Effective public speaking presentation is an essential lifetime skill; it isn’t just a class in college. Speaking clearly and effectively inside and outside the classroom is a valuable and essential skill. It shows that you are confident and knowledgeable about what you’re saying. It also helps you persuade your audience to take an action. Public speaking skills help you in a job interview, business meeting, networking and communicating with peers and teachers.
Why do I need public speaking skills?
Karen Burns wrote in “Why You Need to Be a Decent Public Speaker” June 9, 2010, in USNews.com: “What better way to shine at job interviews, or in staff meetings or at business luncheons than to express yourself clearly, confidently, coherently and concisely? Speaking makes you visible. Speaking makes you memorable. Speaking can even make you look smarter than you really are.”
Many careers require persuasive public speaking skills: lawyer, business negotiator, TV reporter, teacher, clergy, advertising rep, agent, public relations rep, salesperson, actor, museum curator, presenter and politician.
How you can improve public speaking skills
Know your subject. You won’t always be asked to speak about a topic you’re passionate about. Sometimes you’ll need to discuss a subject you are barely familiar with. Always research your topic before you deliver your speech. Learn the pros and cons of your subject. Even practice the answers to some questions your audience might ask you. If you’re confident in what you’re saying, your audience will be too.
Practice a smooth delivery. A contributor to “How to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills” May 2012 at StudyMode.com advises: “Your message will get lost if the audience can’t easily follow what you say. Avoid sounds like ‘um’ and ‘ah’ during your speech, carefully articulate and pronounce your words, pause between ideas; all of these techniques can be applied to maintain a good delivery for your speech.”
Vary your tone of voice, pitch and volume. Don’t sound like a monotone; sound more like normal speech. When you raise and lower your voice and stress certain words, you can engage and influence your audience.
Use confident body language. Stand up straight. Have a happy and enthusiastic expression on your face. Look at your audience and make eye contact; don’t keep your head down on your notes. Gesture at appropriate points during your speech.
Use vocabulary appropriate for your audience. You speak to children differently than you speak to peers, teachers or prospective employers. Don’t use fancy words or industry jargon with an audience that may not understand what you’re saying.
Watch other people speaking in public. Go online or attend a lecture at college and watch how skilled speakers combine their skills to engage the audience. Apply what you see to your own public speaking.
“Download a free recording app on your phone. Practice saying something at your normal pace, then practice slower, then EVEN slower. Play back so you can hear for yourself what the three sound like, and even ask a friend which is most clear,” suggests Jenny Blake in “8 Ways to Practice and Improve Your Public Speaking Skills,” January 24, 2011, at LifeAfterCollege.org.
Blake also suggests you seek feedback from a friend who will give you honest criticism about your strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement.
Join a public speaking club. Some clubs and organizations on campus, at the library or in your community practice public speaking: debate club, student council, model United Nations and programs run by toastmasters – people who organize public speaking events.
Toastmasters International at Toastmasters.org offers educational programs for public speaking, podcasts, local meetings, networking, speech contests and leadership training. Blogger Christopher Lopes at ChrisLopes.ca said that with the help of clubs and toastmasters he has learned valuable skills outside the classroom in public speaking, chairing meetings, setting agendas, Robert’s Rules of Order and leading versus managing others.
Are you afraid to speak in public? How can you improve your public speaking skills?