or pronunciation (and depending on the event), you also could consider live captioning to further enhance your message and make sure everyone understands what you’re saying. 

Practice, practice, practice

The old saying, “Practice makes perfect,” is hugely applicable when it comes to public speaking. The more you go over what you’re trying to say, the greater the chances are that it will get ingrained in your head, making it much more natural in delivery. Practicing your speech will also help you identify potential problem areas – either in tricky words or the overall message – allowing you to iron out possible issues before speaking live. 

Engage your audience with positive words

There are some words that diminish your sense of authority as a speaker. Words like, “actually”, “just” or “I think” can sound airy and unconvincing. For example, saying “We should push ahead with this plan,” holds considerably more weight and gravitas than saying “I just think we should push ahead with this plan.” 

Your choice of words is vitally important in establishing your expertise and knowledge on a subject. You should also bear in mind the seven C’s of effective communication to ensure you convey the right message with the right wording. 

It’s also worth remembering that people have a tendency to speak quicker when they’re nervous so be aware of your word count and try to regulate heightened emotions or nerves. As a rule, you should aim to say between 100 and 160 words per minute – which evens out at between two to three words per second (not accounting for short breaks). Timely pauses will help add a sense of importance to what you’re saying and allow your audience time to digest your key points. 

Try to think positively

While being nervous speaking in front of an audience can be difficult to control, one thing you definitely can master is maintaining a positive attitude. Speaking in public can make even the most skilled presenter edgy but one thing all the best speakers share is an inner sense of positivity and confidence. Unless you’re unlucky enough to be speaking in front of particularly hostile audience, you can be pretty sure none of your listeners wants to see you fail or stumble. Try to maintain a positive outlook and, before you know it, you’ll be speaking in public with relative ease.

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