Public speaking is overrated. Well, maybe not. Because one thing even digitisation can’t substitute is the need to consistently address an audience. Be it a pitching contest, academic purposes, conferences, symposium, a verbal rendition to defend a particular thesis or even convince your investors to fund your new prototype, entrepreneurs and everyone, in general, will hit a point in their lives where it’s imperative to speak publicly.

Since it’s obvious you can’t ditch addressing a gathering in a lifetime, it’s important you enhance your public speaking skills in preparation for such scenarios. Here are some of the best and smartest methods.

Talk like you’re conversing with a friend

ways to enhance your speaking skills

There is a video of Gary Vee giving a keynote and he was phenomenal. He sits on the floor, walks to someone in the crowd and talks to them directly. It’s easy to see how he could blend in with the crowd. He builds an emotional connection.

Turning the audience into a group of friends you can converse with in your natural tone — like someone you have known for a long time — is one sure way to enhance your public speaking skills. To feel really comfortable, consider using simple words and not elaborate grammar.

The word ’emotional’ itself  means to arouse strong feelings. Thus, an emotional connection is a bundle of subjective feelings that come together to create a bond between two people. The goal of going emotional is to be as real as possible. Giving your audience a peek into your mind by sharing funny stories, embarrassing moments, bad experiences, even dreams and aspirations, is a way to not only build a strong connection but spark the right emotions.

This makes the conversation flow easily from one to the other.

Teach to learn, speak to gain

For thousands of years, humans have discovered that the best way to understand a concept is to explain it to someone else. Roman Philosopher, Seneca, confirms this when he said “while we teach, we learn”.  But the journey to attaining begins with an open heart. The process of explaining a concept clearly to your audience means you have no gaps in your own knowledge.

Most times when we learn and devote ourselves to understanding the material at hand, we usually have no idea how far we’ve gone. This is because we don’t get the chance to think. This chance is what teaching gives up.

It’s like opening a new chakra, because when you teach, you stop, you pause, you look back, think back, take a moment, and you realise you’ve come really far. This helps you gain perspective, and this perspective, in turn, gives you confidence in your abilities. Teaching or speaking to learn might be the most important way to enhance your public speaking skills.

Take the pose of confidence

Ronaldo - confidence as one way to enhance your speaking skills
Source: Soccer Laduma

Ever seen Ronaldo take a free kick? He steps back, his legs apart, takes a deep breath, hand on hip and chest in the air and boom! He scores, most of the times. It’s easy to mistake these for show off. But that’s not it. It’s his signature pose. Apparently, what keeps him steady and willing to hit the ball into the net. 

But this isn’t even about Ronaldo — forgive me for assuming you’re a fan. But you get the point. Research shows that with your shoulders straight and chest out, you automatically feel more confident. Standing up straight isn’t just good for your posture – it also gives you more confidence in your own thoughts, according to a new study. It’s not just show off. Confidence is one of the best ways to enhance your public speaking skills. 

Rehearse, don’t rehash

The saying “practice makes perfect” holds true to date. However, there’s a thin line between rehearsing your own speech to perfection and rehashing someone else’s. You have to be disciplined to maintain originality and not fall for rehashed stories. First, be confident in yourself. Oh, did we just double back on confidence? Awesome! Shows how important that is.

As long as you are certain that what you’re speaking on, or presenting is valid, you shouldn’t be scared. Granted, there’s always the temptation to find videos of similar presentations. While this may give an edge of sort, you risk the chance of totally abandoning your own authentic presentation and on with the ones you’re able to pull off from the internet. See the thin line?

Whereas, there’s a high possibility that what you have, penned already is much better than the rehashed content. It’s a thought battle, but a way to triumph is continuous rehearsal. Rather than totally adopting a rehashed content, you could focus instead on the elements making that particular speech great. Did the speaker jump? Move about? Engage the audience in series of questions? Play music or video at some points while presenting? etc.

It’s OK to adopt these elements to further develop your own original presentation. Rather than rehashing sob stories, adopting key areas, inculcating them into yours and continuously rehearsing to maintain originality is one of the smartest ways to enhance your public speaking skills, anywhere in the world.

Know your topic, not just the slides 

There’s that awkward moments when you rely heavily on awesome slides. But during public speaking, a lot could happen. Momentary power outage, missing slide, deletion of the entire slide (mistakenly by the operator), low internet connectivity leading to loading failure, we could go on and on. Question is, what happens when you hit a snag?

Having a true knowledge of what you’re presenting is the best way to avoid embarrassments. You should learn to always speak from your heart, and only use slides as a guide.  Moreover, it is less assuring — and often disrespecting — to read directly from slides to your audience at all times.

Knowing your topic not only gives you a seamless presentation, but also positions you as an Expert in your field. Think about it, what happens when someone asks a question beyond the scope of your slide? Do you resort to employing the words “I don’t know” to bail out of difficult questions or heated arguments, or try to fake it with a parody response?

Unfortunately, can’t fake true knowledge, it’d definitely catch on. People will spot you when you start fibbing in your presentation. The key to avoiding such situations is, understand your topic very well by doing an extensive research before hand to avoid being thrown off-balance. Otherwise, politely decline the speaking on topics you aren’t certain about.

Remember, anytime you face people, your credibility is at stake. If you lose it, it becomes really difficult to regain.

Avoid vocal fillers

How boring does it sound when you listen to commentaries, engage in a conversation or even listen to news reporters only to get your ears filled with ermm…erh….ern…. frequently between statements. Here’s an instance: “The erm… ICT Minister … errr… Mr Henry Knuckles has ….errrn …said there’s the ermmm… need to totally absorb…ermm…”

If you can’t avoid vocal fillers, try as much as possible to keep it to the bare minimum, it’s better you stay silent when you miss a word or line of thought, than ‘erm..mify‘ it. Sometimes, you could just admit you’ve lost a line of thought to your audience. If anything at all, it shows you’re real and you could be more respected for being honest.

Drink water, plenty of it

Before you question whether or not water is needed to enhance your public speaking skills, attempt talking straight for 4 hours without drinking water. Besides the fact that dehydration should be utterly avoided in speaking, it’s a dangerous thing to health. Research has shown that its alternative, staying hydrated, has numerous positive effects that would definitely give your speaking a huge boost.

Why do you think singers drink a lot of water and beverage before going on stage? It soothes and prepares their vocal cords. The sound of your voice is enhanced when your vocal cords are moist. Drinking water all the way during your presentation will keep you ahead of the curve, prevent the feeling of thirst and keep your voice smooth and steady. 

Moreover, there’s no way you’d be talking for long hours, and not make water your friend if you don’t want to get gross discomfort or irritation.

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I write about technology, self-improvement, productivity (and all the crazy silly stories and the life lessons I learned along the way).