Public speaking is scary, and if you’re a shy or introverted person, it’s tempting to run away from it altogether. Don’t! It’s a great skill to have and you’ll get many more work opportunities if you’re a strong public speaker.
Still, you might be thinking that you’ll never get those opportunities simply aren’t good at public speaking. But public speaking is like a muscle that needs to be constantly strengthened – you can train yourself to be a fantastic public speaker no matter what your starting point looks like.
1 – Find Comfort in Conversation
Don’t jump straight into public speaking; start small and gradually work your way up. Style Nine to Five Founder, Christie Lohr, suggests embracing all types of conversations before you get into presentations. “You can start small by speaking up in team meetings and getting comfortable talking in front of a small group in a more conversational environment before you work your way up to giving a speech in front of a crowd,” suggests Christie. “The more you put yourself out there, the less intimidating it’ll become.”
Maybe you’re not in the working world yet and don’t have the option to gradually speak more in team meetings. If you’re still in school, make it a goal to raise your hand at least once in each class. Then, gradually work up from there so you’re speaking more frequently – it’ll become second nature to you fast. If you’re not in school, even starting conversations and getting comfortable riffing with all kinds of people can help improve your public speaking skills.
2 – Prepare Yourself
When you finally feel ready to jump into the world of public speaking, remember to prepare as much as possible. “Practice, practice, practice! The best way to feel confident is knowing that you’re ultra-prepared and comfortable with your talking points,” says Christie. Do research if necessary, and rehearse what you’re going to say alone, to family, to friends, to anyone who’ll listen.
Even if you aren’t allowed to have speaker notes for a presentation, write some out anyway and try to memorize them. Don’t stress yourself out about having it word-for-word, just try to memorize the key points. This is a method of ensuring that you won’t be making things up as you go. “Feeling flustered along with trying to wing it can make public speaking even more nerve-wracking, so practice and preparation are key!” says Christie.
3 – Embrace Your Anxiety
Accept the fact that there’s still going to be a certain degree of nerves when you finally get down to the day of your presentation or speech, the moment you raise your hand in class, whatever it may be – but it’s not just because you have limited experience with public speaking. “Remember that even the most outgoing people get nervous when public speaking, so don’t stress out if you feel nervous,” advises Christie. Public speaking is stressful to everyone – there are almost certainly higher-ups at million-dollar companies who’ve been giving presentations their whole life and still get nervous about perfecting their newest ones!
So, don’t sweat it too much, and know that everyone around you has been in the same boat before. Try to eliminate your anxiety as much as you can beforehand, but when you’re still nervous while speaking publicly, harness that anxiety and allow it to push you to do your absolute best. Spin it into a feeling of excitement rather than nerves. You’ll make it through public speaking despite the stress and come out feeling accomplished.
Gradually work your way up to public speaking, be prepared when you’re finally ready to do it, and don’t put too much stock into your anxiety. Public speaking is a hard thing for anyone to master, so don’t stress too much and be proud of every accomplishment you make in this area, even striking up conversations with strangers or raising your hand in class to say a couple of words. Remember that all steps you take are steps forward, and you’ll be a better public speaker in no time!
To move your career journey further along while getting extra conversational practice, book a Virtual Career Meeting with Christie!
Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.
Feature Image: Adobe Stock