Public speaking isn’t a skill that you can perfect without practice. So practice! Look for any and all opportunities to speak in public, in formal and informal settings.
Can you make a toast? I was once asked to fill in as MC for a wedding (Master of Ceremony), with less than 24 hours’ notice. Totally scary! But I did it and when my jokes fell flat and there was total silence in a room full of 250 people….yup. I totally freaked out (on the inside). On the outside, I calmly asked the audience of my mic was turned on, because I thought that would for sure get a few chuckles—nothing. Nada. But, after 30 minutes of winging it, I found my stride and my jokes started landing and my ad libbing was awesome.
Where can you practice your public speaking?
- Volunteer somewhere that forces you out of your comfort zone and working with the public.
- Join the debate team on campus.
- Join a social club (Join the ALL IN Club!)
- Start a book club.
- Practice rapid fire style debates (pick a random topic and speak about it for 30 seconds to your friends. Take turns giving constructive feedback to each other).
- Raise your hand in class more often and ask questions.
- Speak up in meetings at work more often. –Ask your boss for more challenging assignments, perhaps those that put you in a leadership position where you have to manage a team project.
- If your food isn’t to your liking at a restaurant, speak with the waiter and send it back. (So often women refuse to send back a meal because they’re worried about offending the waiter or the cook or they don’t want to make a scene, or it just makes them uncomfortable). Force yourself to speak up next time your meal isn’t good.
- Conduct practice interviews with your family and friends, where you practice answering the most common interview questions.
- Make a video of yourself answering a question and assess your tone, body language, etc.
One thing you can guarantee is that if you don’t practice your public speaking, do will not get better! It’s that simple.