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How to get better at public speaking

Improve your public speaking skills by integrating these small tips and practices into your everyday life.

Public speaking is an important skill in most industries, whether you’ll be standing in front of a boardroom or presenting a new client with plans for their kitchen renovation. As a student, you’ve likely come across an assignment that includes some form of speech or presentation and you might have asked yourself, “why do they make us do this!?”

It’s a good question with a good answer: by challenging you with presentations and speeches, we’re giving you as many practice opportunities as we can during your time as a student to help prepare you for the moments where you’ll need them in your future career. Having great public speaking skills helps you show your knowledge to employers and clients.

Here are our top three tips for how to get better at public speaking by incorporating small practices into your daily life.

Slow down

When we’re nervous, or are just trying to simply convey our thoughts clearly about a topic we’re passionate about, we tend to speed up how fast we speak. Coupled with breathing slowly, don’t be afraid to pause while you’re speaking to get your thoughts in order.

Relax and breathe

Don’t get us wrong, some nervous adrenaline is good in making us more alert and ready to give our best performance when public speaking.

If you notice speaking to strangers or people in your everyday life makes you feel anxious, taking the time to relax your body and mind can be helpful. Not only in making the person you’re speaking to feel at ease, but by intentionally helping your body to calm down.

For example, by practicing mindful breathing, you reduce the levels of stress hormone in your body and increase cognition. This can then help you get your thoughts out in a clear and concise way and stay alert to how your audience is responding to what you’re saying.

Even more, learning how to practice diaphragmatic breathing helps us in encouraging full oxygen exchange, lowering our blood pressure and heartbeat.

Before you go into a situation, and even during, take time to breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose, pushing your breath into your diaphragm. Just below your lungs, work to fill your lower belly with oxygen while keeping your chest still. Hold for a few seconds and then let your abdominal muscles fall inward as you exhale through your mouth.

Be intentional with your body language

Being afraid to speak in public often makes us feel stiff and tense, which can be seen in our body language. For example, when we feel awkward or nervous, we naturally avoid meeting our audience’s eyes, or we slouch or cross our arms. 

In your every day, try to practice standing up straight, keeping your body open with your shoulders back and hands either down by our side or using natural hand gestures as you speak. Making eye contact with those you’re speaking to can be hard, but it’s critical in helping the people you’re conversing with feel like they’re engaged toward you. 

If you’re speaking to a large group, make purposeful glances into their eyes, without staring them down. Finally, be mindful not to stare down at the ground, instead keep your chin parallel and lift your shoulders. Even if you don’t feel totally confident yet, you’ll look like you are!

 

Try these tips out next time you’re checking in at the doctor’s office, asking the barista to fix your coffee order or when meeting someone new. You’ve got this!