Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
The ability to speak and discuss what we have in our minds has been a primary differentiator in the evolution of modern human civilisation. Those who can speak well and effectively can get cooperation from others can pass crucial information properly, make better decisions, and influence others.
Those who cannot speak well, find it hard to communicate effectively and appropriately. They may also suffer from a lack of confidence and have problems connecting with any stranger. That can be an impediment in life – at schools and colleges, at the workplace, and even in social circles.
Healthy relationships with spouse, children, parents, friends and colleagues all need effective and open communication with honesty. Effective and open communication can help reduce stress and anxiety and bring clarity.
Your communication and speaking skills impact your social standing, bearing on your mental health and well-being. Social circles include not only your close friends but also your neighbours, co-workers and others.
Many of my clients have difficulty talking freely, in a meeting, in classes, during interviews, or when they are nervous. Most people cannot muster the courage to speak out their mind, especially among strangers or in gatherings of more than a couple of persons.
This has led to their public embarrassment, or humiliation that creates more isolation and lesser avenues to open.
The hesitation or fear may set in and can be the outcome of diverse reasons. In my practice and counselling sessions, I have found these reasons can be an abusive domestic environment, peer pressure, parental expectations set too high, or even a trauma-induced shock.
Who needs to speak well?
Yes, isn’t that the most straightforward answer?
We see politicians, business leaders, bureaucrats, officials, teachers, and religious leaders who need to speak well, fluently and with authority. But that is only partly true.
Everyone needs to communicate, and the simplest form of communication is verbal unless you are differently-abled.
- Children need to convince their parents or teachers to give in to their demands or requests;
- Parents want their young and adolescent kids to understand the rationale of their denying something;
- Spouses need to know the needs and preferences of each other to build understanding and trust.
- A businessperson needs to negotiate a fair deal with another party way more extensive and influence;
- Classmates need to win friends and rally other students behind them in college teams or fests;
- Executives need to convince the customer or their boss in the saleability of their idea;
- An innovator wants to impress the investors with the potential that her idea has and the change and profits it can bring; and
- A supervisor wants the team to work efficiently like a well-oiled machine.
And the list can go on.
What stops people from speaking well?
Many physical, emotional, psychological and cognitive reasons can be barriers in your wish to speak freely, effectively and fluently. Some of these barriers you or your well-wishers can identify quickly, but most have a deeper root-cause and need a well-trained and experienced professional.
I have identified the following principal reasons as the roadblocks that one can face in speaking well:
Disinterest and lack of focus
Many people lose interest the moment they find that their wishes will not be satisfied at once. Many children and sometimes grown-ups lose focus and cannot keep their attention for more than a few minutes.
Lack of Confidence
Classrooms, large gatherings, crowds, and interviews can prove stressful situations for many people. I have been talking from the stage for more than <<20>> years, but still have tingling butterflies before stepping out in the limelight. With specially designed exercises and practice, I have helped myself and hundreds of professionals overcome stage anxiety.
To speak out loud is immaterial and irrelevant if you have nothing relevant and meaningful to share. Oral examinations, interviews, group discussions, meetings, and presentations all demand extensive preparation. If you think that you can go without preparing, then you are brave or stupid. From the heads of the state to the motivational speakers, most recognised orators practice their speech many times before last delivery.
Lack of training
Training in language, usage, intonations, voice modulations, and flow is needed to be a brilliant public speaker. Some people have it as a god’s gift; rest can nurture it and train to bridge the gap. I have conducted many sessions and workshops where we focus on public speaking skills, where many celebrities have benefited.
At many places, like an abusive or high-pressure household, environmental factors make it difficult for an otherwise fine person to speak up and speak out. In classes or at the workplace, bullies can make the situation worse by humiliating and threatening to cause physical harm.
I have helped my clients prepare a proper response to an evolving and dynamic situation and find the courage to report such matters to authorities.
Personal shock & trauma
Many clients, students, executives, and homemakers have faced shock or trauma that has put them in a bind. Their state of mind keeps them from focusing on the thread of conversation, however docile and innocent it may be.
With positive distractions and attention exercises, I have helped many people who suffered trauma or had a shock causing their ineffective speaking. I help them realise that they are not alone, and if they want to reach out for companionship, to feel wanted and protected, they need to speak well.
Not listening properly
If you don’t listen, you can’t speak! Yes, to be able to speak in a relevant, meaningful, and interesting manner, so that others listen to you attentively. Listening earns you mutual respect and trust of the person with whom you are going to speak. It also helps you keep track of the conversation and offer suggestions.
My speaking-skills sessions have a specially designed module on active listening to help the participants gain control of the conversation.
Paucity of ideas or words
Well-read people can speak well. There is no doubt about it, and there is an alternative to it. Reading on diverse topics fires up your brain neurons, you learn new grammatical and sentence structures, and come to know unfamiliar words and their usage with meanings that are all valuable tools.
Reading adds to your repository of ideas and helps you analyse a problem from multiple perspectives. When you read more, you can empathise better and find a middle ground to reboot the communication.
People who are not native speakers of a language may find it very difficult to follow a conversation. They may use only very formal words and sentences to speak, making the communication uninteresting.
It may still be sufficient for official and formal communication, but knowledge of local slangs and idioms adds flavour to informal talks. If you do not have a good understanding of local culture, places and customs, refrain from mentioning them in a wrong context.
Ineffective non-verbal communication
People want to listen to other people, not robots. If you do not use non-verbal aides, then whatever you say will not have much impact. Locking the gaze, looking at the whole audience, gestures, tone and modulation in voice, sitting or standing posture, all matter a lot.
I also train clients in adjusting to a dynamic situation depending on the setting and environment, so they are never out of place and out of breath when talking on delicate matters.
Once a lack of information was considered as an impediment to knowledge and speaking ability. In the last decade of social media and instant messengers, information overload has become a problem of titanic proportions.
Not knowing is a problem that can be addressed with training and reading authoritative text. But knowing too much, and that too pointing in too many directions, can cause dizziness. Victims of information overload blurt out the data that they could easily recall, or even make up fictitious data on the go.
Life-coaching and Personality Development Counselling helps in Speaking
With proper training, practice and innovative exercises, I have helped improve people’s ability to express themselves. Many of my clients and students of training & workshops have become impactful orators, public speakers and leaders at their workplace.
I can say that with my specially designed personality development training, having ample doses of life-coaching skills, have helped people become effective communicators in social and professional lives. Many parents have thanked me when their shy kids won debate and extempore competitions.
My clients from professional spheres have better people skills, negotiation skills and can influence others easily.
In the end, as I always tell my clients that to speak effectively, to win arguments, to influence people you must:
- Always speak truthfully;
- Genuinely understand and empathise with others;
- Keep an open mind;
- Don’t let emotions take control over you; and
- Give respect to everyone.