“Don’t laugh so loudly.”
“Don’t talk too much in public.”
“That’s disgraceful to say something like that out loud.”
I could still feel my mum squeezing my hand, giving me warning signals of my inappropriate behavior in public. Being born shy and raised in a conservative family, I used to be the quietest person in the crowd. It became a habit to lower my head whenever there was an opportunity to speak up in front of a group of people.
Got to admit that I don’t possess any natural talent in speaking either. My dad is an engineer. Whilst he knows his machinery well, he’s definitely not a sleek talker. It’s known that when my dad says “window”, he’s actually referring the door. I have a growing fear that I’m becoming more like that if nothing is done to prevent it.
The truth is, it sucks to be shy.
If you don’t have good public speaking skills, you have no hope in career progression.
While it’s always easy to blame the parents (like I did, sorry mum and dad!), we live our own lives, eventually.
So the decision is yours. If you want to become better at something, there are always means to do that. Just start doing.
For years and years, I wanted to be more articulate and a better listener. Never took any action.
Feeling that I started to loose my speaking ability, from the beginning of this year, I finally started to go to our local Toastmasters club. Was chosen to be the Vice President of Membership of our club from July which really helps me to stick to it… Well at least for a year;).
It’s not easy to go to the regular meetings once every two weeks. Most of the times, I don’t feel like it. But hey, you just have to keep pushing it if you want something.
No way on earth I could or wanted to be a toastmaster (MC) for a larger audience before. But I was offered an opportunity to be the table topics Toastmaster in our division contest and took it up.
It feels amazing to do something you’ve never done before and see yourself that you can actually do it.
By no means I’m an expert or good at it, but I’d like to share 21 public speaking tips for people like me who are just starting out to learn.
1. Love your topic.
I guessed if you are reading this post, you might not love public speaking, yet.
So pick a topic you love to start with. Oh it helps. If you love your topic, you’ll love spending time prepare your speech. The more you prepare, the better.
2. Know your audience.
Find out who you are going to present to and where you are going to give the speech. Sun Tzi said in the Art of War: 知己知彼 百战百胜。 -“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” While your audience and the podium are not your enemies, it’s good to know your surroundings and who you are dealing with. Preparation is the key.
3. Focus on the positive.
If something goes wrong, focus on the positive side of things. Always.
4. Slow down.
Many people are like me, trying to talk faster. Trust me, talking fast in front of public doesn’t give your audience the impression that you are smart, it gives people the impression that you are nervous. SLOW DOWN. Speak word by word. Pronounce every syllabus.
This is an add on to point 4. Slow down and breathe normally. You’ll feel calm and relaxed. I think it is the most important point if you can’t remember anything else.
6. Remember people don’t want you to fail.
Your audience is your friend. We are not referring to political debate here.
Nobody wants you to faint on the stage. If you are extremely nervous and stressed, your audience will feel stressed too. If you are relaxed and enjoying yourself on the stage, your audience will feel relaxed and happy too. There’s no need to be scared of your audiences.
While it can often be recognized as a sign of weakness in certain social situations, smiling is good for public speaking. Research shows that a speaker that smiles is perceived to be smarter.
8. Engage eye contact.
There will always be someone friendly in the audience. They will look at you and nod and even smile at you. Look out for those people first. Don’t look at those serious faces and think these people hate you. They don’t hate you.
9. Use hand gestures.
Jazz hands rocks. Yes, true story.
Of course pause for too long people might think you’ve lost your clue. But pause occasionally will help you to breath normally and amazingly, you’ll look confident too.
11. Bring the energy.
If you love your topic, you’ll bring the positive energy with you. And your audience will love it.
12. Give audience something to take home.
Think for your audience. What’s it in for your audience?
13. Don’t cross legs or clench your fist.
Open up your body and breathe.
14. Use humor.
Lighten up. It’s not all that miserable. It sucks to be boring too.
15. Don’t make excuse or say “sorry”.
If you make a mistake, move on. If you forget about what you want to say next, use note and move on. There’s no need to say that happened because you didn’t have time to prepare well or something else. Generally, the audience don’t care about your excuses. Move on and carry on.
16. Ask questions.
It helps to get the audience involved. It takes the pressure off you for a change. A good way to do it is to ask questions. Not just any questions. Ask easy and fun questions!
17. Wear something makes you feel good.
You don’t want to wear something so tight that makes you uncomfortable or self conscious. It’s not just a girly tip.
18. Be yourself.
No need to pretend to be someone or something that you are not. It’s easier to be yourself. Your audience will accept who you are.
19. No pain, no gain.
If the idea of giving the speech makes you extremely uncomfortable and you want to pull out, just do it any way. Remember? If you want to get better any public speaking, there’s no better way than doing it and doing it often. No pain, No gain. You’ll learn something every time you get up there and do it.
20. It’s not about you.
Is it or is it not about you? I’m envious people who just love the limelight and can talk non-stop publicly. It’s important people who don’t enjoy public speaking to remember, you’ll be much better off if you focus on deliver your message to the audience, instead of worrying about how nervous you are all the time.
21. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.