how to kick ass at public speaking

improve yourself

“Does the thought of speaking in front of a large crowd or even a small group of respected professionals send a chill down your spine? If so, you’re not alone: 74 percent of people suffer from speech anxiety. Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is one of the biggest fears of the average human.

Kicking ass at public speaking doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that takes time and practice to nail down. Here are 10 things great public speakers do, that you can do, too:

1. Find the happy medium between “winging it” and over preparing.
Great public speakers like Martin Luther King Jr. knew the importance of finding a happy medium between these two levels of preparation. The “sweet spot” varies from speaker to speaker, but don’t focus on completely memorizing every word of your speech. Instead, work to understand all of the messages you’re planning to drive home, and your speech will flow naturally.

2. Get to the heart of your audience.
The most effective and captivating speakers are those who can get to the heart of their audience. All great speakers know this trick. Putting together a great speech could be a huge waste of time if you don’t take the time to get to know the audience you’re speaking to and find ways to engage them. Make yourself more approachable and get on the same level as your audience by studying their demographics, interests, values, and desires.

3. Know your end goals.
Every speech should have a clear purpose. Our world’s greatest orators always had their message in mind the entire time they were speaking. Begin writing yours with the end in mind. Maybe it’s to persuade, inspire, or even just inform. Knowing this as you begin writing and preparing is going to work wonders for you in the long run.

4. Get inspired.
Sometimes being more successful at speaking comes down to seeking out inspiration. Many great public speakers thrive on topping their rivals, so why not do the same? Start getting inspired to be a better speaker by watching some of the greatest speeches of all time online, or visit nearby college campuses to attend lectures or speeches from professionals there. Then spend time carefully analyzing their body language, how they weave together their thoughts, how they use accompanying visuals like a slideshow, and how they address the audience. Model yourself to be more like these figures.

5. Record yourself practicing.
No one particularly enjoys watch themselves on camera, but this reflective activity can completely transform the way you speak. You’ll start to realize you tend to fidget a lot or stumble over your words at certain points. Recording yourself speaking will help you to make the necessary tweaks and get you more comfortable with your speaking persona.

6. Get straight to the point.
Avoid overwhelming your listeners by rambling endlessly. The great speakers know the importance of getting straight to the point in their speeches. Keep things as simple as possible and focus on driving home your main message, rather than building up to them in a long-winded or boring manner.

7. Don’t rely on PowerPoint or props.
Sometimes building the coolest presentation to accompany your speech actually takes away from what you’re talking about. In fact, building the best PowerPoint presentation possible can actually confuse and lose the attention of your audience: your message alone should be powerful enough. Having a presentation or props as a part of your speech should only be necessary to back up points or make them easier to remember. And remember to never, ever read directly from a PowerPoint slide. Your audience can read for themselves — you’re there to add and synthesize information.

8. Tell personal stories.
This ties back to connecting with your audience. One great speaker who knows the importance of injecting his speeches with personal stories is President Barack Obama. Almost all of his great speeches drive home personal stories and anecdotes that help better convey the points he’s making. By doing this, you’ll show more passion and make your speech personally relatable.

9. Be aware of your body language.
Don’t forget the importance of nonverbals during your speech. Focus on your facial expressions, where you’re resting your hands, fidgeting, etc. Moving around or using hand gestures is encouraged — it will help you to appear more confident, calm, and collected during your speech. You don’t want to be a stiff, awkward orator.

10. Showcase your passion.
The best speakers are truly passionate about what they’re saying. Aside from the personal stories you may share in your speech, you’ve got to find a way to kick up your passion and let it show. How much you care about your speech will directly correlate to the interest you derive from the audience. People are more apt to listen to someone who truly enjoys what they’re speaking about.

Now, calm your nerves and focus on using these habits of great public speakers to kickstart your transition to a great public speaker.”

Ilya Pozin Founder of Ciplex and Open Me

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