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How to Improve Public Speaking Skills, and Why It Helps Your Business

4 Mins read

Public speaking is an essential skill in any small-business owner’s arsenal. Articulation is helpful when speaking with clients, addressing your team during meetings and promoting your enterprise in local communities. It also comes in handy when engaging investors, conversing with the media, hosting podcasts and making spontaneous elevator pitches to potential partners.

However, public speaking skills don’t always come naturally. If you’re uncomfortable with public speaking, you may miss out on various opportunities to elevate your enterprise. Fortunately, you can conquer your stage fright with these seven tips.

1.  Identify Your Fears

Know what you’re afraid of. Understanding your anxiety’s cause helps to overcome your distress when speaking in public.

You may stutter, have a lisp or sound hoarse. Perhaps you blundered during a school play by saying the wrong lines or during an office presentation by mispronouncing a few words. If you’re an immigrant, you may feel self-conscious about how you sound to native speakers.

Reflect on yourself and think of the first time you felt anxious talking when too many pairs of eyeballs were on you. Tracing the root of your problem — whether it stems from an actual or imagined experience — matters to catch yourself before succumbing to fear and helps master your emotions.

2.  Focus on Constructive Thoughts

Concentrate on your message’s purpose — to provide value to its recipients — instead of on yourself. It can remind you that it’s more about them and less about you.

Negative thoughts can damage your confidence and cause self-doubt. For example, replaying humiliating events in your life may reopen old wounds, a counterproductive mental activity. Such self-sabotaging behavior is the opposite of what you should do — calm your nerves and reassure yourself that it’s just a talk.

Moreover, stop thinking that the crowd is out to get you. Instead, consider the audience members friends who genuinely care about what you have to say.

3.  Write Material in Advance

Prepare what to say to feel in control of the situation. People with stage fright fear chaos. Thankfully, writing and sticking to the script can help minimize the odds of disorder.

Some things may go differently than planned. You may get a faulty microphone. You might begin hiccuping halfway through your speech. The power may go out. A heckler may hijack the situation.

Anybody who subscribes to the Stoic philosophy would advise you against worrying about anything that may happen outside your reach. One of the few things you can directly influence is what you voluntarily do — like preparing what to say from beginning to end. Although learning how to improvise never hurts, memorizing your message and remembering its gist if you forget something can ease your mind.

4.  Practice, Practice, Practice

Read your material aloud. Doing so lets you spot awkward wording and fluff. Notice mentions of “like” and “but.” The former indicates you have a limited vocabulary, while the latter negates a previous statement and may sound negative to your audience. Jot down your observations and revise for clarity and brevity accordingly.

Further, practice in front of a mirror. Look at your reflection to see undesirable body language, which may send the wrong signals to the crowd. It can be challenging for timid and bashful individuals to appear confident. Fortunately, proper posture, eye contact, and frequent smiling can help you come across as self-assured and warm.

5.  Watch Excellent Conversationalists

Study how motivational speakers, celebrities and ordinary raconteurs communicate. Seeing them in action can teach you various public speaking techniques that can make you charismatic. Observe what words they use to paint a picture, how they raise their voice to grab people’s attention and how they act when telling anecdotes.

Although not all effective communicators are quick on their feet, not taking themselves too seriously is what’s important. They’re unafraid to make fun of themselves — such as admitting their ignorance of big words and recounting their gaffes. Acknowledging their weaknesses and laughing at their mistakes shows their human side, allowing them to speak more authentically and confidently.

6.  Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes

Forget about perfection. Trying to avoid errors is a lost cause. It only makes you tense, ironically affecting your performance and increasing your chances of committing a blunder.

Be yourself and act naturally. It isn’t the end of the world if you botch a pronunciation or lose your train of thought. Even high-stakes business talks have room for error, so you should be fine when you don’t offend the wrong people.

7.  Start With a Small Audience

Take baby steps. Self-assuredness is more than a state of mind. You need evidence to build confidence, so test your public speaking skills on a small group to gain experience. Assess your performance, note areas for improvement and work out the kinks.

Stand-up comedians do this all the time. They test new jokes on a few people to evaluate reactions and see what needs tweaking. Comics repeat this process until they’re confident enough to use their material on ticket holders.

Do the same thing, except you should analyze your behaviors instead of jokes. Your confidence should grow as your demeanor improves over time.

Unleash the Public Speaker in You

Honing your public speaking skills can open more doors for your organization. Approach this task with the same entrepreneurial attitude you had when you started your business. If you put your mind to it, you can articulate your thoughts more persuasively and project a confident attitude.

Cora Gold is the founder of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She writes about career advice and productivity for publications including StartupNation and Mediabistro. Connect with Cora on LinkedIn to read more.

Public speaking stock image by Anton Gvozdikov/Shutterstock

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