Does the thought of public speaking terrify you? Most people would rather die than talk in front of others. Are you one of those people?
Most jobs require communication skills. You will have to give a speech or brief at some point in your life. Does the thought of it make you nervous? Maybe you have already given speeches, and you were so nervous that you threw up. You may never want to do it again, but you’ll have to.
I’m a member of Toastmasters International, a public speaking organization dedicated to improving the speech and leadership skills of its members.Every year, Toastmasters has an International Speech Competition. I competed in 2009 and won three local contests, but I fell short of the final rounds.
I mention the competition because my preparation is what helped me to do so well. My preparation gave me confidence.
Preparation is a key factor in becoming a good public speaker because preparation leads to confidence.
In preparing for the International Speech Competition, I wrote out my speech on the computer and continually revised it. I chose carefully every single word in my speech to make the sentences smooth, understandable, and pleasing to the ear.
Listening to good speakers and observing how they organize their thoughts can help you organize your own thoughts. Reading quality books, magazines, and newspapers can also give you a model for writing your speeches.
For those of you who hated English class and hate public speaking, don’t give up. All of you who enjoy math, take heart. We’re not going to do math right now, but I am going to provide you with a formula:
1) Introduction: Tell the audience what you’re going to tell them.
2) Body: Tell them.
3) Conclusion: Tell them what you told them.
This is a classic organizational strategy, like the traditional five paragraph essay from English class. Typically, your speech (or essay) has a theme, and you support or explain the theme in three main points.
Talk about the theme and the three points in the introduction, flesh out the three points in the body, and recap the three points and how they support the theme in the conclusion.
After you write your speech, you need to practice it. While preparing for the International Speech Competition, I practiced my speech every day in front of the mirror until I was sick of it. When I didn’t want to practice it anymore, I practiced it one more time.
Give your speech to yourself in front of a mirror to watch your eye contact and gestures. Being in front of a mirror should help you to act naturally. It may reveal distracting habits that you have, like jangling loose change in your pockets or wringing your hands.
If you can, record your speech and listen to (or watch) the recording. This will help you to enunciate correctly and talk at a natural pace.
You must practice your speech out loud before you give it, because the spoken word sounds different than the written word. Some things just don’t make sense when you say them out loud. You want to identify the rough spots in your speech before you give it.
I prepared for my speech: wrote, revised, practiced, recorded and listened, watched myself in the mirror–and then I finally gave the speech in the competition.
Did all of that preparation give me confidence when I stepped onto that stage, in front of all those people, to deliver my speech? Yes, it was show time. I wasn’t worried about the competition or the judges. Win or lose, I was going to do my best. I was ready. While you may never feel the same excitement about “show time,” preparation will give you confidence.
Don’t focus on your nerves or the urge to throw up. Focus on the fact that you have a message to deliver and you’re ready to do it. Let that preparation give you the strength and confidence to do whatever public speaking you have to do.
Preparation leads to confidence: plan your speech, practice your speech and become a confident speaker.