9 Ways to Sharpen Your Public Speaking Skills

By July 20, 2022Corporate MC, Post
How To Improve Public Speaking Skills

Getting ready to make your Maid of Honor speech at your best friend’s wedding? Important presentation coming up that could lead to a promotion at work?

Sounds like it’s time to brush up your public speaking skills. And good news – look no further.

Here are my 9 public speaking tips to take your speech to the next level:

See Related: 7 Secrets for Becoming a Confident Public Speaker

Why are public speaking skills important?

You don’t need to be a newscaster or high school principal to benefit from public speaking skills.

Opportunities to speak publicly can pop up at the drop of a hat. When they occur, you will thank yourself for being prepared.

Here are a few scenarios in which you’ll thank yourself for practicing public speaking:

  • A colleague gets sick and you need to step up for a big presentation
  • Your friend is struggling to get the audience’s attention at an anniversary party
  • A local university asks you to speak to their seniors about your successful career

But I’m already a solid public speaker!

That may very well be. But do professional athletes stop training because they already won a game? No; they continue pushing themselves to improve and get stronger.

If you want to learn how to improve public speaking skills, start here.

#1: Pay attention to your body language and facial expressions

Shows like The Voice, America’s Got Talent, and American Idol can be fun to watch. There are talented vocalists, of course, but they’re not just mesmerizing to listen to. They know how to put on a show.

What I’m trying to say is that visuals are a huge part of a successful presentation. And by visuals, I mean what your body and your face are doing.

The bread and butter of good public speaking skills are body language and facial expressions. This means:

  • Standing up straight to exude confidence
  • Conveying with your body that the audience members should focus on you
  • Identifying and nixing nervous gestures that distract the audience from your message
  • And so much more!

Translating expressions into good public speaking means:

  • Looking in the mirror and practicing your expressions for different circumstances
    • What does your face do when you are telling a joke? How about when you are presenting serious information?
  • Knowing when and when not to react to what is happening at the event
    • As a speaker, it is your job to keep your cool and guide the audience confidently. If a mishap occurs, keep your expressions calm and unfazed.
    • At the same time, be spontaneous enough to make the most of unexpected twists.
  • Grasping that the expression you think you are making may not be the one you actually are
    • We’re all guilty of this sometimes! You’re listening to a conversation thinking that your face reads as supportive and interested. But later, your friend asks why you were so upset. Upset?
      • Mirror work can help. Observe your expressions carefully; you will develop an understanding of how the muscles in your face feel.
        • With practice, you can replicate those expressions without needing to see what you look like!

Person with brown hair in blue button down shirt makes speech to group of people excited to listen to their message#2: Practice maintaining eye contact

This can feel uncomfortable for many people – namely why not many people are masters of ceremonies. But eye contact helps you stay connected to the audience when public speaking.

It brings you back to the fact that you are just having a conversation with these people. Like you would chat with a friend! Conceptually, it’s quite simple: look them in the eye and exchange words.

Of course, we know it is anything but simple in reality.

Here’s a trick from the world of theater and film

If you’re just getting used to eye contact, try this: instead of looking people directly in the eye, look at the space right between their eyes.

This tactic can help ease social anxiety.

It connects the audience to you while you ease into the vulnerability of full eye contact. It appears like you are looking at their eyes, but provides a layer of safety.

Eventually, you will feel ready to graduate to actually looking the audience in the eyes.

#3: Focus on your breathing

Taking mindful breaths is one of the most vital public speaking skills.

Why is deep breathing so important to good delivery in public speaking?

  • It allows you moments to check in with yourself throughout your speech
  • It encourages you to speak slowly so that everyone can understand you
  • It gives you the opportunity to release negative thoughts and ground yourself

Practice diaphragmatic breathing

A great public speaker knows how to engage their core while breathing. What does this mean?

Diaphragmatic breathing is the practice of mindfully using your diaphragm to take deep breaths. This is different from how we breathe every day.

Usually, we don’t take very deep breaths. So, we don’t usually take advantage of our full lung capacities.

But if you engage your diaphragm, you reap the benefits of using your full lung capacity.

Greater lung capacity allows you to:

  • Deliver words with a clear, resonant voice
  • Avoid running out of breath mid-speech
  • Complete lengthy sentences on a single breath
  • Incorporate mindfulness and confidence into your presentation style

Person in yellow dress and black boots walks onstage in darkly lit theater to deliver a presentation with an important message#4: Prepare materials that highlight your main points

When you were in school, don’t you wish you could’ve brought your notes into the testing room? I probably would have done a lot better in math…

Guess what? When you’re speaking publicly, you can bring your notes!

Come prepared with any materials that will help you do your best.

