Tips To Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

By Sky Ariella
Sep. 21, 2022

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The thought of speaking publicly in front of a group can spark nerves in even the most seasoned professionals. Whether you’re conducting a discussion with a small study group of three or leading a presentation to a company of 300, you need to lean on public speaking skills to succeed in getting your message across to your audience.

In this article we will go over why public speaking is important, provide tips to help improve your public speaking skills, and give the qualities that make a strong public speaker.

Key Takeaways:

  • Practicing your speech beforehand and memorizing the first and last line of each card can help you have a natural flow to your speech.

  • It’s important to be aware of your body language and make eye contact with those in the crowd to help improve your audiences reception of your message.

  • The qualities that make a great public speaker are:

    • Confidence

    • Sincerity

    • The ability to connect with an audience

Tips To Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

Why Is Public Speaking Important?

At some point in your professional or private life, you’ll be asked to stand in front of a group of people and speak candidly. Think about when your best friend is getting married and wants you to give a heartfelt speech at their wedding. While it may not seem that scary to speak to a large group of your friend’s loved ones, it can quickly become intimidating under the hot lights of a wedding reception.

Preparation is vital in doing anything well. This is very true of public speaking. Even if your career doesn’t depend on your public speaking abilities, there will always be situations in life that require you to use these skills.

Tips For Improving Your Public Speaking Skills

Do you have an event where you’ll have to speak publicly coming up, and your palms are starting to sweat at the mere idea of it?

There are ways to quell these fears, at least enough that you can go to your public speaking event confident that you will do the best job possible. Review the tips below for how to improve your public speaking skills and get to work.

  1. Practice beforehand. If you don’t have time to read any of the other tips on this list, that’s okay because this is the most important of them all. Practice your speech beforehand. There’s nothing any other advice can do for you without committing time to practice.

    Every time you run through your speech or go over how you’ll mention your talking points, you gain a little more experience, and the nervousness will fade. Once going over it a hundred times, you’ll walk into the speaking engagement confidently because you’ve prepared extensively.

  2. Know your audience. Each public speaking event is different. Thinking about the goals and purpose of your audience is crucial in effectively communicating your message with them. Consider who you’re speaking to, the type of event it is, and what the goal of your speech is.

    The approach of a student giving a speech in a college class will vary from an office manager who speaks to their team during a business presentation.

    The student is speaking to a group of peers that don’t necessarily need to be engaged, and they’ll need to accommodate for this fact. On the other hand, the office manager’s team has more motivation to pay close attention. However, the office manager has more pressure to encourage action in the audience because their job relies on their team’s performance.

  3. Plan the structure of your speech. While you can never be positive about how your audience will emotionally engage with your speech, you should still plan the structure for how you want your speech to land. Generally, the most influential public speakers incorporate their most impactful statements at the beginning and end of their speech. Leave the middle for putting forth important details that require the audience’s attention but may not be as catchy.

    Starting with assertions that command an audience’s attention will pull them in initially to hear the speaker out. Closing with a statement that’s equally as influential ensures that your words will remain with them long after the speech’s conclusion.

  4. Memorize the first and lines. You don’t want to sound like a robot while making your speech. When you memorize every word that you want to say, it’s not going to sound very natural. By memorizing the first and last lines of each card, you are able to start and end strong all while still having a natural flow in the middle.

  5. Be aware of your body language. The unconscious movements and behaviors in your body language will tell your audience a lot about you. Negative body language that gives the impression of anxiousness and insecurity will impact your audience’s reception of your message.

    Examples of negative body language include:

    • Having a rigid posture

    • Looking at the ground and not making eye contact

    • Not smiling

    • Swaying from side to side

    • Fidgeting with your hands or notes

  6. Don’t hide your personality. You want your audience to be drawn in by your speech and be fully engaged until you’re finished. One way to accomplish this is by embracing your personality and sharing it with your audience. They’ll be more receptive to a speaker who presents themselves as more than a series of facts they want to cover.

    Many people who are afraid of public speaking have their worries eased when they incorporate personality in their speech. It makes the engagement feel more conversational and casual. This not only engages with the audience but also puts less pressure on the speaker.

