Liz Reyer, a contributing writer to the Hartford Courant, says in a Q&A (9/28/10) that practice is the key to being a good public speaker: “Know your goals as a speaker, prepare, get feedback, and practice, practice, practice! ” She says to “[s]tart by envisioning what success would look like. If you were in the audience, what would like to see? On the inside, how do you want to feel when you’re up in front of the room?”
Reyer notes that if confidence is an issue, strategies like visualizing yourself speaking successfully and learning pre-presentation breathing techniques can help you relax. Since a nervous presenter makes the audience nervous, conveying yourself confidently matters as much as being organized and presenting materials at the audience’s level. Presenting materials clearly and with good visuals also matters. The less text on your slides, the better, and avoid reading your slides, so that you can engage with your audience. None of this, however, replaces the substance of your presentation and your knowledge of it. But without good form, your audience may not get the substance.
So if you want to improve your public speaking skills, pick one or two of the skills above and practice, practice, practice—out loud and in front of a mirror or friend. And contact a Peer Advisor at www.wesleyan.edu/peeradvising for more public speaking tips.