Are you one of those people who wrote ‘Improve my public speaking skills’ on your list of new year’s resolutions? If so, well done and I trust you are well on the way to achieving your goal (if you’re not, read on!)
And if you haven’t included ‘Improve my public speaking skills’ on your list, perhaps you should ask yourself “Why not?”
The ability to clearly and confidently articulate yourself in front of a group of people is a key skill that has the potential to enrich your life both personally and professionally. There are many benefits including having the ability to promote yourself or your business, to increase your influence and impact, and to ensure you are seen as an expert in your field. It also means you’ll never be panicked when you’re asked to ‘say a few words’.
So what exactly do I mean by improving your public speaking? Well, that depends on where you feel you need development. There are three main areas you can focus on:
- Confidence and Self-Belief
- Content and Structure
- Effective Delivery
Maybe you would like to focus on one area, maybe all three; regardless, unless you take action you can be pretty sure your public speaking ability will stay at exactly the level it is currently! So be honest with yourself and ask yourself:
- What would improving my public speaking skills mean to me?
- How committed am I to improving my public speaking skills?
- Am I prepared to put in the effort required to improve?
- What specific areas will I focus on?
Once you have identified your goal/s, plan some action steps to move yourself forward. For example, when it comes to confidence, often it’s the stories we tell ourselves that feed our fear and we need to find ways to overcome these limiting beliefs. If you want to focus on building your confidence, this could involve moving out of your comfort zone a little bit at a time; maybe try speaking to a stranger at the bus stop, volunteering to chair a meeting or reading some personal development material to help change your mindset. You could also consider seeing a specialist coach, hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner.
When it comes to designing and delivering a presentation, you can gain a lot of information by reading books, watching and analysing talks on YouTube, joining a public speaking group like Toastmasters International, taking a presentation skills class or investing in some coaching to learn the skills required. But remember that no matter how much learning you do, your public speaking simply cannot improve unless you get up and do it!
So surround yourself with supportive and encouraging people and just go for it. Whenever you do a presentation, make sure it is filmed so you can review it to see what went well and pinpoint what you can to do to make the next one even better.
As Dale Carnegie said, “Great speakers are not born, they’re trained.” We don’t come out of the womb being great at public speaking; like any skill it can be learned but it takes commitment. And it’s a commitment worth making because the benefits of improving your confidence and communication skills will be felt in every area of your life.
So what are you waiting for?
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.
Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential