4 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

By John Koehler March 27, 2019

To my surprise, the No. 1 fear in the world - more than death, spiders or heights - is the fear of public speaking, or glossophobia.

Think about the number of times when you're required to deliver some form of public speaking: in college, for your career, in job interviews, perhaps in social situations, even in an online degree program during an online discussion or zoom call... When the spotlight shines on you, it can be difficult to overcome the fear of delivering a poorly executed message.

This blog will identify four practical ways to improve your public speaking skills. Try them out in school, work and in social situations:

1. Think of nervousness in a positive light.

It may seem unconventional to associate public speaking nerves with positivity, but let's get real for a moment. Being nervous before addressing an audience is natural. It means you care about the moment.

Much like completing assignments, planning ahead for a public speaking engagement is an essential part of reducing nervousness. Significant practice before the event should help calm your nerves and make you more familiar with the subject matter.

When it comes to public speaking, nervousness often simply represents your adrenaline pumping. Think of it as a form of energy. Try to use the nervousness to generate enthusiasm and engagement. The audience, looking to gain value and learn something, will likely be on your side and hoping you succeed.

2. Avoid memorizing or reading every word.

When you read something word for word, it tends to carry a boring tone. For a better reception, create an outline of your speech in bullet points or as a numbered list. If you prepare, your familiarity with the material should enable you to fill in the gaps. Audience members will be more responsive if you address them instead of the notes. Speaking to the audience also makes the message feel more relatable. Don't hesitate to move around on stage a bit and use hand motions when necessary, as well.

3. Practice cutting back on "uh's" and "um's."

I was a guest on my first sports podcast for my previous employer several years ago and thought it went pretty well. Upon playing it back, however, I couldn't believe how many um's and uh's were littered throughout my dialogue. For future podcasts, I practiced slowing down the pace of my dialogue and allowing for short pauses of silence instead of um's/uh's. That made my delivery more effective.

The best speakers still say "uh" and "um" as a segue-way in their speeches. A good way to cut back on them is to practice in front of a mirror, friends or family members.

4. Don't expect perfection.

If you make a mistake in the middle of your presentation, that's OK - nobody's perfect. Instead of being visibly flustered, simply move on to the next subject in a graceful manner. Even the most experienced public speakers make mistakes. If you do, remain poised and carry on with the presentation.

What other suggestions do you have to improve public speaking skills? Let us know in the comments section below.

Big job interview coming up? Your public speaking skills may be put to the test. For interviewing pointers, check out our post - "How to Ace the Interview, Covid Style" .


About the Author

John Koehler
John Koehler is a senior marketing specialist on University of Arkansas Grantham's marketing operations team. John is passionate about enabling education opportunities and a positive experience for prospective students. John holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Marketing from Rockhurst University.
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