The Practical Guide: Five tips for developing great public speaking skills

I have recently been doing some public speaking; last month I spoke at a conference in front of about 40 people, and then this past weekend I was the emcee and Maid of Honour at a wedding and had to speak in front of about 140 people.

Public speaking is one of the things that people fear the most. But if you warm yourself up to it and practice a lot, you’ll find that it isn’t scary at all! The tips below will help you get used to public speaking:

1) Know what’s expected of you. Find out how long you’ll be speaking for and what kind of crowd you’ll be speaking to. Should your speech be formal? Informal? Should you have visual aids? What is the ultimate goal of your speech? Will someone introduce you or are you introducing yourself? Sit down and plan all of this out with the person organizing the event.

2) Use notes. Truth be told, I’m lost if I don’t have a piece of paper in front of me. I hate the idea of presenting a speech without something to guide me. This doesn’t mean you should have everything written out word for word, but bulleted points to remind yourself of key points can be very useful. I like to use index cards. Number them to keep track if your speech is long, and also write in where visual aids will be used (for example, at the wedding, I wrote in large letters “BRING GLASS” when it was time to do my toast. It would have been pretty awkward to have forgotten my glass when I was supposed to toast the bride!)

3) Practice over and over. Time yourself so that you know roughly how long the speech will take you. Use your visual aids while you’re practicing and talk to yourself in the mirror so that you can see what you’ll look like when you stand up there.

4) Get comfortable. Wear professional clothes that feel comfortable; if you’re tugging at your shirt or if something is too tight/too loose, it’s going to really distract you. Get comfortable with the space, too: arrive early and get acquainted with the microphone, podium, and any technology you might need to use. Figure out where your audience will be so that you can pick out a few points in the crowd to look at.

5) Breathe and have fun. Regardless if you’re speaking in front of five people or 500, it’s pretty cool that you’re being honoured to play this part! Remember that you wouldn’t have been asked if people didn’t want to hear you speak, so be confident in yourself and your abilities. You’re going to do awesome. If you’re yourself and you enjoy it, everyone else will, too.

Are you afraid of public speaking or do you enjoy it? Share your advice in the comments section below!

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