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How to Get Better At Public Speaking (Improve With Practice)

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This post is part of a series called Fundamentals of Public Speaking (101) Introduction Guide.
10+ Top Public Speaking Tips (To Help You Improve Quickly)
24 Quick Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

If you need to improve your public speaking skills, practice is one of the best ways to do it. In fact, you can have a great topic and a well-written speech—but without enough practice you could still miss the mark and fail to engage your listeners.

Improve Public Speaking by Practicing In Front of Mirror
You can improve your public speaking skills by practicing in front of a mirror. (Source: Envato Elements)

Discover how to be a better speaking through practice. In this tutorial, you'll discover some good ways to practice public speaking. We'll provide helpful some tips and techniques on how to get better at public speaking through practice that you can use right away. I've also created a table of problems that public speakers frequently need to work on for you to use as a checklist.

Also, if you want to take these tips further, be sure to download our free eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great PresentationsIt'll help you master the complete presentation process.

 Free eBook PDF Download Make a Great Presentation

Make Sure Your Speech Is Top-Notch

You've a got a message to share and an opportunity to share it by giving a public speech. Whether your message is about marketing your business, a cause you care about, or some other type of assignment—your message won't be well received if you don't present it well. If you're not already a good public speaker, you probably need to improve your public speaking skills. You can learn how to become a better speaker.

In this series on the fundamentals of public speaking we've already covered a lot of the public speaking basics such as:

If you haven't already, it would be a good idea to review some of the tutorials in the series.

Another area that's important to your success as a speaker is using the right tools to give an effective speech. In particular, it's important to use a well-designed template if you plan on using a professional presentation tool such as Google Slides or PowerPoint. Using a template will save you time as you prepare your presentation. If you're looking for professionally designed templates, you can find a lot of eye-catching templates at Envato Elements or GraphicRiver.

But all that preparation could be wasted if you aren't properly prepared to give your presentation. And what better way to improve your public speaking skills than to practice them?

How to Become a Better Speaker Through Practice

Public speaking practice really is a key part of how to be a good public speaker. You've probably attended a public speech before where the speaker wasn't really prepared—and it showed. If you have, you already know that it wasn't a good experience for the speaker or for the audience.

The main point of public speaking practice isn't to have you memorize your speech. Rather, it's to make you comfortable with your material and also comfortable speaking in front of others.

1. Use a Checklist

It can be helpful to have a table of areas that you need to work on that you can use as a checklist. Here's a table listing some common areas you may need to work on during your public speaking practice:

Areas to 
Work On

What to
Look For

Common Problems

How to Fix It!

Knowledge of material

The speaker should sound knowledgeable.

Speaker gets facts wrong, or appears confused

Study the material thoroughly. Review the written transcript and highlight any facts you stumble over.

Articulation

The audience should be able to understand what the speaker is saying.

Speaker mispronounces words

Practice! Many online dictionaries now have pronunciation guidance. Click the speaker icon to the right of the word you need help with.

Volume

Audience members can't hear the presentation.

The speaker talks too softly

A microphone can help. If that's not available, practice talking in a louder-than-normal voice. Be careful not to shout.

Pace

The speaker talks so rapidly that the audience can't follow.

Often caused by nerves or speaker may be unaware they're speaking too fast

This is best caught by a second party, although the speaker may be able to catch it themselves if they record and listen to their speech.

Unnecessary interjections

The speech contains distracting crutch words like "um," "uh," etc.

Many people habitually add these words without realizing it

As you practice, pay attention to the actual words you're saying. Know what words you tend to add and try to avoid using them.

Awkward pauses

The speaker stops or loses their place.

Speaker relies too heavily on notes or reading the speech

Practice will help you remember what you're going to say so that you don't have to rely on a script.

Skill with presentation tool

The speaker puts up the wrong slide, has trouble starting a video, and so on.

Most frequent cause is that the speaker is unfamiliar with the presentation tool

Before giving your public speech, study tutorials on the tool you'll be using. This series on PowerPoint or this series on Google Slides could be helpful.

Professional appearance

The speaker should be dressed to fit in with the audience.

Occurs because the speaker didn't check with the organizer

If you're not familiar with the group you'll be giving the presentation to, ask the organizer how members usually dress. If it's convenient, visit a group meeting before your speaking event.

Body language

The speaker stands too stiffly, or slouches.

A stiff posture may indicate nerves, or the speaker may slouch without knowing it

Practice can help overcome nerves. Or, follow some of the tips found here. To avoid slouching, watch yourself speak in a mirror or on video and notice your posture.

Eye contact

The speaker looks down or away from the audience.

Typically caused by shyness or nerves

Pick three points on the wall behind the audience. Take turns looking at each point as you speak.

