How I Improved My Public Speaking Skills & How You Can Too
First let me tell you about my first public speaking experience…
It’s Spring 2006. I’m sitting in a large classroom on the campus of my collegiate alma mater. I’m a confident, borderline cocky, 21 year old Junior. I’m fit and mentally strong. I can hold my own on the Rec Center basketball courts with the guys from the big cities.
I was ready to graduate and take on the business world!
But on this day my hands are shaking, my mouth is drying up, and I’m praying no one notices that I’m sweating profusely under my wrinkled dress shirt.
In a few minutes I will have to stand in front of 50 of my peers and give a speech on a business-related topic. I’m terrified. I keep thinking about the psychology article I read that said most people are more fearful of public speaking than of dying. At this moment in my head I remember thinking “I completely understand this point of view!”
The speaker before me finishes her presentation. The professor rips her performance to shreds with detailed questions and critiques.
She scurries back to her seat with that look we give when we are doing our best to hold back an avalanche of tears.
It’s my turn!
My sweating has now reached a level where it’s beginning to drip off my forehead and onto my notecards.
But then something unexpected happened. I forgot all about how nervous I was and just started talking. I had practiced the speech out loud and in my head over and over and over again until I could say it smoothly and comfortably.
The more I talked the more comfortable I became until the words started smoothly, confidently flowing out of me.
By the end of my talk I had not only presented all of the information I had intended to but also presented it in a manner that kept the audience (and my professor) engaged.
When I finished I didn’t get any tough questions or critiques. Instead I got a single page grading sheet the next day that said “A” “Excellent job!”
Mentally I gave myself of Lebron James style chest pound!
Back then I didn’t realize that public speaking would become a huge asset for being able to garner early support for my initiatives.
To this day I have never sought out speaking engagements, but I know when people, classes, schools, companies, or community organizations call and want me to speak, I can confidently say “Yes! I’ll be there!”
Two Ways I’ve Improved My Public Speaking Ability
- Loop It
I rehearse every speech I give in my head and out loud over and over in a loop until the moment I get the mic in my hand. When I finally do take the stage I simply continue the loop.
For my first few speaking engagements I would practice multiple times the night before, but then never actually run through it in my head until it came time to present. This caused me to trip over my words at the beginning until I could get myself back in the groove of what I rehearsed the night before.
2. Stay Present
I’ve learned to keep my mind completely present and focused on what I’m about to say before and during my speeches.
If I let my mind wander to something else for even a split second, I lose my train of thought and get off track.
I have to take a slight pause, and bring myself back to the moment at hand to get the words to come out confidently and unbroken again.
With practice and continuous improvement I believe anyone can become an excellent public speaker which is an extremely valuable skill to have in your tool belt in any professional field.
Now I’m able to just enjoy spreading my message to audiences instead of worrying about whether or not I’m sweating through my shirt!
Thanks for reading! :)
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