How to Get Better at Public Speaking
When I talk about public speaking, people often get this haunted look in their eyes, and I can almost see memories of anxious, uncomfortable public speaking experiences flashing before their eyes. So it can be scary to hear that public speaking is one of the most critical forms of workplace communication.
But when I say “public speaking,” I’m not just talking about standing in front of a huge crowd and giving a lecture. That’s important from time to time, but what’s more important is the ability to communicate clearly and concisely in small settings. Think about salary negotiations, or being able to react quickly and eloquently when your boss approaches you with an out of the blue question; those are examples of public speaking, too.
What’s the key to public speaking?
Something I think people often get wrong about being a good speaker is an overemphasis on the talking part of it. Effective speaking is about good communication, and the foundation of good communication is good listening. So even if you’re light on your feet and quick to reply, you’re not going to come across as a good speaker if you’ve totally misunderstood the question because you were so eager to answer it.
A fast, witty response that doesn’t actually answer the question is far worse than a thoughtful, measured, “You know, I don’t have the answer to that question right now. Let me get back to you.”
Strong public speaking skills are rooted in self-confidence. If you know your value and you’re able to communicate it thoughtfully, clearly, and usefully, you’re projecting a sense of self-worth that announces your readiness for a next-level position. Although you may be answering questions about a specific problem, good public speaking also addresses other, unsaid questions under the surface.
Is this person able to communicate ideas clearly?
Are they able to react calmly under pressure?
Are they defensive in the face of questions, or do they put their ego aside for the team?
How can you improve?
Over the course of my career, I’ve come up with a few strategies for improving public speaking if (like I was) you hate public speaking.
If you know someone in the audience and you trust them, ask them to watch your performance and take notes on how it goes.
What could you have done differently?
Did you get your point across?
Was your audience confused at any point?
Leverage your relationships to help you get around a roadblock, and work constructively with someone who is firmly on your team to improve.
If you’re nervous to get up and present something, try volunteering for more small scale presentations. This could be giving a project brief at a team meeting or even just checking in with your boss and letting them know how a task is going. Prepare for these small, informal presentations before you make them, and think about how you could have improved it after.
Prepare and practice
The advice we give our kids is good for us, too. Get your data ready, have any supplemental materials at hand, and have clear and concise talking points for any presentation you take on. Your efforts ahead of time will make you confident and secure when the time comes to actually share with the group.
Public speaking is a tool you can add to your arsenal, and I’m here to help you get there. If you need some help building your public speaking skills, let’s connect! Click here to book a one-on-one with me.