ways to improve public speaking skills

Is Public Speaking a Learnable Skill?

YES. Public speaking is a learnable skill.  Just like any other skill, it can be acquired, improved and developed at the same time. It has nothing to do with you being an introvert, you can still give an impactful speech and be a good orator. People who do public speaking are not simply just born with it, it is something that they developed over time. 

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.”

Brian Herbert

As we know, public speaking refers to a process where an individual speaks in front of a large audience, so as to educate, entertain, or influence them.

We all have done it at some point in our life, it could be for a college presentation, a business proposal, or maybe at a school annual function.

The only difference between public speaking and talking to a crowd of people is the way in which the information is conveyed. In public speaking, the information is purposeful and meant to inform, influence, or persuade the listeners.

What makes Public Speaking a Learnable Skill?

PRACTICE is what makes public speaking a learnable skill. 

Practice here refers to grabbing the opportunities to talk in front of an audience.

Let us take an easy example to understand this better, did you start walking when you were a toddler, or learnt how to because of thorough practice?

Practice is what made you not only walk, but jump, run, to name just a few examples. There might be a lot of instances where you terribly fell and got hurt, but it was all worth it, wasn’t it?

Applying the same in this case, you simply can’t become a compelling and an efficient public speaker. You need to practice by seeking opportunities to talk publicly.

There might be events where the audience might not reciprocate in a positive way, which can even discourage you. But the idea is to keep going and practicing.

Making mistakes is quite humane. The point is how better you can learn and improve from them.

This is how with every speech of yours, you will be able to acquire the necessary skills to become a good orator.

Grabbing the opportunities to talk on stage will help you learn public speaking

How to Learn Public Speaking?

1) Practice it again and again

The only key to become extremely good at something is to do it over and over again.

Of course in order to practice, one needs to give in his dedication, will power and patience, but it is all going to be worth it one day. 

Practice can help you increase your learning curve. Once that happens, you surely know you’re getting better at it.

Let us take an example of Warren Buffett. He feared the stage back then, but came past it. How? Through practicing and grabbing more opportunities to talk publicly. Till today he practices public speaking skills, so as to become better each passing day and from each past day.

“Skills come from constant and deliberate practice.”

Shawn Allen

So, the only key to become a good public speaker is– PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND PRACTICE SOME MORE BY ATTAINING STAGE OPPORTUNITIES.

2) Don’t be Afraid to Fail

In a lot of cases, people are afraid of public speaking because they tie it up to failure. There’s a Japanese proverb saying:

Fall seven times, rise eight.

We all understand the courage it takes to stand up again after being knocked down. But here’s a thing, failure somewhere fuels your courage. 

Courage to take risks, stand up again and learn from it. The more you get exposure to learning the more you will improve, and that’s how you will get better at it.

3) Audience Analysis

Audience analysis refers to analyzing your audience, so as to adapt your speech to their interests, level of understanding, attitudes, and beliefs. 

Taking an audience-centered approach is important because as a speaker your effectiveness will improve, if the presentation is created and delivered in an appropriate manner. 

However, this can be a bit tricky, but you can try some of these methods listed below:

  • Do some research in advance, for instance- how much your audience knows about your topic. This will help you structure your speech in a better way, knowing what to add and what not to.
  • You also need to know the size of the audience that you will be addressing because it will help you know the amount of effort you need to put in
  • Age is another factor you need to consider because it makes your content more relatable. For instance, if you talk about the ill-effects of social media, a 50 year old won’t really be able to connect with it.

4) Record yourself while Rehearsing

Not many, in fact like recording themselves or are camera shy. But trust me when I say this, recording yourself while rehearsing has a lot of perks.

Here are some reasons why you should consider it:

  • It is only possible to have a real understanding of your fluency, accuracy and naturalness when you have something to listen back to it
  • It is natural to stutter or stumble; therefore, it helps you assess on which parts are you stuttering or fumbling
  • It also helps you know the areas where you need to lay emphasis on or work upon

5) Use of Effective Language

Using language effectively improves your ability to be an effective public speaker. 

It is one of the most important components of public speaking that many of us don’t spend enough time developing.

When you use vivid, clear, and familiar words, the audience can comprehend your speech in a better way than when you do the opposite.

It is important to use appropriate language because you can’t expect the audience to speak or know your language. 

You can try these few methods in order to have a good command over your language:

  • Make reading a habit. This will not only improve your vocabulary, but also help you gain more knowledge. 
  • It is okay to make mistakes or grammatical errors. Start valuing your mistakes as an opportunity to learn and improve.
  • Try using that language in your everyday conversations
  • Observe the way your native speakers talk 

6) Perfectionism is NOT Possible

Let us agree that public speaking isn’t easy and most of us are not born with being good at it.

