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What is the best way to improve your public speaking skills?

Public speaking is basically my biggest fear in the entire world. I pretty much try dodging every obstacle possible when it comes to this topic. This is a strong phobia of mine that just eats away at me. If I were to practice speaking when I know I have a presentation or something big coming up which tactic and/or strategy would be the best to implement? I've heard that speaking to yourself in the mirror is key but I just can't see how that is major. Any other suggestions, please comment. I thank you very much! #public-speaking #presentations #projects #motivational-speaking #audience-development #personal-development

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Melisa’s Answer

Mitchell, this is a great question and I'm sure on the minds of many people. There are great answers here already and I agree with all of them. Toastmasters is a wonderful suggestion. The only thing I'll add is your practice does not have to be formal. You can use small gatherings to practice speaking skills, such as family parties, gatherings with your friends, even local "open mic" opportunities where there are poetry readings, short comedy or free improv workshops available, etc. I took a formal 12 week Improv class in my town to learn more about the art of Stand-up Comedy and it helped me become more confident speaking in front of others, in different settings and group sizes. I also keep a journal handy to write down topics or material I find useful to later frame into speaking topics I can then practice. Remain open to the possibilities that you can gain confidence and practice in your speaking skills in non-traditional and informal ways as well. Good luck to you. #public-speaking #presentations

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Joel’s Answer

Practice. Practice. Practice. The old saying applies, practice makes perfect. Aside from that, make sure you're prepared. Know your material, practice the speech in front of family and friends or a mirror before you actually present. Don't write out a speech and memorize it, you're bound to forget a word when you're up there and you'll freeze and it will throw off the whole presentation. Instead, go with bullet points of a note card or something similar. Make it to where you can look down at it, see the sentence and it will jog your memory of what cos next.

During the actual speech, make eye contact with people throughout the room. Don't look down and don't lock in on one person. Talk to the whole room, not just one person. Be confident in your abilities, you'll be amazed at how your confidence will translate to others feeling you had a commanding speech that was well done. Lastly, remember that it's your speech and your presentation - if you mess up, no one else knows that you did except you. If you can successfully play it off then nobody will know it was a mistake.

I hope this helps - I used to be a horrible public speaker ( I dreaded class projects, speeches etc ) but am told that now I'm a fantastic speaker and I use the above tips on each and every one of my presentations.

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Mitchell,

Did you know that according to the Wall Street Journal, public speaking is the number one fear in America? The fear of death is ranked number two! That’s right!

Now for the good news, most of us can reduce our anxiety of public speaking and increase our confidence by avoiding a few poor habits, while incorporating some helpful tips. The following are five tips to reducing public speaking nervousness:

  • Don’t Expect Perfection from Yourself

None of us are perfect. We all know that. Yet when it comes to public speaking, some of us tend to kick ourselves over every little perceived mistake we make. We magnify our imperfections, while ignoring all that’s good and well. The truth is, even the best, most experienced speakers make many mistakes. When they do, they recover, keep going gracefully, and all is well. This is one of the keys to public speaking success: to keep going gracefully. The audience will never know most of your mistakes, unless you halt your speech, break down, and confess them. Carry on with poise. Give yourself permission not to be perfect.

  • Avoid Equating Public Speaking to Your Self-Worth

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a successful professional who has worked hard to get to where you are today. Public speaking is only a small part of your overall professional ability. If you’re not confident at it, there are many ways to help you improve. I’ve seen otherwise intelligent and capable professionals shrivel up on stage, as if suddenly nothing about them is right. Whether you’re good at public speaking or not has nothing to do with your value as a person. It’s simply a skill that you can learn and become better at with practice.

  • Avoid Being Nervous About Your Nervousness

Speakers who lack confidence often feel nervous, and then on top of that feel anxious about the fact that they’re nervous, which compounds the anxiety. That’s a lot of stress to bear.

Nervousness is our adrenaline flowing, that’s all. It’s a form of energy. Successful speakers know how to make this energy work for them, and turn nervousness into enthusiasm, engagement, and charisma. It’s okay to be nervous. Make the energy work for you.

  • Avoid Trying to Memorize Every Word

Attempting to do so will simply increase stress, and cause greater nervousness if the sequence of the words you’re trying to memorize goes amiss.

  • Avoid Reading Word for Word

Avoid reading your presentation word for word from a script. There’s a big difference between reading and speaking. Dry reading disseminates information, often at the risk of the audience tuning out. Speaking is creating an impact with your content and personality, so that not only is your message understood, your professional profile rises. People who read excessively from a script in the U.S. effectively reduce their chances of upward advancement.

For more tips on public speaking confidence, see the reference guide (click on title): "Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness."

In: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201311/5-tips-reduce-the-fear-public-speaking

I hope these tips can help you. Best!

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Becky’s Answer

I've always been told to not cringe and run from fear. Jump right in and face it head on! Joining groups such as Toast Master that give you a circle of friends for support and opportunities to practice presenting. Practice, practice and practice! Good luck. You can do it!

