#40 TRENDING IN Personal Growth 🔥

8 Tips for Becoming a Pro at Public Speaking

Personal Growth

June 12, 2023

There are a few things that are universally hated in this world: mosquitos, the sound of nails on a chalkboard, and of course, public speaking. I remember how I used to feel when it was my turn to present: knots in my stomach, heart racing, and all I could think was "what if I mess up? What if I mess up so badly that people will start laughing, or even worse, there will be dead silence!"

That was me a few years ago before I realized the joy of public speaking. I know it might be scary. [censored], if you were anything like me, even the thought of it might be downright nerve-wracking. But after taking a few public speaking classes and becoming more confident in my abilities, I have learned a few tips that have made me into a much better and more enthusiastic public speaker.

Now, I look forward to presenting, and everytime I have a speech, a slideshow, or a recitation to present in any of my classes, I feel confident and unphased. Here's how to do it:

Tip 1: Know What You're Talking About

I know this may sound obvious, but a lot of times, we mindlessly copy information to our slideshows to get it done and over with. For example, if you're doing a presentation on marine warfare during WW2, actually learn about marine warfare during WW2. You could watch some videos about submarines during WW2, read some short articles about the history of different navies, and/or learn about combative strategies used overseas.

When we just copy down information from Google, we don't actually learn what we're supposed to be presenting. When this happens, we usually just read straight off the slideshow, which can unfortunately make us look unprepared and unconfident. Research shows that when we know a certain topic well, we are far more confident having a conversation about it. So why not do the same when we're presenting? Taking this extra step can make you look and feel far more confident in your public speaking.

Tip 2: Find A Comfortable "Public Speaking Voice"

What I mean by that, is that it's extremely important that you find a distinguishable voice that you can use for public speaking. Our conversational voice is usually more relaxed, quiet, and more informal than our public speaking voice. A public speaking voice is typically loud, has a slow pace, and has engaging expressions.

Your public speaking voice should make people want to listen to you. By the same token, you should also not be yelling at your audience and jumping octaves in a sentence. Find a voice that suits you and makes you feel comfortable in what you are saying. It's okay if you can't find your voice instantly; sometimes it takes months and many attempts to find your voice. However, once you find what suits you, your public speaking will improve exponentially.

Tip 3: Practice Recording Yourself

This is one of the best tips out there, and requires such little effort. All you need is a phone, a decently lit space, and your public speaking materials. When you record yourself, you will notice little things about your public speaking that you may have never noticed before!

Some things I caught myself doing were rocking back and forth, pacing around the room, and looking anywhere but into the camera. I'd recommend making a list of things you see yourself doing that you don't love, and then trying to make improvements one by one. This can improve your confidence and performance anxiety by great amounts because once you are happy with the improvements you've made, you know that you have worked on your habits and you are less likely to repeat them during the actual presentation.

Tip 4: Ask For Feedback From a Family Member or Friend

If you don't have access to record yourself, or you just want a second opinion, asking for feeding from a family member or a trustworthy friend is a great option. A trusted family member/friend can share their advice on how to improve your public speaking, and sometimes they can point out things that you didn't notice. Asking for feedback is a great way to practice having a real audience without having the pressure of it. They might even be able to offer some advice from their personal experiences to make your performance even better. (Plus, they might be able to learn something new if you are giving an informative presentation).

Tip 5: Hold in the Giggles

The Giggles. Everyone's done it at least once. I know it may seem impossible, but holding in your giggles during a presentation or whatnot, is so important.

It increases your professionality by tenfold. Whether it be a funny joke your friend told earlier, or just your way of coping with performance anxiety, the giggles almost always find a way to plague someone's presentation. If you're especially prone to them, try working on that while you record yourself. There are many methods online on how to avoid laughing during public speaking, but usually I just purse my lips together. If you "mess up" during a presentation, I know it may seem easy to just laugh it off, but I would recommend moving on like it was part of the original plan anyway. Chances are, nobody noticed it, so it's best to leave it that way. (You should definitely smile throughout your presentation though!)

Tip 6: Improve Your Filler Vocabulary

I used to be a chronic "like", "um" , "basically", and "literally" user. When I attended my local Toastmasters' class, I learned some invaluable tips on how to minimize my use of filler words. Filler words, including the aforementioned words, are words used in the place of pauses to avoid silence.

Us teenagers especially like to use these words to soften our communication. Instead of saying "I did badly on the test", we usually say "I did like so badly on the test." However, in public speaking, this is a big no-no. Since a lot of us don't feel confident while public speaking, we resort to using filler words instead of letting awkward silence be. However, silence is your best friend in public speaking. Pauses allow us to gather our thoughts and think about what we're going to say next. So, while you are practicing your speech/presentation, whether be in front of the mirror, or in front on friends and family, take a pause the next time you lose your train of thought instead of filling the gap with an unnecessary word.

Tip 7: Fake it Till You Make it

Confidence doesn't come easily, I know. Confidence takes years to build and sometimes only days to break down. But in public speaking, appearing confident is the key to delivering a message.

So, as the old saying goes "fake it till you make it." Even if you don't feel confident, at that moment, using simple practices such as open body language, standing proud, projecting your voice, and smiling will make you look confident. And overtime, as you learn more advanced skills and "perfect" the basics, you will start to feel more confident. You will eventually build your confidence (if you don't have it already), trust me. But even just appearing to be confident will boost your performance by miles.

Tip 8: Don't Take it Too Seriously

And possibly the most important tip: don't take it too seriously. I think a lot of the reason we get so anxious about giving a speech or presenting a slideshow is because we take it too seriously. We stake a lot of our self worth on what others' think about us, when in reality, it doesn't really matter.

Stumbling on a word on slide 5 will not matter in 20 years, or even 10 minutes. If you make a mistake, pretend it never happened. Most of the time, people pay attention to the big picture, not tiny details. At the end of the day, you are your harshest critic. While you're presenting, live in the moment. Remember that it's you who's at the podium, it's you who's giving a speech, it's you who researched that topic. The key to confidence is caring about what you think of yourself, not what anyone thinks of you. And the key to public speaking is confidence.

All in all, public speaking is all about openly expressing your thoughts and ideas. By improving your body language, your vocality, and your knowledge about your topic, you can transform your public speaking. Obviously, improvement will not come in one day, and you may not even see improvement for months.

But the most important part is to believe in yourself and to have the confidence to atleast try. Remember, you're not alone. Millions of people experience a fear of public speaking. But by applying a few of these simple tips, you will slowly start to see your fear fade and your poise grow.

Katie Mirne
1,000+ pageviews

Writer since Feb, 2023 · 1 published articles

Katie is a sophomore from New Jersey. She She is passionate about law, politics and international relations and enjoys partaking in Model UN and Mock Trial. She is the chairwoman of the New Jersey High School Republicans and the founder and president of her school’s Model UN club. In her free time, she enjoys painting, playing piano, and spending time with her friends and family.