Gestures

Gestures are too frequent or distract from the speech.

May be a bad habit or speaker may tend to "talk" with their hands

Watch yourself in a mirror, or have a friend take a video, to see if your gestures enhance your speech or distract from it.

Use this table as a checklist by yourself or give it to someone who's helping you practice your public speaking skills.

2. Practice With a Friend or Coach

Ideally, you'll be able to practice your speech in front of someone else who can give you feedback. Of course, a professional speech coach would be helpful, but not everyone has a speech professional available to them.

If you're like many casual speakers, you'll be practicing with a friend or family member. With a little guidance, you can still get valuable feedback from them. Direct them to the table above and ask them to look for the problems described. Encourage them to be totally honest with you—the last thing you need is someone who won't point out problems because they don't want to upset you or hurt your feelings.

Here are a few tips for practicing with someone else:

  • Ask them to write their feedback down. It's okay if they give it to you verbally too, but you may have trouble remembering it if you're nervous.
  • Be mindful of the other person's time. Don't expect them to listen to you practice for hours at a time, especially if the person has volunteered help you.
  • Don't take feedback personally, even if it's not what you expected. Remember that the more problems you can correct early on, the more you'll improve your public speaking skills.
  • If you can get more than one person to listen to you practice, the varied perspectives can be extremely helpful.
  • Be realistic in your expectations, even if you're working with a professional coach. Typically, the process of improving your speaking skills occurs gradually over time. And the more speeches you give, the more you'll improve.

3. Practice Alone

What if you don't have anyone who's willing to help you practice your speech? If no one's available to provide you with constructive criticism, don't worry. You can still practice public speaking and improve your public speaking skills.

Here are three basic ways to practice alone:

  1. In front of a mirror. By practicing in front of a mirror, you'll immediately get a good idea of how you look giving a speech. You can judge whether your appearance is professional and notice whether you're standing straight. You may even be able to practice making eye contact if you pretend your reflection is an audience member.
  2. Set up a video camera. Watching a video recording of yourself speaking is a good opportunity to improve your public speaking skills. You can just set the video camera up to record and then give your speech exactly as you would before an audience. Plus, you can watch the video over and over to make sure that you catch all of the areas that need improvement.
  3. Record your speech. If you don't have access to a video camera, you can still benefit by making an audio recording of your speech. Audio recordings are especially good for discovering problems with articulation, volume, and pace.

4. Practice With a Group

Another way to practice your public speaking skills is to join a public speaking group or take a speech class.

Public speaking groups were created with the goal of helping members to improve their public speaking skills. Members are usually more than happy to provide feedback to each other. And they typically offer plenty of opportunities to practice your speaking skills. You can find a public speaking group through Toastmasters International or look for a Public Speaking Meetup on the Meetup website. 

If you take a speech class, you'll likely be working with a teacher who can provide you with some guidance on how to get better at public speaking. You may also receive constructive criticism on your public speaking skills from other class members.

5. Other Tips for Better Public Speaking

If you're using a presentation software tool such as Google SlidesPowerPoint, or Keynote it's also a good idea to use a professional template such as those available from Envato Elements or Graphic River.

A professionally designed template will keep your presentation from becoming just another boring slideshow. Plus, you'll save time because the design work is already done for you. All you need to do is slip the text of your speech and your own images into the slide templates. Voila, your slide presentation is done!

To get an idea of what type of slide designs are available, check out this article: 17+ Best PowerPoint Template Designs for 2017.

Scope Out Your Venue

No matter how good of a public speaker you are, it's still a good idea to check out your speaking venue before you give your speech. Great speaking skills won't help you if you arrive at the designated location on the day of the speech only to find that the equipment won't work or isn't available or that there aren't enough seats for audience members. If the venue is close by, it's a good idea to arrange to visit it in person. If you can't visit it in person, however, at least call and ask about the equipment and the size of the room.

Start Making Great Presentations Today

Take the tips you learned in this article further with our new eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. Grab it now for FREE, along with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. 

 Free eBook PDF Download Make a Great Presentation

Disorganized content, unclear design, and poor delivery can hinder even the best presentation ideas. Don't design a bad presentation that fails to deliver. 

Instead, learn how to write your presentation, design it like a pro, and prepare it to present powerfully. This 30-page eBook with helpful PDF checklist will walk you through the complete presentation process.

Conclusion

If you want to improve your public speaking skills, public speaking practice is definitely the way to go. There are many ways to practice public speaking, we've just covered some of the most useful. We've also added some useful tips for better public speaking to help you become a good public speaker. So, go ahead and start practicing your speaking skills. Good luck!

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