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Audrey’s Answer

Join a local Toastmasters organizational in your area - they only  meet 2 to 4 times a month.  www.toastmasters.org

It is a lot of fun and it will help you in your life and career

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mathias’s Answer

Hi Mitchell,

I was in your situation a long time ago and now I am doing 2-10 presentations a week for crowds of 4-500 people.
In school I managed to avoid doing presentations for the class all the way to graduation with very few exceptions.
What helped me most to overcome this was a training class at Dale Carnegie. It was not so much the content itself as the overall experience. In this class I met another fourteen persons with the same issues as I had on presenting. Seeing them in the early sessions (we did 10 in total) made me realize I was not the only one failing which was encouraging. But as time passed, I not only felt I was doing better and better myself, I also saw the rest of the class grow and grow and in the final session they all gave a good or even excellent presentation. The good thing about training with others is that you learn as much from seeing them present and try different approaches as you do from giving your own presentations.

My recommendation is to keep practicing, but not only in front of the mirror. Try to find one or two friends and take turns on presenting the same material and discuss!

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Siva’s Answer

The practice is the key! from my first speech to till today, I will always self-record and playback and lesson and improve.. I do that as many time as needed. Also, look for "Toast Master" in your area, it is a volunteer organization, where a group of people gets together on a weekly basis, practice and encourages one another, very safe environment where you feel encouraged and supportive it is a great way to get better at public speaking. Good Luck!


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Erin K’s Answer

Research your audience prior to any presentation or speech. General tactics would include to engage, engage, engage. When I first began public speaking, I read from note cards behind a podium and broke the cardinal rule of public speaking, which is turn one's back to his or her audience, in order to read from a PowerPoint.

It is important to be passionate about that of which you are speaking, but that is not always up to us. Sometimes we are charged with disseminating information to large groups, and ensuring that they leave the presentation having learned something. In this case, I open informative speeches with a brief survey, asking the audience to raise their hands if they are already experts in the topic at hand, moderately familiar, or entirely unfamiliar. The goal is actually to identify those in the room who may actually know more than I and to engage them individually ("put them on the spot," if you will) when it came to areas of content about which I was less confident.

I learned to thrive as a public speaker, loving public speaking is as critical as loving what it is about which you are speaking. It is vital to make eye contact with your audience, and to pay attention to non-verbal cues, like yawing, texting, looking at a watch or clock, to know that you are losing the attention of your audience and may need to redirect your approach. I also NEVER use a podium. As a matter of fact, whenever possible, I am on the floor, walking up and down aisles, speaking TO my audience, not at them, and constantly addressing attendees at random, to see if they are feeling lost or had any questions, or comments.

Finally, if there is one thing a public speaker can do to discredit themselves faster than anything else, is to answer a question with a false, or even mildly uncertain answer. DO NOT LIE. Simply acknowledge the validity of the question, address the audience to see if anyone in the room may know first, and then let the attendee who posed the question know that it was intriguing enough of a question that you would personally seek out the answer and respond asap following the presentation. You can ask the audience members to complete comment cards as well, which will allow them to comment on the presentation and ask any follow-up questions with a space for their contact information. These should be made to look professional, yet succinct, with your name, credentials, and the presentation title at the top, and your contact information at the bottom. They should also be distributed to each attendee prior to the presentation, by either greeting your audience as they enter and handing them out then, or leaving them where the audience will be seated.

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Rana’s Answer

Hi Mitchell,

This is wonderful that you are thinking about ways to improve your public speaking.

One of the most effective ways to improve this is to attend Toastmaster sessions. These sessions are offered at different levels and have been proven to be extremely helpful.

Basically you just need to find the one close to your location, sign up, and show up. there are exercises done during the sessions as well as assignments to be worked on at home.

You get to practice your public speaking and identify where you need to improve.



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Sheila’s Answer

Hi Mitchell:

Toastmasters is a good place to start by breaking barriers to your public speaking. You've received great comments so far. I see that you are in Bayville, NY. I did a search on your city and state and perhaps you could start here. Best of luck to you!

L. I. Speakers
Huntington, NY (7.35 miles)
7:30pm / 1st & 3rd Thursday

Sheila recommends the following next steps:

Find a Toastmasters Club • https://www.toastmasters.org/find-a-club?q=Bayville%2C+New+York%2C+United+States&radius=25&n=&advanced=0&latitude=40.9064&longitude=-73.5625&autocomplete=true&zoom=0
What is Toastmasters • https://www.toastmasters.org/

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Grant’s Answer

Jerry Seinfeld said that public speaking is the number one fear, and the number two fear is death. So at a funeral most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.

There are multiple clubs that help (Speakeasy, Toastmasters). I, who am also fearful of public-speaking, do a process to help. First, prepare what you’re going to say, know your audience, make an outline, make a slideshow or note cards with simple bullet points. Then once you have down what you want to say, PRACTICE! I can’t stress enough, if you practice 50 times, you’ll be so confident in what you’ll say, you won’t need the notes. Before the speech, do deep breathing exercises to calm yourself. Once you get passed the first nerves and start speaking, you’ll be fine. 9 out of 10 times you will know what you’re going to say better than the audience, so they won’t know when you mess up.

Grant recommends the following next steps:

Know your audience
Prepare your speech
Practice, practice, practice!
Calm yourself before the delivery.

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Caroline’s Answer

It always helps to talk to others if you know what you are talking about because you will want to share. To get use to public speaking go to places with many people and ask questions get use to talking to people. For instance if you are in line for a coffee and the person before you gets something you have never heard of before ask about the drink. Take baby steps. You need to just get out more and the more you talk to people you don't know the more comfortable you will become. You will overcome your fear. Also to Motivate others the audience must see the Motivation you have for the topic you are talking about. Look at it this way the people are there because they want to be, and you want to teach others to be the best they can be. Look at it that way and you will be just fine.