This may mean:

  • A slide deck
  • Handheld notes
  • Visual aids like charts
  • Multimedia content

Get creative and really think about which type of aid will fold seamlessly into your presentation.

If you prepare material to support your key points:

  • You will feel confident moving from one point to the next point
  • You will help the audience feel well-guided throughout the whole speech
  • Support such as a visual aid can help the audience focus on your speech

The bottom line is that you don’t have to be alone up there. In fact, incorporating notes or visual aids can take your speech to the next level of sophistication.

Bonus: 5 Invigorating Ways to Boost Employee Job Satisfaction

#5: Ask friends to be your audience members

Tons of people have public speaking anxiety and/or stage fright. It’s totally normal! If this applies to you, don’t worry – it is completely understandable.

After all, public speaking is a vulnerable thing to do. You are often the center of attention, and the audience is looking to you for guidance.

While common, it is important to work on overcoming this fear. Once you do, you can step into your full power as a speaker.

To overcome a fear of public speaking and improve your public speaking skills, try this:

Practice and rehearse with friends as your audience. Put together a mock public speaking engagement!

Invite friends or family whom you trust and understand social anxiety. You will improve your public speaking by receiving feedback from your loved ones on:

  • Your body language
  • Your sense of humor
  • Whether or not you conveyed confidence
  • If you came across as nervous

Person with salt and pepper hair in business suit holds handheld microphone and gestures as they make a speech as they stand on a small stageTaking constructive criticism can be challenging.

However, it is necessary to become a great speaker. Creating a safe environment in which to practice and receive feedback is a great way to get used to it.

#6: Seek out low-stakes speaking gigs

Ready to work on your speaking skills, but not quite prepared for a TED Talk? Understandable!

Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to practice your public speaking skills in less intense settings. (I would not recommend signing up to be an event host right off the bat.)

Seize the opportunity to practice public speaking by:

  • Volunteering to give a toast at your friend’s wedding
  • Stepping up to welcome runners to a 5K charity event
  • Presenting a silly PowerPoint presentation to a family member on their birthday
  • Asking your manager if you can lead the next team meeting

Like most skills, the best way to get better at public speaking is by doing. You can study roller skating, but the most effective way to learn is by lacing up yourself.

#7: Record your speeches and watch them back

This is a great way to enhance your public speaking skills.

Many great public speakers record speeches, then review them.

Here are some of the benefits of watching your speech:

  • It teaches you to look at your speech with an objective and critical eye
  • You will have greater confidence the next time you walk onstage because you’ve studied
  • It is easy to identify areas of improvement, as well as positive ones that you should celebrate

I think that this can help you overcome a fear of public speaking, too. Studying your speech helps you separate the personal from the professional.

Person in yellow dress holds microphone and makes presentation to group of people standing around them who will engage in conversation when they are done presenting#8: Watch your favorite public speakers for inspiration

This is one of my favorites! To give a great speech, it is so important for you to feel inspired. You will captivate your audience when they feel passion in the way you talk.

Head to YouTube and watch your favorite:

  • Hosts of the Academy Awards who had you rollicking and excited
  • Comedians who had you wishing their 1-hour Netflix special was longer
  • Presenters at the Kennedy Center Honors who touched your heart

To become a great public speaker, you must release pride and ego.

Be a constant student. Listen and learn when you’re in the audience. You are never too experienced to practice.

#9: Fake it til you make it

Here’s a secret: no one is totally comfortable speaking in public. Even event emcees!

You may never feel 100% ready to lead that presentation. But at some point, you have to get up there and try!

Even if you are reeling with nerves on the inside, you can still give a captivating speech. Here’s how to sound confident, even when you don’t feel that way:

Don’t be afraid to use the tools on your belt:

  • Speak with a confident voice (well-paced, even, supported with breath)
  • Stand up straight as you make your presentation – you will exude confidence
  • Smile and look at the audience so they feel confident in your abilities

Use these tools and I promise the audience won’t guess you were half as nervous as you felt!

Person in blue business suit makes presentation and stands on small stage and faces audience excited to hear them talk while holding microphoneLet’s review!

Before your next speaking engagement, remember these tips to up your public speaking game:

#1: Pay attention to your body language and facial expressions

#2: Practice maintaining eye contact

#3: Focus on your breathing

#4: Prepare materials that highlight your focus points

#5: Ask friends to be your audience members

#6: Seek out low-stakes speaking gigs

#7: Record your speeches and watch them back

#8: Watch your favorite public speakers for inspiration

#9: Fake it til you make it

With that, you are ready to sharpen your public speaking skills. You can do this!

Keep Reading: 8 Reasons Why Company Values Are Important

Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetingsspecial eventsgala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on InstagramFacebookPinterestLinkedIn, and YouTube.