Public speaking is important for your career and in your personal life. Learning how to express your thoughts clearly and firmly makes life easier for you. The ability to communicate both orally and through the written word, will benefit you, regardless of your profession.
College students and executives often take courses in public speaking to give their academic or business careers a boost. Everyday folks take courses to help improve how they talk at work or give toasts at family gatherings. Learning how to be a better public speaker will help you express yourself well and develop higher self-esteem.
A study by North Carolina State University shows that young people who take public speaking courses exhibit improved academic performance,better listening skills, and more courage to express themselves.
Watch Public Speaking Experts in Action
Watch TED Talks on YouTube and attend lectures to familiarize yourself with how to speak well in public. You’ll find that there are many variations in speaking style – some speakers interact constantly with the audience, while others leave audience interaction until a question and answer session at the end of the talk.
Talk to people you admire in your profession or prospective career who give speeches as part of their job. Ask them the following questions:
- Do you give speeches as part of your job?
- When and where do you give these speeches?
- How do you prepare for a public speaking engagement?
- Have you ever taken a public speaking class?
- How do you handle nerves before a speech?
- How has public speaking helped your career?
Take note of the answers. Talking to public speakers directly will give you additional insight into what will work best in your field.
The Basics of Public Speaking
The first and most important step of public speaking has nothing to do with your voice, projection, or body language as you give your speech, though they are all necessary components of a successful presentation.
The content and construction of your speech ultimately determines how well you connect with your audience. You can dress well and speak forcefully, but if your words don’t appeal to people, you’ll never persuade them to buy your product or support your cause.
How can you express yourself in a way that will engage your audience? Determine what your audience needs to know about your cause or message, and write a coherent and entertaining speech.
Record Your Practice Sessions
Use topics that are important to you and your target market as the main focus of your talk. Do research to determine the best subjects to explore to reach your audience. Study the subject to refine your material and engage your potential customers or associates.
Your tone of voice, projection, and phrasing helps your message resonate with the audience.
Share video and audio recordings of your speech on social media. Edit the speech, if necessary to make it sound the best it can.
Post Your Speeches Online
When scheduling a presentation or speech, make sure to invite potential customers or associates. Don’t gear the email newsletters or announcements to a general audience, unless that’s specifically your goal.
Once you become more experienced at making speeches, you can include several of your best talks on your SlideShare, YouTube, or TED talks.
Benefits and Importance of Public Speaking
Public speaking, even on a small scale, gives you many benefits. These benefits help you improve, mentally, emotionally and even physically. Here are just a few of the ways public speaking will make your life better.
Speaking in public can boost your confidence, and help you overcome your fears about expressing yourself in front of other people. Connecting with an audience will empower you and bring you potential customers, associates and friends. You’ll show people that you have ideas that they can relate to and apply to their own lives.
As you go from speaking in front of a few co-workers to large groups at seminars, you’ll gain more confidence. This confidence will help you handle daily interactions, from dates and dealing with sales clerks, in an assured way that will get you the results you want.
You’ll still have some anxiety about speaking in public, but you’ll learn how to deal with it as you speak in front of larger groups more frequently.
Public speaking, even in front of a small group, will increase your confidence. More experience will improve your skills and confidence. Start small, in comfortable situations, and then work your way up to more challenging audiences.
Public speaking can help entrepreneurs, executives and artists market their business or creations. Improving your public speaking skills can advance your career by putting you in the spotlight at well-publicized events.
Your speaking engagements may be open to the public or for your co-workers or industry only, but these events can significantly heighten your professional standing. Success as a public speaker increases your visibility in your field. And shows you have creativity, leadership skills and critical thinking skills.
A Better Resume
Add speaking engagements to your resume, just like you would add awards, professional memberships or published books and articles.
After people have attended a few of your speaking engagements, or even seen marketing for these events, they’ll consider you an expert in your field. You’ll attract new clients or business for your company from this extra publicity.
Public speaking experience helps you promote yourself at your job. You’ll feel more comfortable speaking up at meetings and suggesting new ideas.
