One thing I’ve learned during my years in college and the business world is that communication is complicated. Add in the anxiety many people experience when speaking in public and the complications just increase. As the Vice President of Education for the U-Haul Toastmasters Club I regularly deal with new members who are nervous about giving their first speech. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to anyone who is nervous about speaking is to just get out there and do it. When you force yourself out of your comfort zone you will find that it really isn’t as bad as you thought it would be. Here are some tips to improve your public speaking.
Be Prepared, But Don’t Over-Prepare
When I am getting ready to give a speech I get my initial thoughts down on paper and then I walk away from it for at least 24 hours. When I come back I can look at it with fresh eyes and finish editing. Once I’ve got it down on paper I read through it a time or two as it is written, just to make sure it sounds right. Then I make a set of note cards with bullet points of the main ideas of the speech. After that, I run through it two or three times to make sure it still sounds good, that I’m not forgetting anything important, and that I’m within my allotted time frame. Avoid over thinking things because that may make you more nervous than you already are.
Put A Little Of You Into Your Speech
It’s no coincidence that the goal of the first speech a new Toastmasters member gives is to teach the group about themselves. After all, who knows you better than you? Talking about yourself is a great way to get comfortable with speaking in front of a group, but isn’t always realistic if you need to give a speech at a meeting or an industry event. What you can do is to put a little of you into the speech. Draw inspiration from your own experiences. If you are new to the industry, find an experience from your past that parallels the goal of the speech or presentation that you need to give.
Just A Few Final Tips
1. Don’t read directly from your notes. Use them if you need them, but try to keep eye contact with your audience.
2. If you feel yourself getting nervous take a deep breath before starting your next sentence.
3. If you forget something don’t stress about it. If you just keep speaking, chances are good that your audience will never know you left something out.
4. Take a look at some public speaking videos. If you search for Toastmasters Speeches on YouTube you can find a bunch of videos of speeches that have won awards.
Chalet Fuery’s 14 year career with U-Haul has been spent entirely in the Contact Center, first as a phone agent and most recently as the Contact Center Program Manager for the U-Haul Self-Storage Affiliate Network. She has been speaking with the U-Haul Toastmasters club for almost 2 years