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Four Easy Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking

Environmental Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant

Four Easy Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking

Glossophobia, or, in layman’s terms, the fear of public speaking, is one of the most common phobias, with an estimated 75% of people experiencing some degree of anxiety or nerves when speaking in public. Therefore, it’s safe to that at least three-quarters of the people reading this article (thanks for stopping by, by the the way!) feel some level of discomfort prior to and during public speaking. I say ‘at least’ because if you’re reading this piece, it’s likely that you’ve searched for public speaking tips!

Either way, I’m glad you’ve joined me. I once feared public speaking more than anything – more than heights, snakes, spiders and every other common phobia – but now I have very little fear at all of something that leaves the vast majority of us in cold sweat. And, given that I have transformed myself from someone who had glossophobia to someone who is now happy to stand up and talk in front of large crowds of people within a public forum, I thought I’d share my tops public speaking tips with you – and no, this doesn’t involve imagining everyone naked!

Tips for Public Speaking & Speaking More Clearly

Here are four techniques you can use to improve your public speaking, speak more clearly, and, possibly even enjoy it!

Speak To One Person At A Time

I know what you’re thinking – “How on earth can I talk to one person at a time when there’s a room full of people looking at me?”. Well, it’s pretty simple. The prospect of speaking in front of hundreds of people is a frightening one – there is no doubt about that; however, speaking one-on-one with someone is far less daunting, right? So all you need to do is change your mindset from ‘I’m speaking to a group of people/hundreds of people/thousands of people’ to ‘I’m speaking to a room 50/100/1000 (whatever the total number is)  individuals’. By doing this, you create a one-on-one, individual relationship with each person, akin to how you would if you were alone in a room with that person. Then, when speaking, focus on one person for around ten seconds at a time. Speak to them directly and then move onto another person after a further ten seconds. This will help you to get into a ‘one-on-one’ mindset, which is a lot more relaxed and easy to do. It may take a little practice, but this tip helped me more than anything else on this list. 

Humour and Stories

In my opinion, you should always open with something humorous. By getting a laugh from your audience within the first thirty seconds of you speech, not only will their engagement with you increase, you will also feel more comfortable as you’ve got them on your side, which should make the rest of your speech easier to perform. To connect even further with your audience, tell a story. People love a personal touch, a story about you or relevant to your audience will help to cement a rapport between you and them. 

Don’t Read From a Script

If you’ve ever witnessed someone perform a speech in public by reading almost entirely from a sheet of paper, you’ll notice that, in most cases, it is not engaging – as the speaker is interacting more with a piece of paper than they are with their audience, and they are far more prone to mistakes – because anxiety and stress will almost certainly lead to increased reading speed, which, in turn, increases the chances of errors. Therefore, you must know your speech inside out and be comfortable performing it without any notes. Of course, you should take your notes along with you just in case you have a memory block or lose your trail of thought, but never rely upon a script to guide you through your speech. Learn it off by heart.

Be Yourself

Ok, the phrase ‘Be yourself’, sounds like the sort of advice your family would give you before going on a date (!)…but it’s actually really important where public speaking is concerned. Although those listening to your speech are interested in the words that come out of your mouth, they’re also interested in you – and the more they’re interested in you, the more interested they’ll be in what you’re saying and the message you’re trying to put across. So be yourself. Let your natural humour, foibles, quirks and personality in general come through. If you come across as natural, personable character, you’ll build rapport much quicker and for longer.

Oh, and one final thing, don’t rush! Breathe slowly and talk in a calm, cleat fashion – even if your heart is racing at a hundred miles an hour! If you feel yourself garbling, take a (metaphorical) step back, take a deep breathe and then start again.

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