Some people find it so easy to hold a microphone and address an audience, but for others, the mere thought of standing in public before even saying a word terrifies them.
Public speaking, while an essential skill, is not easy for everyone. It is however necessary to develop this skill because it has the potential to advance your career, create opportunities, improve your reputation and boost your self-confidence.
Joshua Tahinduka, a Kigali-based public speaking coach notes that public speaking is a skill that can be learned through practice.
The more you practice, the more you get better. These are the little steps that add up, for example speaking in board meetings or pushing yourself to say something in a meeting, especially when you know you are bad at public speaking, he said.
Look for opportunities to speak in your surroundings. You can never become a speaker if you don’t start speaking, he points out.
The Public Speaking Coach strongly encourages talking to people you think are better at public speaking and asking them to give you their feedback.
He says you should plan what you want to say ahead of time and read it aloud over and over again.
“Start by practicing on your own, then ask a friend or colleague for their feedback. In the case of presentations, you can also record yourself rehearsing the presentation to help identify and improve any potential issues with your body language or performance.
Tahinduka also adds that it’s important to research areas where you can improve your speaking skills.
Sometimes there is a culture that is not conducive to growth in this area. For example, being in a toxic environment where someone makes a mistake and everyone laughs instead of correcting it.
Watch people speak effectively, it can even be through YouTube. We learn by watching the people we admire get better.
He also continues that it is up to leaders and employers to create a culture of growth where people can develop communication skills and an environment where people fail and are appreciated and encouraged to do better.
Good public speakers are in tune with their audience. Speaking in public is more than standing in front of a group and talking; you also need to engage your audience. For example, recognize your audience as soon as you take the stage. It helps to make you look more real.
Tahinduka also adds that when speaking in public, body language can help support your speech as non-verbal communication. Keep your shoulders back and your spine straight with a gentle smile.
Alternatively, you can move around the stage calmly, keeping pace with your presentation. Avoid standing behind objects like desks or tables, but don’t disturb the audience by moving around too much.
Listening is also a great tool. Whether you’re speaking one-on-one or to an audience of a thousand people, communication is a two-way street – both parties need to be engaged. When trying to engage listeners in less formal conversations, a good communicator listens to what others are saying before speaking.
Maintain eye contact. Keeping eye contact with the person you are talking to shows that you are actively listening and paying attention. Eye contact actually evokes presence and projects confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness while speaking. The more you look at the audience or whoever you are speaking to, the more power and authority you exude.
Speak slowly. It is also essential to make a conscious point to speak slowly. If your speech goes at a more manageable pace, it will be easier for you to feel in control. Taking your time doesn’t have to be boring.
Take a break if necessary. Pauses are a good thing to place after a particularly heavy or important idea has been stated, or between relatively unrelated points to serve as a kind of paragraph break. A break also gives the audience the opportunity to show their appreciation.