Five Ways to Become a Great Public Speaker

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    fiveMaybe you have always dreaded public speaking. Maybe you have convinced yourself you are no good at it, and never will be. Maybe you have resigned yourself to suffering through a series of painful speaking experiences.

    Let’s stop right there. Because it doesn’t have to be that way. You can get better, maybe much better. And you can eliminate a lot of the pain. Stop feeling bad about it and start today to build skills and confidence for once and for all. How? Read on.

    1. Stop the self-talk. Listen to that tiny (but oh-so-powerful) voice inside your head. It says things like “I am no good at public speaking. I know I am going to be nervous. I will probably blow it.” Refuse to listen. Talk back. Substitute thoughts like these: “This is going to be great. I have good information to share. I am well prepared and everything is going to be just fine.” It sounds too simple to be helpful, yet it is. The only way to know is to listen for that voice and then replace it with more powerful messages.

    2. Learn from observation. Watch for mistakes others make, and resolve not to make the same ones. If you see a speaker turn away from the audience and talk to the slides, resolve not to do that yourself. Likewise, if you hear a speaker connect warmly with the audience, or use a good metaphor, or gesture effectively, see if you can incorporate those techniques in your own presentations. If you have never seen a TED talk, go to and watch a few presentations. I am sure you will come away inspired and armed with new ideas.

    3. Be willing to try. If you do the same-old-same-old, you won’t grow. Nor will you stand out in a crowd. If all the slides in your organization are content-heavy and bullet-laden, dare to be the person who streamlines the visuals, cuts through the clutter, and speaks more compellingly as a result. If your voice has always been soft, be brave and speak up. If you learn a new skill, use it. Try it. Otherwise you’ll never know how good you could be.

    4. Get with a group. You might take a class with others who want to build their skills. Or join Toastmasters for skills and support. You might find 2-3 individuals who are interested in building the same skills. If you can learn with a group, you will have an automatic audience, a cheering section, and a wealth of good ideas you can all share. Maybe each time you meet you share articles, blogs or books you have read, and teach them to each other. There truly is strength in numbers.

    5. Hire a coach. If you have tried repeatedly to improve your skills and confidence but don’t feel you are making much progress, a coach may help you jump to the next level. A professional coach has a wealth of ideas and experience, and should help you select exactly which skills, tools and techniques will make the most difference for you. An experienced coach will help you continue to move forward, through and past the discomfort of learning. A good coach will push you gently, encourage you, and celebrate with you.

    Remember the old adage, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. All that gets you is a self-defeating downward spiral. Don’t go there. Do better. I know you can. And please, let me know what works for you along the way to great public speaking.

    Author Gail Zack Anderson, founder of Applause, Inc. is a Twin Cities-based consultant who provides coaching and workshops for effective presentations, facilitation skills for trainers and subject matter experts, and positive communication skills for everyone. She can be reached at

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    twitter: @ApplauseInc