  7. Make eye contact. Making eye contact helps you connect with the audience. When making eye contact with the crowd, you want to focus on one person at a time and don’t bounce from person to person quickly. By focusing on one person at a time will help you feel like you are speaking to an individual instead of a large group.

  8. Pace yourself. Your audience needs to take in and digest every point that you make during your speech. If you’re speaking in hyper-speed, and they barely have time to gather the first set of information you’ve presented before receiving more, they’ll probably be left underwhelmed and confused.

    Even if you’re making some of the most valid points in all public speaking history, it doesn’t matter if nobody in the audience can understand what you’re saying.

    To avoid talking too fast and unrecognizably, remember to pace yourself while you’re speaking publicly. Take deep breathes between thoughts, and keep your pacing in the back of your mind throughout the speech.

  9. Be optimistic. Going into a public speaking engagement with the mindset that you’re bound to fail will likely result in this outcome. Do some introspection about what your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to public speaking. Focus on how you’re going to foster your strengths and develop your weaknesses, instead of pushing the narrative that you’re simply bad at public speaking.

    Try to maintain an optimistic outlook about your speech and skills, even if you’re absolutely terrified.

  10. Be a storyteller. Strong public speakers often center their opening statements around a story. While your entire speech doesn’t have to follow a story timeline, incorporating it into the beginning can capture your audience’s interest. It doesn’t have to be a literal translation, but within every topic lives a story, and you should find it in yours.

    Engage with their emotions and paint them a picture of where your speech is going.

  11. Ask Your Audience Questions. You want your audience to be tuned in mentally to what you have to say. Opening your speech by asking your audience a question is a great way to spark critical thinking in them. It allows them to draw their own conclusions, which will hopefully line up with the point you’re trying to make.

    Implementing questions that are thought-provoking and relevant to the subject matter to follow can help bring your audience up to speed and keep them engaged.

  12. Understand that it’s normal to be nervous. Public speaking exposes vulnerability. It puts you alone in front of many people, left to discuss a topic that may be dull or complex. It’s stress-inducing, and that’s okay.

    Knowing that just about every person feels at least a droplet of fear before they deliver a speech is comforting to many public speakers. It’s totally normal to feel nervous, whether it’s right before you get in front of the audience or for weeks beforehand.

    It’s how you handle that nervousness and use it to prepare yourself better than defines the kind of public speaker you’ll be.

What Qualities Make a Strong Public Speaker?

Although many people have heard strong public speakers in their lifetime and responded to their words, they still may not be clear on what qualities make this person’s speech effective. Public speakers who can communicate well with their audience often display core traits that enhance their deliverance.

Consider the following list of qualities that make a strong public speaker:

  1. Preparation. Very few successful public speakers can just wing it and have their message land with their audience, and even if they can, these speakers have acquired this trait through preparation. Preparing well makes you better at most activities you set out to do in your life.

    Preparing for a public speaking event will make you more comfortable with the subject matter and confident in going through the motions of what it’s like to deliver information vocally.

  2. Confidence. People are less willing to spend their precious time listening to someone they don’t perceive as confident in their message or speaking skills. It’s a brutal reality for people who struggle with public speaking.

    An audience wants to invest their time in hearing out someone whose confident in themselves, their message, and their public speaking skills.

  3. Sincerity. An audience will only put stock in the contents of a person’s speech if they feel it’s coming from a genuine place. Strong public speakers understand that people want to be told the truth from a reliable source and aim to be that for their audience. Sincerity builds credibility.

  4. Ability to connect with an audience. Every good public speaker knows that their speech isn’t about them; it’s about their audience. The ability to connect with an audience is crucial to being a successful public speaker. You don’t want to bore, antagonize, or lose your audience because they aren’t feeling connected to the conversation.

    One of the most powerful tools that a public speaker at any level of expertise can have is engaging the audience’s interest.

  5. Adaptability. Being able to adapt to changing circumstances is an essential skill for many facets of your life, especially when speaking to people. You never know what’s going to happen when you gather a group, large or small, to listen to a speech. People and circumstances are unpredictable. Public speakers have no control over this.

    The thing they do have control over is how they respond to the situation and adapt. This can help when things don’t go as planned during a speaking engagement.

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Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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Topics: Education, Study