It Helps You Hone Leadership Skills
If you found it hard to express yourself in group conversations, or tended to be ignored in favor of louder or flashier individuals, public speaking will help you build leadership skills.You’ll find it easier to speak up about topics that are important to you, and people will listen to you during everyday conversations and public speeches.
You may even find yourself doing the talking for your department at work, your community organization, or your group of friends. When you stand up and speak in a knowledgeable, confident way, people will pay more attention to you and take what you say seriously.
Gives You a More Assertive Personality
What you say is important, but how you say it is just as important. You could have the best plan to catapult your company into the stratosphere, but if you express it in a meek, unsure manner, it will be hard for people to take you seriously. Leadership skills involve more than knowing what to do and say. You have to talk and perform confidently.
Once you learn how to persuade people with your words and delivery, you’ll be well on your way to being a leader in your field. When you can convince a group of people to believe your message, it will be easy to convince people one-on-one to accept your words.
Effective public speaking drives change, and can start or propel political, social, scientific or business movements.
Increases Networking Capabilities
Talking with people after you’ve given a speech will give you many opportunities to meet people you would never have met in everyday life. Networking can be tough, especially with so many people using social media as their main platform for making new business contacts.
Giving a speech makes it easier for people to meet you face-to-face without endless back and forth posts on social media.Many speaking events offer food and drink as part of the event, so speakers and guests can network in a relaxed environment. You’ll also have a chance to talk to other speakers, some of whom might be difficult to reach through social media or email.
Get Hired or Promoted
Public speaking will help you get hired by a new company or promoted at your current one. Employers value people with written and oral communication skills. A public speaker demonstrates aptitude in both areas. A study by software company iCIMS in 2017 shows that one-thirds of hiring managers think oral communications is the most highly-valued skill in a prospective employee.
Improve Your Social Life and Develop Friendships
A public speaking engagement puts you in touch with new people who share your interests. Attendees love to talk with a presenter after a speech. Engage in conversation with your customers or colleagues to make new business relationships and social connections.
Giving speeches puts you in a “power” position that makes it easier for interesting people to approach you. Mingle with the crowd for a while after a speech to answer questions and promote your business or cause. Always bring plenty of business cards, and make sure they list your social media sites, websites, and/or email address.
You should also list contact information on the beginning and end slides during your presentation, or any printed handouts. Mingle with your fellow presenters if you are a convention or seminar speaker. Congratulate others on their talks, and exchange contact information after you talk with them.
Boost Critical Thinking
You’ll learn to think critically when you speak in public. Before you can speak in front of large groups or customers, you need to determine what you’re going to say – and how that information will benefit your audience.
You’ll need to think through problems and offer solutions when you prepare a speech for your class, organization or office. Think about the positive and negative aspects of each solution and incorporate them into your speech. The first part of public speaking involves research and writing, much like you would compile for a written report.
Your speaking voice, projection, physical appearance and confidence help relay this research and critical thinking effectively.
Solve Problems More Effectively
Coming up with solutions for community problems may seem easy at first, but you need to look at the situation from all angles. Analyzing and reviewing all aspects of a situation is vital for creating a workable plan. Thinking things through and coming up with logical solutions is the cornerstone of persuasive public speaking. No matter how well you speak or dress, you won’t persuade people to do what you want if you have a flimsy plan or message.
Problem solving and oral communication skills are two of the best skills you can have to aid you in business and in your personal life. Analyzing the costs and benefits of potential solutions, and then putting them into a coherent and convincing presentation, will make you a valued member of your company or organization.
Improve Your Research and Communication Skills
When you prepare a speech, it broadens your research and communication skills. The use of logic and the thorough look you must give all sides of an issue forces you to let go of old, ineffective communication and study habits.
Analyze your intended audience, and figure out what they need to hear and how it can benefit them. Make your message pertinent to your audience, and use a speaking style they can relate to-if your audience consists of business executives over fifty, avoid current pop culture references and use anecdotes and slang from the 1970s and 1980s.
