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Public Speaking: Four Strategies for Stepping Up to the Microphone

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Think of the best speech you have ever heard and how the speaker captivated you with every word. Excellent communicators know how to persuade, educate and inspire others. Public speaking skills are essential for successful leaders” communicators run the world.

Communicate Confidently

Would you rather swim in a tank with great white sharks than speak in front of a crowded room? Public speaking is a common fear amongst people of all ages. Even some of the best speakers were once Nervous Neds while standing in front of a room. The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you will become. Even if you are already at ease speaking in front of others, there are always ways to improve.

Learn by Doing

Toastmasters International is an amazing resource to sharpen your communication and leadership skills. They have clubs across the country, including clubs within college campuses and most major corporations. When I was in college, I joined a Toastmasters club on campus and learned so much from the experience. (Bonus: Toastmasters attracts highly motivated people from various industries and is a great way to network. I met one my mentors and secured my first paid internship through Toastmasters!)

Their clubs create a positive, no-pressure environment where you can learn at your own pace with a series of speech assignments that teach the fundamentals of public speaking. Instead of having an instructor, members evaluate each other’s presentations and provide constructive feedback.

People within my club had a wide variety of public speaking levels and backgrounds. Some were skilled speakers and others were terrified to get up in front of the room. There was an extremely shy guy who would trip over his own words and was noticeably nervous whenever he talked. Over a few months, he gained self-confidence, became a better speaker and embraced leadership positions! It was an inspiring transformation.

Master Thinking on Your Feet

Another important communication skill is the ability to think on your feet. When your interviewer or client asks you a tough question that you did not prepare for are you able to answer it well? Being able to speak impromptu is essential for interviewing and business meetings. To practice this skill, Toastmasters has a part of the meeting called Table Topics where members go to the front of the room and are given a topic to talk about for a minute. Table Topics teaches you to quickly organize your thoughts and effectively communicate them even when you are unprepared.

If you live in Chicago or Los Angeles, Second City comedy club that has hilarious alumni like Tina Fey and Chris Farley, offers improvisation (improv) workshops that teach you how to listen critically, generate ideas and confidently communicate in front of an audience. Not only are you learning from entertaining instructors but you can also apply these communication skills to your professional and personal life.

Identify Your Unknown Habits

Toastmasters and Second City courses will help you notice habits you are completely unaware of, like how many times you say ”like,” “um,” “so’� or how you inflect at the end of all your sentences as if they were a question. Toastmasters will actually count how many times you use filler words and let you know at the end of your speech! My unknown habit? I constantly moved my hands when talking in front of an audience, as if I was doing the Macarena.

We already know you are a smart, ambitious rockstar”now go show it off to everyone else with polished public speaking and communication skills.

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