It requires you to overcome your fear and try being confident like hey, nothing is impossible. It is a lot easier to say than done. 

You’re a human and making mistakes is an inevitable part of our lives. After all, what matters is the connection you form with your audience that moves them and makes them interested to learn more about it by listening to you. 

So, the next time you start to feel insecure or worried that you’re not good enough or perfect enough, just remember: 

It is not about you. It’s about them. So be your (imperfect) self!

7) Opt for Courses

There are a lot of courses available- both online and offline. You can join these courses to have a holistic knowledge regarding public speaking skills or ways to become an effective public speaker.

Why are public speaking courses helpful?

Public speaking courses consist of professionals who can help you gain better knowledge on everything when it comes to public speaking.

If you are looking at ways on how to improve your communication skills in a significant and valuable way, you should really consider opting for these courses.

A good public speaking class will teach you communication skills that can be applied to a number of your goals like how to deliver a speech on a stage in front of an audience, or to promote your ideas, or to talk at a pal’s wedding.

But here’s a catch: every skill requires your practice and dedication, if you aren’t ready to give that even the best public speaking class in the world can’t help you to build them.

We have mentioned a few courses that you can consider down below.

Resources available for Public Speaking:

There are a lot of resources available in order to help you develop and hone your public speaking skills. 

If you find public speaking deadly, you definitely need to check out these resources that can help you learn these skills.

1) Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International is a massive training and educational organisation. It aims at teaching its members communication, leadership, training and management skills, and builds their self-confidence by enhancing their public speaking skills.

What do you specifically learn at Toastmasters?

  • Ways to give an impromptu speech
  • How to give a prepared speech
  • Skills beyond your communication and leadership skills like critical thinking, organising, planning, time-management, etc 

All these skills in turn will help you to develop self-confidence.

They also offer a lot of other professional development resources like free tips on preparing a speech to accepting awards and creating sales pitches.

2) Online Courses

There are a lot of educational websites available like Udemy, Coursera in order to help you learn public speaking skills.

These courses delve into the introduction of public speaking and cover topics like identifying your audience, finding your speech’s purpose, starting a presentation and getting feedback. 

Benefits of Public Speaking Courses:

  • They try and help you to communicate well
  • Help you work over you facial expressions, body language, and also showcase the importance of them
  • Help you overcome stage related anxiety– if you have
  • Provide you techniques to give an impromptu speech 
  • Help you develop other skills like critical thinking, creativity, etc
  • Provide you ways on how your speech transitions can be smooth
  • What to do if you pause, and so on

Time span of these courses can range from 8 hours to 8 months depending on the type of course you choose.

3) Ted Talks

Ted Talks have gained a lot of traction in these recent years. 

They aim at spreading ideas in order to educate, inform and persuade the audience.

Ted talk professionals cover almost all the aspects of public speaking like secrets of great public speaking, ways to speak so that people want to listen to you, etc. 

You should definitely try watching these Ted Talks for inspiration.

4) Books

There are a number of books available out there to help you learn and improve your public speaking skills.

Here are few public books speaking that you can consider:

  • Do You Talk Funny?: 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better Public Speaker by David Nihill
  • Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo
  • The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie
  • Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun
  • Out With It: How Stuttering Helped Me Find My Voice by Katherine Preston

Benefits of Learning Public Speaking:

1) Career Advancement

One of the benefits of learning public speaking skills is that it helps you develop other skills like critical thinking, professionalism, leadership which are essential for your professional life.

Learning how to promote your ideas or present yourself as a professional will help you build credibility. This in turn will create many career opportunities and will be of a great advantage to you.

2) Strengthens your Communication Skills

While writing a speech, you think carefully about the best framework, persuasive strategy in order to communicate your message in the best way possible. This in turn helps you to improve your communication skills.

As mentioned earlier, you need thorough practice to build these skills, and the more you practice giving speeches, the better you’ll become at communicating orally. 

Communication skills are not only required in your business life, but also in your day-to-day conversations.

3) Strengthens your Vocabulary and Fluency

While giving a speech, you know how important it is to choose your words. Therefore, you try and use words that can effectively convey your message. 

Your vocabulary needs to be flexible because every speech of yours is going to cater to different audiences. Along with this, you will try and not use filler words or the words that we use in everyday conversations which may make you sound unsure or unconfident.

Your speech also needs to be smooth and fluent. Practicing can help you have a good command over your language and fluency as you talk.

