I’ve read your post about making public speaking a new year's resolution.
But, I’m shy, a little introverted, and afraid of speaking in front of people, and especially my peers.
So, where do I begin?
Yes, fear is the most cited barrier people face when they attempt to improve their public speaking. The good thing is that committing to improving this skill for the long run means that you can incorporate public speaking strategies and exercises into your life.
Let’s start with this 3-Step Process:
One: You need content. Decide on a subject matter you want to talk about.
Two: You need to practice writing about that content.
Three: Then you need to practice the delivery of the content.
Easy content ideas include: (select one to start with)
Work topics. Identify one topic you like to talk about at work. The easiest way to start working on your public speaking is by using content you already talk about constantly. It allows you to focus on writing clearly and practice the delivery of that content.
Hobbies. Do you have a hobby you love and want to share with people? Gardening, knitting, sailing, magic, cosplaying, cooking, birdwatching, etc.
Sports. Do you love a sport so much that you spend hours playing it and learning about history? Longboarding, soccer, archery, football, basketball, rugby, snowboarding, etc.
Skills. Some hobbies require specific skills, so there may be an overlap. If you have a unique skill set that you wish to teach people about, that can be your content.
Passions. Are you passionate about a cause? Conservation, recycling, saving the bees, human rights, animal rights. Cause-based topics are powerful and impactful.
Education. This is professorial type content. Political science, the psychology of happiness, linguistics in modern American. This content often brings two topics together to tell a new, interesting story, so if you are passionate about two subjects, you can see and talk about them through both lenses and see what new story you can tell.
Unique, personal experience. Are you unique in any way? Your life experience, your perspective, your specialized educational or career training? I, for example, am a first-generation Mexican immigrant college graduate and professional who attended UC Berkeley twice and loves teaching people how to improve their public speaking and communication skillset.
Here are three writing strategies to practice writing about your content:
Make a list of the 7 must-know ideas about your topic. Turn each idea into a standalone 3-minute presentation. Yes, these are very short presentations but that goal is to get you to tell one message about one idea.
Make a list of 5 interesting ideas about your topic. Instead of writing a response out, this time you put the idea on a post-it or index card. Then you decide what three points you want to make about each idea and write down one word or phrase to remind you of your points. Practice delivering the content using this shorten outline.
Use the same list or come up with 7 new ideas and turn them into questions. You don’t need to write these up. Instead, put them in a jar or box, and on a daily or weekly basis pull out a question and respond to it thoughtfully in under two minutes. This exercise will give you the practice you need to do impromptu speeches on the subject matter you selected.
Here are three strategies for practicing the delivery of your content. These three strategies let you practice your content delivery in different ways.
Practice delivering the 3-minute presentation in different ways. This exercise forces you to deliver a synthesized message and allows you to play with the delivery of the message. Practice the opening, where you pause for clarity, where you pause for emphasis. Do a boring version and an over the top, dramatic presentation.
Practice delivering a presentation with only an outline. This exercise will teach you how to come up with one, two, or three points about a topic and keep you from rambling when you are asked about something at work.
Practice responding to questions daily. The goal is to, over time, help you deal with the fear of not knowing how to respond to a question that is asked in real-time. If your goal is to improve your public speaking skills for work, then get into the habit of tracking common questions you are asked and put them in a jar so that you practice delivering a response from the comfort of your home.
These process is design to give you options on how to practice public speaking in a safe space and without judgment. Do this at home and don't try to be perfect. Public speaking confidence comes from practice and the goal is to get you to practice before you need to deliver a speech.
Drop your questions below.