Public speaking is a regular — and regularly feared — part of life, so it's important to refine your skills. This year, challenge yourself by learning to lecture like a pro. Here are four tips to help you polish your public speaking.
1. Assess yourself. What part of public speaking makes you nervous? Where have you slipped up in the past? One reason public speaking is so nerve-racking is because there's so much to manage — your presence, your words, your delivery, and your reaction. Determine your weakest points, from stuttering to stiff hands, in order to tailor your speech improvement.
2. Find opportunities to practice. It's hard to feel confident about speaking if it's something you rarely do, so look for the chance to polish your technique in everyday life. At a dinner party? Offer to give the toast. Working on a new project at the office? Present it at the weekly staff meeting. Public speaking is like anything else: the more you do it, the better you'll become, and the more comfortable you'll feel when the moment arises.
3. Dress the part. Confidence is crucial, and you'll be much more sure of yourself if you know that your appearance conveys a sense of authority. It's best to err on the dressy side when you plan to speak in front of an audience — and it's crucial that your clothes fit well. Tugging at the hem of your skirt or the sleeves of your blouse will distract both you and your audience. It's important to look put-together, and the focus should be on your words, not your outfit.
4. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Begin with standard prep techniques, like writing note cards and practicing in front of your friends, but also take the time to do some research. Find out as much as you can about your audience, the context of your speech, the environment, and the tools and media that will be available. Most importantly, be sure that you're achieving what was asked of you — confirm that you're answering the right question and fulfilling the expectations of your audience.
Above all else, learn to relax. Everyone understands the stress and pressure involved with public speaking, so know that your audience will be empathetic toward your efforts. Just remember the basics — to stand up straight, smile, and make eye contact — and be yourself, because personality and genuine enthusiasm are key to making great connections.