HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PUBLIC SPEAKING SKILLS AND ROCK THOSE PRESENTATIONS
Learning how to improve your public speaking is a great way to give yourself an advantage while you’re in school as well as in your career. But it’s not the easiest thing to do when every time you approach the podium you start feeling weak in the knees, hands sweaty, body shaking, and feelings of dread making you want to run for the exit door and never look back.
Fear of public speaking is a very real thing, and there’s even a scientific term for it: glossophobia. Many students experience this, especially when it comes time to make class presentations. But here’s the thing: public speaking skills are always going to come in handy throughout your life, so now is the best time to hone in on them and practice.
Whether you’re scared, nervous, self-conscious, or just want to get better in general, use these tips to learn how to improve your public speaking and master those skills.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD PUBLIC SPEAKING SKILLS
Good public speaking skills can help you with so many other things in your life, from negotiating better marks with your professors to acing job interviews. The skills you improve now will help you throughout the rest of your academic career as well as post-graduate studies, career opportunities, and more. Even in your personal life, there will be times when good public speaking skills will come in handy, like making a toast at your best friend’s wedding or presenting an acceptance speech for an award.
Here are just a few of the advantages and benefits that come with learning how to improve your public speaking skills:
● More self-confidence: It can be empowering to overcome those fears and turn your anxiety into something that motivates you.
● Better communication skills: Learning how to present something to an audience helps you improve your communication skills overall by learning how to talk to specific people in a way that resonates with them.
● Connecting with people and networking: When you are more confident in public speaking, you are more likely to engage in public speaking events or conventions within your career. When you do that, more people will see how you present yourself and want to connect with you.
● Stronger leadership skills: Public speaking is an essential leadership skill. Good leaders can showcase their authority and credibility by presenting to others and sharing their insights, and know how to say the right things to encourage and inspire their audience.
● Enhanced performance skills: Presenting to people helps you build better body language, articulation, timing and volume levels, and overall storytelling skills.
PUBLIC SPEAKING ANXIETY IS A REAL THING
For some people, the fear of presenting is so crippling it can be nightmare-inducing. If you feel this way, you’re certainly not alone. According to research done by the Federal University of Minas Gerais, 63% of undergraduate students report a fear of public speaking, while 89% of students say they would like their school to offer classes on how to improve your public speaking.
official scientific term for fear of public speaking, and it affects approximately one in four Americans (not just students). Many times, the fear of public speaking is blended in with a variety of other fears, like social anxiety, low self-esteem, imposter syndrome, or even perceptions of class differences.
Even in the days of online schooling and virtual classes, presentation anxiety is still a real issue for many students. There’s still something intimidating about putting yourself out there on the computer screen for everyone else to watch.
However, like many fears, you can empower yourself to overcome your presentation anxiety and glossophobia with the right tips and practice techniques. It won’t happen overnight, but you can follow these steps and improve your public speaking skills to get ahead in everything else you do.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PUBLIC SPEAKING: A SUMMARY
We’ll go over the specifics of each of these tips in more detail, but here is a quick list of the most effective ways to improve your public speaking skills:
● Stop relying on filler words
● Work on your self-confidence
● Pay attention to your body language
● Practice and rehearse as much as you can
● Develop good memorization techniques
● Know your audience and use rhetoric
● Pick a good topic you’re passionate about
● Start small and work your way up
● Make your PowerPoint presentations look amazing
● Take some lessons if possible
STOP RELYING ON FILLER WORDS
Let’s start with something pretty basic that will help you in many areas of your life, and not just public speaking. So many of us rely on words such as “like” and “um” when we’re talking that it becomes so normal we don’t even realize we’re doing it so often. But other people notice, and it can reflect poorly on you.
When you rely too much on these words, people will start to make judgements about you, even if they aren’t true. They might start to think you’re uneducated or uninterested. The word “like” in particular is commonly linked to a type of slang known as Valspeak, which can lead to negative stereotypes associated with “valley girls” (think of characters such as Cher Horowitz from Clueless, Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, or even the Saturday Night Live sketch “The Californians”). There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a “valley person,” but it just doesn’t go over well in a career or academic setting.
Even when you’re just arguing with a friend, the more you have to rely on “like” and “um” the less powerful and credible your argument becomes. When you speak directly and to the point, you become more comfortable and confident in what you’re saying as well as the way you’re coming across as a whole.
So how do you curb the habit? Start by increasing your own awareness. Every time you catch yourself using a filler word, stop and pause instead. Sometimes we use these words when we want to fill a pause or buy a little extra time to think of what to say next. Just take a breath instead. Additionally, you could always ask friends or family members to listen to you speak and call you out when you use these words frequently. Lastly, if you really get stuck, try recording yourself rehearsing or presenting something and listen to where you use them.