Think about how you can impart your views (or your product) to your audience so they will relate to it in their sphere of experience.
Types of Public Speaking
Everyday, people all across the world get up and give speeches and talks in front of audiences. The speeches may be informal and funny, or serious and academic. Some of the best speeches are compiled on a website called Vital Speeches of the Day. The site also features job openings for speechwriters in a variety of industries – from politics and medicine to labor organizations.
There are three types of public speaking – informative, entertaining, and persuasive. Some speeches entertain while they inform and persuade, while others are strictly motivational or funny.
The purpose of informative speaking is to share knowledge with an audience. You might be an engineer asked to explain a new project to your co-workers, or a department manager informing your employees about new company rules.
A nonprofit group may want to hear about a volunteer’s experience tutoring to learn about better ways to educate underserved children and teens.
Informative speaking is a part of many occupations. Paramedics and firefighters demonstrate how to handle difficult situations on the job. Physicians often give speeches and presentations at seminars and organizations like the American Medical Association.
Persuasive speaking motivates or convinces others to act in a certain way. Use persuasion in your speech to make other people change their opinions or beliefs or follow through on a call to action.
An arts advocate may inspire and engage school administrators, parents and teachers during a speech, and convince them to add music and painting to an elementary school curriculum.
Learn How to Persuade Others
Motivational speakers, like Anthony Robbins, Les Brown and Lewis Howes, have made careers out of inspiring and motivating others.
Some speakers encourage people to do better in business, providing tips for overall business success or specific motivation for a particular industry, like online marketing.
Speaking to persuade is a skill that will serve you well in your personal and professional life. Motivational techniques can help you make friends, get a date, convince people to give money to a charity, or hire you for a job.
Entertainment speaking may also be referred to as ceremonial speaking. The speeches given at wedding receptions, awards ceremonies, graduations, and funeral eulogies fall under this category.
Comedians, actors and authors can make a living as entertainment speakers. However, anyone can give a ceremonial speech. You can speak at a going-away party for a fellow employee or congratulate the happy couple with a toast at a wedding reception. Even a simple wedding toast requires some preparation, and you can have fun writing this type of toast.
We’ve all seen celebrity roasts on TV or YouTube. Many of the people giving speeches during these shows haven’t prepared what they’re going to say, or they may be a little tipsy. Spur of the moment TV roasts from entertainers may be funny, but such antics don’t translate well to real- life scenarios.
Public Speaking and Social Change
Public speaking has been used to initiate social change. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and House Divided speech, and John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech are among the most famous speeches in history.
If you are devoted to the environment, animal rights, or other causes, use public speaking as a way to let people know what matters to you and how you’re working to change the world for the better.You may not be able to reach everyone in your audience and convert them to your cause, but you can get a valuable message out there.
How to Become a Better Public Speaker
Practice daily, either with a speech you’ve prepared or a passage from a book.
Start by practicing a speech and recording your voice. Then recite your presentation in front of a full-length mirror so you can get an idea of what other people will see and hear when you give your speech. Have a trusted friend listen to your final practice run and give you an honest critique of your performance.
You could also join Toastmasters, an organization geared to helping people improve their public speaking skills. Everyone at a Toastmasters meeting is there for the same reason – to improve their public speaking skills.
You can learn tips and tricks from your fellow public speakers you couldn’t learn from a video or audience of friends and family. Friends may be too polite and avoid giving you helpful advice, or be too critical, often about the wrong things.
Practice is the Key
You may want to join Toastmasters after you’ve practiced a bit on your own and in front of friends. Use the questions you have from examining your videos and crowd reactions from previous speeches/friends/family to trade advice with other Toastmaster members.
Believe that with practice, you will improve. Public speaking is just like any other skill. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. A positive, growth attitude will give you better results than the belief that you can only get to a certain point and not improve further.