4) It leads to higher Self-esteem

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-worth ranks the highest. Giving speeches helps you in building higher self-esteem because of the satisfaction experienced when a good speech is given. We feel more confident, especially when the audience responds positively. 

benefits of public speaking
Source- ManageMen

Public speaking satisfies your sense of achievement when the audience accepts you warmly. This further reflects in your communication skills and acumen. All these contribute to your self-esteem.

5) Helps you build Leadership Skills

Public speaking is one of the most important, yet the most feared skills of all times.

There might be a lot of instances where you find it very difficult to express yourself or your ideas. Learning public speaking skills will help you speak-up for yourself in such a powerful way that can change people’s minds about something. 

Leadership and public speaking go hand in hand. Mastering this skill will help you conquer one of the major aspects of leadership.

It allows you to share your ideas in such a way that it is heard and acted upon.

6) It helps you Drive Change

Public speaking is one of the most effective ways to get your message across. With this, you can influence the world around you. If you see something that needs to be changed, use public speaking to change it!

It helps you make a difference, as every opportunity you come across is a time to spread your influence for the greater good.

It brings your message to life more than writing or reading can.

7) It makes Impromptu Speech much easier

Giving an impromptu speech can cause a lot of fear because there’s no time for preparation.  

We know that mastery over giving impromptu speech is difficult, but hey, you know what, everything gets a lot easier with practice from writing, speaking to driving.

When you readily try accepting the opportunities to talk publicly, you get better each time and this helps you face the challenge of giving an impromptu speech.

Can Public Speaking be taught?

Yes, public speaking can be taught. 

Whether you have to talk in front of a big or small audience, learning how to talk impactfully has a lifelong benefit. Fortunately, there are a variety of techniques and courses out there to help you learn these skills in order to talk effectively.

Who can teach Public Speaking?

A person who has proper knowledge, or who has studied public speaking in depth is eligible to become a public speaking instructor.

Just as you simply can’t call yourself a counselling psychologist without having proper in depth knowledge about it, you can’t call yourself a public speaking instructor without undergoing proper training to be one.

 Here are a few tips which you can try to implement while you teach someone public speaking:

i) Start with Basics

The process of developing any skill or being good at something requires you to start with level one. 

The first level of teaching someone public speaking starts by letting them, for instance, introduce themselves to the class, or the person sitting next to them, or simply bond with the fellow learners. 

This will possibly make the environment favourable for them to open up.

ii) Help them Study the Art of Public Speaking

You can help them brainstorm what makes a presentation successful or dull or analyse various speakers like The Ted Talk speakers– how they start their speech, how they end it, how do they tell a story, or maybe how they keep the audience hooked.

This will provide them with a gist of what makes a speech interesting and insightful.

iii) Provide them a room for Creativity

You can provide them loose guidelines, say like, how to add references or metaphors.

This requires creativity and extensive thinking. The more creative your speech is the more memorable you make it for the listeners to remember what you said.

Next time onwards, you can try and provide activities that require them to use their creativity.

iv) Incorporate Speaking Opportunities in your Routine

As a routine, you can try making them come forward and talk. It can be in the form of a group presentation or an individual speech. 

This will help them gain more self-confidence, for instance, if their first three speeches didn’t go well, they will try to make their 4th speech better than the previous ones. 

This is how they’ll try and learn from their mistakes.

It will also help them to come out of their fear of public speaking, for example, while giving their first speech, fear would be at its peak, but during their next speech considerably the fear would at least fall down by a bit, say, maybe a percent.

v) Try providing a Constructive Feedback 

As an instructor, you need to provide the learner’s feedback on both- their strong and weak points. This will help them gain better knowledge towards where they’re standing and how they can improve in order to get better.

For instance, you can provide feedback about their facial expressions– explaining how it should be so that it looks authentic, or about their body language.

Public speaking is not easy, a supportive environment will make it less dreadful for them.

Final Thoughts

Whether your goal is to heighten your professional growth or inspire, persuade and motivate people to follow your lead, you will have to learn how to convey your ideas in front of a group of people in a clear, structured and a captivating manner.

And always remember, public speaking is an art & and a learnable skill.

The bottom line is that if something scares you, you will avoid it, if you avoid it you will never get a hang of it, and you will not get better at it, and when this happens you will continue to be afraid of it. 

This cycle of fear can go on and on and somewhere you need to cease it. You can try the afore mentioned techniques to do so.

Hitiksha Jain

A lover of art and design, words and photography, journaling and sweatshirts, Hitiksha is a media student and a writer at Frantically Speaking. Tea, waffles, and pasta are good for her mental health, so she says. Through her writing, she’s here to share her learnings and experiences with you.