In part two our two-part series on why cultivating or grooming your public speaking abilities is so important, I am providing my biased opinion on how to become a better speaker. For those of you who don’t have time to read part one, know this: public speaking – when you are good at it – opens doors that allow you to represent yourself and organizations or businesses professionally. If you can’t speak well in public, all is not lost. You just need to cultivate that skill.
Here are a few tips that will help you become a better speaker:
Just Do It!
Now, before you go signing up for speaking engagements at town hall or applying for every public information officer position available on Craigslist, hear me out. Your initial baby steps won’t be pretty, so it’s probably not a good idea to take that show on the road. That is unless you want to repulse potential clients with your lack of confidence, your distracting hand gestures or your umpteenth use of the word “um” that makes them think you posses the same vocabulary as their 16-year-old daughter. Instead, choose your audience wisely: make presentations and give them to friends, family members or sign up to read to a group of elementary students.This brings me to my favorite way to become a better public speaker.
Join Toastmasters International
One of my favorite ways to become a better speaker is by joining a local Toastmasters’ club.
I know you’ve heard of them and the thought of joining scares you. I’d actually be lying if I said I didn’t nearly wet my pants at my first meeting. But seriously, what an amazing environment to thrust yourself into.
The meetings replicate the toughest of speaking environments. They are run on a strict agenda, and the meetings and your speeches are timed and publicly critiqued. However, it is an extremely supportive environment that you’ll find to be most conducive to growth.
Your speeches are ordered in a way that helps build your confidence. Your first speech – aptly called “The Icebreaker” is merely a timed opportunity to introduce yourself to your audience. Your speech evaluator will tell you where you need improvement, but won’t forget to share the high points of your speech. And there is a great sense of camaraderie, as even the best of speakers in an individual club have been in your shoes: lacking confidence and the ability to speak well. With every speech you can feel yourself improving.
All clubs are a little different. Some are comprised mostly of students and held on a college campus, some are strictly for business professionals, and others are a mixture of working professionals, stay at home moms/dads and everyone in between. It’s important to find one that’s a good fit for you, which is why it’s so nice that you can attend as many meetings as you want as a guest until you are ready to commit.
Use this site to find a Toastmasters club near you.
Once you’ve found your ideal groove and practice medium, and find yourself at a point to where you have become more confident, it’s time to take your show on the road.
Opportunities that find you:
Many opportunities to speak can arise from professional social networking. Many of the public speaking engagements my boss, Lorrie Walker, has earned have come from members of organizations who have requested that Lorrie give a presentation on what we do and how that can benefit them. Examples of organizations include: Rotary clubs, professional promotional organizations, and construction organizations.
Professional networking organizations in Polk County or with Polk chapters include:
- Females Advancing Business http://fabnetworking.com
- Lakeland Business Leaders http://lakelandbusinessleaders.com
- Lakeland Chamber http://www.lakelandchamber.com
- American Business Women’s Association http://lakelandabwa.com/abwa/
Opportunities that you find:
There are many opportunities to speak/mentor younger individuals. Think college students, reading to children at an elementary school or giving a presentation to your church’s youth group. You can always offer to come speak to students and tell them your story or you can look for opportunities like “National Read Aloud” day and simply sign up!
Remember: It is natural to be nervous when speaking in public (even the best will agree). But if your nerves are paralyzing you, they need to be brought under control.
Last but not least
Here are 10 great tips from Toastmasters International that will help you tame the butterflies, whether you are practicing or performing for real. Good luck and I look forward to “hearing” from you soon!