How to Improve your Public Speaking

January 26, 2012

Being an election year, we’re all going to be exposed to an overdose of political speeches in the coming months. Some views we’ll agree with, others we won’t. But one thing we will all agree on is the poise and polish that politicians nearly always display when giving a speech.

Of course, politicians have a lot of help. They have writers to write their speeches, consultants on delivery methods, and people whose only function is to make the person look his or her best.

For the rest of us, public speaking is one of the scariest things in the world.  It takes guts and it takes confidence. Luckily, however, these are things that we can teach ourselves.  Here are a few important steps from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training of Maryland and the D.C. Metro Area that you need to take before you ever deliver a speech:

The first and most obvious important step is to know your topic. Even if you are giving a speech on snails and don’t know anything about them, do your research! You need to become an expert on any and every topic that comes your way. Use your research skills.

Use the Internet or your local library. Knowing your topic will give you confidence. Cheat a little. No don’t cheat by going online and typing your speech topic into Google. After you have done your research you should have a list of points you want to talk about. Do your best to memorize your key talking points, but it does not hurt to make yourself a cheat sheet that gives you an overview of the most important points you want to cover. You are going to be a little bit nervous, so having note cards or a PowerPoint presentation to look on or follow along with will do wonders for your speech and preparedness.

Imitate great speakers. (Again, you’ll have your pick from the cream of the crop over the next few months!) In your research you should look up a speech of someone you admire. Consider past elocutionists like Teddy Roosevelt or perhaps Winston Churchill, or think back to a wedding toast you liked that your friend gave. What made them come across as confident public speakers? If you can try to find video of someone you admire speaking and do your best imitation. Of course, make it your own—you don’t want to be obviously doing an impression.

Finally, look the part. You may have the next “I Have a Dream” in your hands, but who is going to take you seriously if you are wearing a Hawaiian shirt? Try to look your best on the day of your speech and dress in a manner appropriate to the subject matter and audience you’re delivering the speech to.

Bonus: For more information, attend our upcoming “How to Communicate With Diplomacy and Tact” seminar in Vienna, VA, on February 8, 2012!

This post is brought to you by Dale Carnegie Training of Maryland and the DC Metro Area. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credit: Ambro

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