5 Steps to be a Better Speaker

Happy New Year! Last month’s newsletter was about how to keep your speaking voice healthy through the holiday season. Following that seasonal trend, here are five easy steps to help you become a better public speaker in 2016.

  1. Commit to giving more speeches than last year. The best way to become a better public speaker is…to give more speeches. You can’t simply read a book or watch a video (though they can be helpful and I’m working on both!); the only way to improve your public speaking skills is to speak in public. For 2016, think about all the places where you can seek out speaking opportunities; facilitate a meeting at work, moderate a panel at a conference, or give a speech in your house of worship. Opportunities are out there if you search for them. Simply commit to giving at least one more speech than last year.
  1. Create a realistic practice routine.We all know we should practice more, but how can you create a realistic practice routine that you can keep to? Think about what you need before a speech: you need time to ask The 3 Questions (Who is your audience? What is your goal? Why you?); you need time to brainstorm speech ideas; you need time to polish the speech; and you need time to practice the speech. Create a simple practice routine that you can keep to before every speech. When you book a speaking engagement, book prep time into your calendar as well.
  1. Enlist two practice buddies. It’s hard to practice by ourselves, though there are several effective methods such as practicing in front of a mirror. In 2016, find two friends, family members, or colleagues who are willing to help you practice your upcoming speeches. It will only take about 30 minutes of their time: run through the speech with them (standing up when you do so) and ask for their feedback on both content and delivery. What are your strengths? Where can you improve? This type of practice is the BEST way to prepare and gives you much more confidence. If your speech includes Q+A, then ask your practice buddies to ask you difficult questions in advance.
  1. Debrief every speaking situation. We learn from every single speaking situation, whether it goes well or not. After every speech, start a new document and write down: What went well? What didn’t? What will you change for next time? Create a series of short action items to help you make progress. If your speech was videotaped, watch that speech and critique yourself, though I admit it’s hard to watch ourselves on camera! Debriefing helps you improve after every speech.
  1. Join Toastmasters. One of the most effective, least expensive, and safest ways to learn public speaking is to join a club like Toastmasters, where you can practice your public speaking skills together with a group of like-minded people. There are literally thousands of clubs around the world where people come together either weekly or bimonthly, creating a safe, non-judgmental learning environment. If you are part of a large company, see if there’s a corporate club that meets in your building. Otherwise, look for a community club near your home or office. Visit Toastmasters International to find a club.

In 2016, use the sense of potential and renewal that comes with the new year to invest in yourself as a public speaker. By following these 5 steps, you will gain greater confidence, greater skill, and great ability to speak with power and authenticity.