What to Do During Your Presentation
There are certain ways to stay calm and in the moment as you give your talk. Here are some tips to make the most of our speech:
Look at Faces in the Crowd While You Speak
Nervous speakers tend to avoid looking at people’s faces, or any focus on audience members who look bored. Look for an interested person in the audience and smile at them. Make eye contact with an audience member. The person you make eye contact with doesn’t need to be in the front row – they can be a few rows back.
If someone smiles at you or nods when you meet their gaze, make eye contact with that person later in your talk.
Approach, Don’t Avoid
Before you give your speech, don’t think about what could go wrong, or what you want to avoid.Instead of thinking “ I don’t want t o sound nervous”, think “I want to sound confident and project my voice.”
Use positive, or approach, goals, to stay focused and calm your nerves. If you think about what you don’t want, you’ll be more likely to get that. Concentrate on what you do want, like speaking clearly and making eye contact with audience members.
Don’t Talk Right Away
You shouldn’t talk as soon as you take the stage. Stand behind the podium, glance at your notes, or take a drink of water before you begin speaking. Talking right away gives the impression that you are insecure or anxious.
Prepare Yourself for Mistakes
All public speakers make mistakes occasionally, like mispronouncing words, or another gaffe. Instead of becoming nervous and self-conscious when you make a mistake, correct it immediately and offer a funny quip.
If you freeze up and become stiff when you make a mistake, the audience will feel uncomfortable, too. Making a mistake (and then laughing about it) will help you appear more human and relatable to your audience.
Anxiety and Public Speaking
Public speaking is a phobia many people share. This fear isn’t only relegated to business seminars and other situations requiring speeches to large groups. Some people find it harrowing to speak in front of a few people at a company luncheon or meeting.
Learning how to speak effectively in front of a group of people – whether that group is five or 500, can boost your confidence and improve mental health. Even if you suffer from clinical anxiety, learning how to give speeches in front of a few close friends will help boost your self-esteem and mental health.
Dealing with Fear Before Speaking in Public
You may feel confident weeks before your presentation, but develop fears as the event date draws closer. You may be afraid that you’ll freeze up, forget important parts of your speech, or spill a drink on your outfit right before you go onstage.
Analyze why you’re afraid. What do you think will happen during your speech? There are many imaginary worst case scenarios. Instead of worrying about what might go wrong, think about what will go right.Prepare your speech until you’re confident it’s persuasive and full of good information.
Give your speech a few unique quips or anecdotes to reveal your personality. You don’t want to imitate other speakers, though you can use them for inspiration.
Use Meditation and Breathing Exercise to Calm Nerves
After you’ve perfected your speech and its delivery, concentrate on controlling your nerves, even if your speech is a few days away. Don’t assume that you’ll feel confident and cool an hour before the speech just because you feel great a week before the event. Nerves usually kick in at the last minute.
Being too nervous will engage your fight or flight mode. Your body will become stressed, you’ll breath faster, and lose your concentration. Avoid this by controlling your physiological reaction. Slow down your breathing to control your heart rate.
When you get nervous and breathe faster, practice slow breathing. You can use yoga techniques like the complete breath or alternate nostril breathing to reduce your breathing speed and heart rate.
There are several meditation and heart rate apps you can use to calm down before your speech. If you are naturally a nervous person, try incorporating meditation and breathing exercises like Lion’s Breath and Long Exhale into your daily life. A person who practices calmness and meditates regularly will have an easier time remaining calm during a big speech.
Lower Your Heart Rate to Reduce Anxiety
Be aware of your heart rate. Your heart rate will go up if you’re nervous, you’ll develop more of the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol is bad for your nerves at speech time, and for your overall health all the time.
Use a free app that measures your heart rate by taking your pulse to let you know when your heart rate is too high. (There are several heart rate and stress apps on the market.) Practice deep breathing or meditate to slow your heart rate. It’s unrealistic to assume you’ll conquer your nerves. Learn how to control your nerves instead by using your favorite relaxation technique.
As you practice deep breathing or other breathing exercises, be aware that your heart rate is faster when you’re inhaling and slower when you’re exhaling.