15 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

Colin Duff

Colin Duff | December 31, 2019

Out of all phobias, public speaking is the most reported phobia, with 74% of people suffering from speech anxiety. This probably means that you reading this has some sort of fear of public speaking as well. Don't worry, that's totally normal. We'll be giving you as many tips to improve your public speaking as possible.


What Is Public Speaking?

Public speaking is the act of speaking in front of a group of people about a specific subject or topic. This can range from a work presentation to a speech for political office. Getting up and speaking in front of others can be difficult, as it takes confidence and trust in your audience. With practice, you'll be able to master public speaking and never be afraid when it comes time to speak.


Why Is Public Speaking Important?

Let's face it. You're going to have to speak to a group of people at some point in your life. From a project pitch at work to a speech at a friend's wedding, big events in our lives require us to speak in front of a group.

Even with increased instant messaging use across companies and texting in our personal lives, public speaking is never going to go away. When you're able to speak well to a group, you project yourself as confident and more trustworthy.

This leads to you more likely to get what you're after, a skill that's important in all aspects of your life. It can also lead to better career advancement as companies will always need employees who can explain points clearly and intelligently.



1. Know your audience.

Knowing who your audience will be will help you determine what points are important to include. It also gives you an idea of what your tone should be for your presentation. If you're in a business meeting, you might not want to include jokes or stories as you would for an award ceremony or personal talk.


2. Write an outline.

An outline is a great resource to develop your points without writing a whole speech. You can brainstorm here about all possible points for your speech and then work to add more detail. This will be more useful than writing a speech. Public speaking is all about knowing your points and not about repeating a memorized script. You'll have a more detailed understanding of your subject and will be able to answer any questions that come up.


3. Practice makes perfect.

The age-old saying really is true! The only way you'll get better at public speaking is through doing it over and over again. Practice your speech ahead of time to yourself until you feel confident in what you have to say. Try taking a few extra minutes a day to bring up points in meetings or with friends so you're better at speaking with others. It'll pay off on your big day.


4. Determine what resources you need, if any.

You might be presenting a slideshow to a team, or giving a product demonstration for your public speech. Know what you'll need and practice with it so you won't get tripped up. You'll be better prepared and avoid any technical difficulties that could derail your presentation. It also helps to avoid relying on slides or resources instead of speaking. You'll want to have these resources there to guide those you're speaking to, but you'll want them to focus on you and your speech instead.


5. Be yourself.

The best part about public speaking is that it's about you, the speaker. People are interested in what you have to say, so adding in your own personality and flair is important. Robotic speeches are boring and people will lose interest. Adding personal stories or a writing and speaking style you'd normally use are good tools to make a speech feel like a great conversation between friends.


6. Practice in front of a mirror.

Practicing in front of a mirror will give you an idea of how you look to others. You can see if your posture is correct, if you're maintaining eye contact, or if there are any points in your speech where you lose your train of thought. You can work here to eliminate anything that you see that would be distracting to the audience and put yourself in their shoes to alter any points of your speech.


7. Give a test run to a friend or family member.

It's important to practice in front of people before you go up and give your presentation. There's no substitute for the real thing, and you'll be able to see how people react in real-time. Doing it in front of a friend or family member will keep you at ease and make it easier to practice in the way you've been speaking. They can give feedback on what you should change, and you'll have a much better presentation to give because of it.


8. Take pauses.

Just like separating an article into paragraphs, taking pauses in your speech will give time for your audience to rest and take in what you've said. It makes the speech sound like a natural conversation when you give time to pause before your next point. It can also be done for emphasis on points you want your audience to understand since they'll have time to think about what you've just said.


9. Remember to speak slowly and clearly.

This point is important for all nervous public speakers to remember. When we're nervous, it's easy to talk as quickly as possible so you can be done and sit back down. This leads to bad speeches, as no one can understand what you've said. We don't often realize how fast we actually speak either! Take time to deliberately focus on slowing your speech and breathing down. You'll sound more confident and polished, which can lead to a more impactful speaking moment.


10. Focus on eye contact.

Not that you have to stare down everyone in the room, but eye contact is important. You wouldn't look away from your friend if you were having a conversation with them, so why should public speaking be any different? Making eye contact with those in the room shows a connection and gives off confidence in your speaking ability. It personalizes the speech to those you're looking at, which allows them to more deeply understand the material.


11. Use humor if applicable.

Humor can be a great point to add to your speech. It shows that you have a personality, and makes members of the audience feel at ease. This works depending on the situation you're speaking in. A business meeting probably wouldn't be the best time for one, but something more casual would be a good use case.


12. Concentrate on eliminating nervous gestures.

When you're nervous, it's easy to make nervous gestures. Tapping your foot, playing with your hair, and moving your hands are all examples of this. Doing these things helps relax us, but it's also distracting for those in the audience. They'll be paying more attention to what you're doing than to what you're saying. Focus on eliminating these in your practice sessions before your big day.


13. Try a practice run in the location you'll be presenting.

Nothing can compare to practicing in the same place you'll be giving your presentation. You can see how the size of the room or space alters how loud you have to be or anything else that would change the way you give your speech. It'll also make you more confident. You'll have given your speech in the same place already, so giving it a second or third time there will be a breeze.


14. Decompress and relax before you present.

Focus on being relaxed before you give your speech. Meditating, exercising, or taking some deep breaths are all things that will help you before you go on. Worrying about things that could go wrong will kill your confidence and will start you off on a bad foot. Find an activity that puts you at peace and do it before you present. You'll be rested, confident, and ready to kill it.


15. Get feedback from those in the room.

One of the most important parts of public speaking doesn't even occur before or during your speech. Asking for feedback will help you find points to work on before you have to publicly speak again. By focusing on those points, you'll just get better and better every time you speak. Soon, you'll have no fear of public speaking ever again.

With these tips in mind, you'll be able to build up your public speaking skills and conquer any situation before you. Next up, remote work quotes to keep you motivated.

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