How can I be a better public speaker? I still get nervous and shake before public speaking and I want to be more confident. I have a job interview, or a wedding speech or an important presentation at University, can you help me prepare. Media interviews and unexpected questions really make me nervous.
I make my living by training, coaching and inspiring people to develop their public speaking skills and confidence. The above questions are just a few of the requests I get daily from people wishing to be more effective in their public speaking and presentation skills.
The More You Do It, The Easier It Becomes
If there was one magic elixir or dominant rule that makes people better public speakers, I would say that you need to “Make Public Speaking A Habit”. By habit, I mean regularly and consistently stand up and speak. And in my view, once a week, public speaking, is a good goal and habit to develop. This may be at meetings, presentations to teams, safety meetings, lunch and learn sessions, face to face or online. The goal is to speak to an audience once a week where your message and what you say matters and you will in some form or another, be judged.
If we acknowledge that public speaking is a skill and it can be studied, and learnt and practised, making it a habit makes sense. James Clear in his bestselling book, Atomic Habits, talks about the importance of repetition in developing a new skill. Tony Robins, motivational speaker and author of Awaken the Giant Within states that “Repetition is the mother of skill”.
Neuroscientists call this repetition Long-Term Potentiation. Repeating the habit results in long term changes to the brain. With each repetition of your public speaking, cell to cell signalling improves for the task of public speaking and you become more skilled and more confident.
Becoming A Great Public Speaker
So why do people still come to me for quick fixes and one session cures for their fear of public speaking? Unfortunately, while I think I am good at what I do, I am not that good, and even as a biochemist, I do not know of any drug that reliably and consistently makes you a great public speaker. To become more confident and effective in public speaking, for most people it is a journey, and we need to start the habit of speaking regularly.
We can go to a sporting analogy and if you want to become good at a sport, then you practise. If you stop training and playing, then that skill, ability, and confidence that you developed, will disappear. So think of public speaking as a sport and get in the habit of practising. Like any other skill it needs to be maintained and repeated.
The good news is that we can all learn to be confident and effective speakers. Ralf Waldo Emmerson said that “all the great speakers were bad speakers once”. So, for those of you who find public speaking hard, or struggle with nerves and those of you who want to be more effective and influential through your public speaking, make your public speaking a habit. Something you think about daily and practise at least weekly.