December 22, 2022
2 min read
Speaking well is an essential part of success in both professional and personal life. When we think of some of the most admired leaders – Steve Jobs, Churchill, Obama, Mandela, and countless others – they all have one thing in common: They are incredible speakers. Here are seven steps that can help you get better at speaking (distilled from Harvard’s public speaking program):
Before you start speaking, do your research on the topic so you can speak confidently and accurately. It’s normal to be nervous! The best way to calm your nerves is to be prepared.
If you’re asked to speak off the cuff, pause. Then gather your thoughts and speak about the topic in a way that’s familiar to you. For example, if someone asks you about your opinions on climate change, you don’t need to be an expert on carbon emissions. Instead, talk about a part of the topic that you’re an expert on – how you’ve seen weather changes affect your day-to-day life.
Speaking isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone; it takes practice. You should practice several times before your speech or presentation to become more familiar with your content and delivery. Expert speakers and comedians seem so natural because they’ve practiced each line so many times that it comes to them like muscle memory.
Taking breaks between practice sessions will help you stay focused and energized. Speaking, like any activity, requires sustained effort. You don’t want to sprint a marathon. Instead, create a plan and then make incremental progress.
Record yourself and listen back to identify any mistakes or areas that need improvement. It’s uncomfortable to hear yourself speak! But playing back your speech (especially either at 2X speed) will help you catch verbal and nonverbal speaking tics.
Knowing the demographic of your audience is important so you can tailor your message accordingly. Remember the famous ABC principle – audience before content. If you don’t understand your audience’s motivations, even the most interesting content won’t help.
Take your time while speaking and be mindful of your rate. Speaking too quickly can cause you to lose your audience’s attention. Speaking too slowly can bore the audience. Experts recommend having an average speaking pace between 130 – 170 WPM (words per minute) to sound conversational. More importantly, make sure to vary your pace through your speech so your pace looks like a sinusoidal curve (similar to that for Obama in the image above).
The more often you speak in front of people, the easier it will become. Consider joining a local Toastmasters group or practicing with a friend in order to gain more confidence.
Yoodli is an artificial intelligence-powered platform to help you practice and improve your speaking skills without the pressure of an audience. Yoodli is like a smart-mirror. It provides you with analytics on your eye contact, filler words, pacing, transcript, and more.
Improving your speaking skills takes time and effort, but with practice you can become a more confident and effective communicator. With these seven tips (and some help from Yoodli’s free platform), you will be well on your way to becoming an exceptional public speaker. Good luck!
Harvard continuing education: https://professional.dce.harvard.edu/blog/10-tips-for-improving-your-public-speaking-skills/