What a Pandemic Taught Us About How We Communicate — and How We Can Improve
Public speaking is a learned skill. Sure, it comes more naturally to some people, but many public speaking nuances take practice and commitment to learn.
Books are a great place to start when learning how to improve your public speaking skills. We know. You may be wondering how reading a book about public speaking will help you improve in an area where reading isn’t allowed! Well for starters, reading is proven to enhance your vocabulary and help you structure your ideas better.
You can go back, and use your book as a reference point when knowing what to focus on next and how to do it. Here are some of the best books about public speaking:
- The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie
- TED Talks: The Official TED Guide To Public Speaking by Chris Anderson
- Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun
- Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds
Blogs are a short-format way to read about tips for becoming a better public speaker. Just like reading, you can really learn the process and skills required to improve your public speaking skills. Blogs can also show a lot of personality and are easier to read if you’re just starting out.
Many great speakers haven’t written books yet due to the time and effort it takes to write one. But because of the simplicity of a blog, famous speakers often choose this option. Let’s take a look at some major blogs focused on public speaking:
- Everything I know About Presentations, I Learned in Theatre School
- The Accidental Communicator
- Public Speaking–How I prepare Every Time
- 10 Public Speaking Tips for Introverts
Many of us struggle to enjoy reading and much prefer auditory learning. If that sounds like you, then podcasts can be a great resource. Podcasts have all the benefits of a book or a blog, with the added benefit of hearing tonal changes as someone speaks. The more tones your brain participates in processing, the easier it will be to mimic the appropriate tones as you speak. Here are some great podcasts to listen to as you work on improving your public speaking skills (all of these can be found on Spotify and iTunes):
- The Speaker’s Secrets
- The Speaking Show With David Newman
- Fearless Presentations
- No Sweat Public Speaking
There are hundreds of Youtube channels dedicated to public speaking. We’ll list some popular channels, but really if there’s any specific skill you want to work on, you can type it in the search bar and hundreds of videos will show up. If you’re looking for a more structured channel that builds on public speaking principles little by little, check out these channels:
- Communication Coach Alex Lyon
- David JP Phillips
- Public Speaking Academy
- Public Speaking Lab
Public Speaking Coaches
If you’re able to spend a big chunk of change on private coaching, it will definitely help. Public speaking coaches make improving your public speaking skills less stressful than doing it all on your own would be.
Instead of guessing what you need to improve on, a public speaking coach can observe you and give you personalized feedback. Along with feedback, they will give you the tools you need to work on your weaknesses and enhance your strengths. This isn’t a cheap option, but it is one of the best resources available.
Come on, a camera? It seems too simple! It may seem simple, but a camera is essential when it comes to improving your public speaking. Recording yourself allows you to observe yourself and identify your obvious weaknesses. Once you’ve identified your obvious weaknesses, you can then start looking for resources to help with those specific problems. Recording yourself also lets you see the progress you're making and increases your confidence.
Friends and Family
Practice your public speaking in front of friends and family. They will be able to give you honest feedback and will likely catch a few things you’d miss on your own. We’re all biased towards ourselves and will miss little opportunities to improve here and there. Practicing in front of family and friends eliminates our personal biases and opens the door to practice with a little bit more pressure involved.
There’s no better way to get comfortable speaking in front of strangers than by talking to strangers! There’s two ways strangers can be a resource as you focus on public speaking skills.
- You need to learn how to not care about what others think of you. Talking to strangers is awkward at first, and if you can get over that awkwardness, it will eliminate so many nerves that come from speaking in public.
- Strangers are likely to be brutally honest if you’re upfront with them. Be upfront with them about needing honest feedback and give them a short little presentation. Once you’re done, get feedback and start looking for trends that emerge.
Public speaking classes are a great resource because they provide you with specific exercises, feedback, and a timeline for improving your public speaking. Most Universities and Community Colleges have public speaking classes, so do a quick google search and see if you can find any classes near you! Classes are rarely free, so do a cost analysis on if this option or a personal coach would be best.
The final resource we want to mention are workshops! If you’re not quite looking for something as intense as a class or personal coach, but still want structure, a workshop is right for you. Workshops could be anywhere from a whole day to a half day to a full month split into weekly increments. No matter the workshop you choose, it will help you become a better public speaker.
Becoming a good public speaker is a lofty goal and we commend you for being brave enough to get out there and reach for the stars! We hope this helps guide you to some valuable resources that will put you on the path to becoming a great public speaker.