“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” – Colin Powell
Like many other skills, public speaking is a continuous learning cycle. It is not something that you can learn and master overnight and then you’re good to go for the rest of your life. Good public speaking requires you to be persistent and to develop and adopt habits that make public speaking a normal part of your work.
If you want to be an effective public speaker, you need to continuously work on improving your skills. Here are six habits that you can start with to help you improve your public speaking skills.
- Speak weekly.
Even if you don’t have weekly speaking gigs, there are other ways and venues where you can practice your public speaking. You can join a Toastmasters club or a Rostrum club or participate in meetings at your workplace. You could step up and take a role in a sporting committee or school parents and citizens association or some other club role. Whatever you do, make sure you engage in public speaking at least once a week.
- Get feedback after each session.
They say, “Feedback is the food of champions”. The feedback you get about how you delivered your speech helps you pinpoint the areas that you need to improve. Find a friend or a relative who can provide you with honest feedback on your presentation. You can also use the Johari Window to analyse the feedback you received and become more self-aware. Get in the habit of receiving feedback, each time you speak.
- Use a coach or mentor.
Coaches and mentors can guide and fast track your public speaking development. They can help you keep the focus on the areas you need to improve on. They will challenge you and set stretch goals for you. They will give you honest feedback and share tips to help you improve your public speaking skills. Find a coach or mentor that you can work with regularly.
- Say yes to stretch assignments.
Getting outside your comfort zone is where we learn and improve the most.
Gini Rometty (CEO of IBM) said “Being comfortable and personal growth cannot coexist.” If you want to grow and improve, go outside your comfort zone and say yes to speaking engagements that make you feel uncomfortable. Yes, this will push you beyond your limits, but it will also push you to expand, learn and grow. One of my favourite sayings is, “If I am not nervous, then I am not playing a big enough gain”. Get out of your comfort zone and say yes to stretch assignments at least once a month.
Repetition is the mother of skills. Practising before each presentation will help you become more natural and confident at delivering your speech or presentation. Even well-known speakers practise before going on stage. Winston Churchill is known for spending 1 minute in practise for every 1 hour of his speech. Make practising before speaking a habit.
- Video record your speech.
The video does not lie. This is why it is considered one of the most effective tools that you can use to improve your public speaking skills. You can record your presentation and watch it later to see how you are in front of your audience. Be your own critic and pinpoint the areas that you want to improve on. Be your own coach and help yourself improve. You can also share the video with a colleague, coach or mentor and get further comments on how your presentation went. Get in the habit of videoing your speeches.
These are six habits that will help you become a better public speaker and presenter if you do regularly and consistently. Build these habits into your routine and stick to them. Remember that even great speakers implement most of these habits in their efforts to continuously improve and better serve their audience.
If you would like to boost your public speaking skills, I am running a workshop on Winning Presentation Skills on 25 August and this workshop can also be delivered in-house to 10 to 15 people.