Talia Israel, PMP, CSM
A great way to increase your public speaking skills is to take a drama class or join a local/school play. Being in a play will help you build skills that you normally otherwise wouldn't acquire such as memorizing lines, where and when to walk on stage and how to recover from mistakes. Having others on stage with you reduces nerves and the practice reduces the stress felt from being on a stage in front of lots of people.
It's also really, really fun! I've done tons of plays and I believe that experience built the majority of my public speaking skills and confidence.
But the most important thing is to relax and know you can give a good presentation/speech. The more you speak, the less anxiety you will have, but nerves can still get in the way.
I suggest learning to do some relaxation exercises - breathing, active visualization, mindfulness. These exercises will help you in all sorts of ways, not just with public speaking. They help before exams, meeting new people, job interviews (which should be seen like public speaking), overcoming fears. These exercises will help you get started and serve you well in the future.
And instead of a coffee before a speech, try chamomile tea. You're going to be great!
There is a lot of good advice in these comments and I would suggest giving careful thought and consideration to each. One thing that I found helpful in improving my public speaking abilities and comfort level is finding volunteer opportunities where I knew I would be in front of small groups. For example, you could help coach a youth sports team or find other similar volunteer opportunities where you would be tasked with providing instructions to people. Even if it's a small group it will allow you to start practicing the art of public speaking.
Everyone has been challenged by public speaking at a certain point of their life. it's very interesting to see a VP of a multinational company giving a speech without any stress or discomfort. However, what most people tend to forget is how many years it took this person to perfect their skill and overcome their feel of facing judging eyes ( that's how we usually portray them, hence the fear of being judged ) .
I believe that the most important thing is to practice your public speaking. start with subjects you are passionate about. we tend to be excited about subject we enjoy. Do it as often as you can and push yourself to do so whenever possible ( volunteer in class, enroll in clubs, social activities...etc). Daily interactions with people will eventually make public speaking a second nature. Also, seek feedback from your peers on how your presentation/speech went and take notes.
Best of luck :)
Devetra - There is a lot of good advice here. A couple of things I didn't see that you might want to also consider are picking a topic you know well, putting a presentation together and then video taping yourself delivering it to a small group. When you do this you will see whether or not you have habits that can take away from your message. For instance, saying words like "um", "obviously", "you know", etc. repetitively can distract your audience. Also, watch podcasts and/or presentations by people you like. Watch what they do with their hands, their eye contact with their audience, their pace of speech. Do they walk around the stage? Do they use humor? You can craft a style based on what you like and what feels comfortable. Lastly, once you have a few presentations under your belt, I would ask someone you trust to ask a few people randomly to attend your presentation and give honest feedback. You do not want to know who the people are because it can affect you negatively. Just go out there and talk to people, not at people. I hope this helps. Good luck.
Ruchi Bhargava Asava
Force yourself to do more. Give toasts at family events, take more workshops. I was terrified of it, too, but the more I got myself in front of an audience the better it was. And remember that if you're up in front of an audience speaking, you probably know more than they do anyway so just be confident, speak slowly, and get it done.
LOADS of great advice already but I wanted to reiterate PRACTICE and add that you should practice the entire speech, not just the high points. The transitions are where many people get flummoxed and then get nervous. If you practice the transitions, your speech will flow from high point to high point. Practice in front of family members, your pets, a mirror, anyone and anything.
I was absolutely TERRIFIED of public speaking. I got over it and went on to become a professor! You can do it too!
Best of luck!
As they say, practice makes progress. The more you practice public speaking the more comfortable you'll become in the task. If you have a presentation coming up try to practice beforehand with friends or family as your audience who can provide constructive feedback. You could also try joining a Toastmasters Club in your area, which can provide you with a constructive environment of like minded people who are all trying to improve their communication and public speaking skills .
I completely agree with both of the previous answers, practice makes perfect. To build upon practicing with friends and family, make a presentation next time you are planning a trip or get together with friends or family about your suggestion on where to go or what to do.
Find a local club and visit (no pressure to join). Also encourage you to visit several clubs as they all offer something different.
Erika recommends the following next steps:
First, it's much easier if you speak about something you're passionate about. Most anxiety about public speaking comes from lack of confidence in knowing the material and audience. You can solve half of the problem by knowing your material well -- and that's always easier when the material is personally interesting to you! Then, deliver your talk to others (even if the group is just a handful of people in a meeting room). If you can't pick the topic you're going to speak about, then learn as much as you can about it, then go teach someone else about it, and keep repeating. This follows the "watch it, do it, teach it" approach -- you teaching someone else about it reinforces your understanding of the material.
Do not rely on slides (e.g. PowerPoint) when you're starting out. If you know the topic well enough (which you should if you're giving a talk on it), then you should know it well enough to talk extemporaneously about it. I've seen too many folks use slides as a crutch and, when taken away, they suddenly find they can't give an effective speech. Talking without slides forces you to organize the talk track in your mind. Think about it this way: if your computer broke in the middle of your presentation, would you still be able to deliver an effective speech?
Practice your talk in private several times to see how long it takes -- editing your speech for time and content is one of your greatest tools.
You do not have to memorize your speech -- you memorizing your speech doesn't make you a better speaker, it just means you've given the speech many times. Use note cards -- each card shouldn't have more than one sentence, it's meant to be a cue for you, not to be read from verbatim. Put them in the order your want your speech to flow. Use them in your practice.