[Toastmasters] Advice for beginners

Random Observation/Comment #395: I’m not a great public speaker, and I have loads where I can improve, but at least I’m trying to improve it and getting out there to practice.

leaf on the water

Question: What is the best advice for beginners who are afraid of public speaking?

Answer:

First and foremost, know your content – know it like you know your deepest passion.  In fact, if you’re just starting, we suggest you speak about these passions because you already know the content.

Secondly, try to break bad habits that may be the most distracting to the audience from your content and how you convey that information.  Some of the major distractions include: filler words (constantly repeated um’s, ah’s, likes, y’knows, etc), nervous twitches (playing with hair or constant shuffling), poor posture (leaning on one side and switching leans too frequently), speaking too softly, and poor eye contact.

  • To reduce filler words, do your best to remove it from your everyday speech and then simply slow down your speech and enter pauses while you practice.  Pausing will not only give you some time to gather your thoughts, but also add some emphasis and suspense to the speech.
  • To reduce nervous twitches, make sure you keep your hands loose for gestures and watch a replay of yourself speaking.  It will make you more self-conscious of these distractions.
  • To prevent poor posture, stand up straight and walk around the stage with more confidence.  Do not put your hands in your pocket and do not lean on anything.  Try to avoid the podium and address the audience with your full body.
  • To speak louder, pretend you are yelling to the back of the room.  Speak from your chest instead of your nose/throat.  Use the diaphragm as if you were singing a love song and trying to tell the world about it.  It may seem like you’re yelling, but it’s better to be too loud than too soft.
  • To improve on eye contact, pretend you are having many smaller conversations with each person in the audience instead of speaking to everyone at once. Address one person with your eyes and tell them your idea. Then speak to another person on the other side of the room.

If you look at speeches by great speakers, you’ll see that they care about conveying the ideas rather than speaking through their content. They communicate rather than read a well-written speech. The whole point is to convince your audience and emphasize those words to help them understand.

~See Lemons Speak in Public

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