I love explaining things to small groups of people and through writing on the web, but when it comes to speaking in front of large groups of people I turn into a bumbling mess. Public speaking is one of those acquired skills that I never quite got, but there’s still time. This week Fast Company spoke to a few podcasters who have mastered the skill (and have shows places like NPR and WNYC to prove it) and came up with a list of tips that even people like me can use to improve. Here are a few big takeaways.
Rehearse, But Don’t Stick to Your Script
It’s always good to go into any situation with a plan, but don’t let that plan crew you up down the line. Podcasters recommend planning your speech and conversation topics and rehearsing what you’re going to say, but once you’re done rehearsing throwing that script away.
No one wants to listen to someone read off a script. If you have it sitting in front of you, you’re likely to avoid improvising and sound boring. Instead, keep a list of talking points (that you’ve pre-planned what you’re going to say), and then talk through them. You’ll come off more casual and approachable, and people will, in turn, be much more interested in what you have to say.
At some point in high school, I had to give a big speech, and I can remember my teacher coaching us on removing all the “ums” and “likes” from what we had to say. I think if they actually made it into the final presentation we even lost points for them.
According to podcasters, an “um” and a “like” here and there is actually a good thing. It keeps the conversation going and makes you sound a bit more natural. Instead, they warn against silences. A silence in the middle of a speech is a much bigger deal than a “like” here and there (as long as you aren’t like, um, saying one, like, every, um, few like words).
Ask for Feedback
It’s always good to know when you’re rocking your speech, and when that dad joke is falling flat. Before making a huge presentation find someone who will give you honest feedback about it to do a dry run for.
Even after you do your speech, finding out what worked and what didn’t can help you better prepare the next one!
Check out the full list of tips on Fast Company.