I love to talk. There I said it. I like to talk to people, friends, family and everyone. I actively seek opportunities where I can speak with many new people and increase my circle of influence. Recently someone asked me how I speak in public the way I speak and how they could also get better at speaking with people. Now I did not have any specific tip or trick for that person at that point other than “you get a hang of it once you do it a couple of dozen times” but when I look back there are a lot of things that I did (and still do) that have helped me become a better speaker over the years. I think a lot of people can benefit from there very small but extremely helpful details and get better at speaking in public
Talk to strangers – You get to meet a lot of new people every day. It could be during the commute to work, at work or at a social gathering. Try to strike up a conversation with them. More importantly try to carry this conversation by fueling it with new ideas and giving it direction. You will meet different kinds of people in this process and getting to know these many people would give you the confidence to face a bunch of strangers when you have your public speaking engagement. On the plus side, everyone in the world is living a very interesting life. It would be fun to listen to their stories. So next time you are on a bus or train with someone strike a conversation and see where it goes. Fortunately for me dealing with so many different kinds of clients and entrepreneurs acts a great platform.
Read a lot – I am a bibliophile and I feel that this has helped me a lot in becoming a better speaker. The more you read the faster and more fluent you get with words in your mind. Words start to feel natural to you and you are comfortable with the formation of sentences and phrases. With every book or article read you will find out newer ways of saying the same thing and you then are free to choose the method of your liking. You will be introduced to phrases, idioms and anecdotes that you can use when you speak next. The idea here is before you master public speaking you should try to master the language.
Always come prepared – If you know in advance that you are going to be speaking in public, even in front of a small audience, it is always advised to come prepared. Go through your material a few times, make notes and if need be, practice the whole thing. Also I feel that the “practicing in front of a mirror” actually works. Personally I find it more awkward to be speaking with myself in the front of a mirror than in front of a crowd and if I am able to do that then I can take on any crowd. There is a reason for the idiom to be “Practice makes a man perfect”. Plus this also helps with your body language.
Become a better listener – Everyone loves a good listener. People really like it when they have someone they can share their stories and pains with. This will not only get you a lot of great karma points but also helps you become a better speaker. Listen to how people talk, how they pronounce different words, how different people have different styles of emphasizing on words and how they bring variations in their tone and pitch to convey their message. It is like a buffet of different kinds of speaking styles and you can cherry pick the one that you like.
Stay Calm and make mistakes – The real fear of public speaking is not the actual speaking but the constant fear that you might make a mistake. It is just like that awkward moment when the car of a newly trained driver abruptly stops just as the light turns green and all the people behind him stop honking and screaming. It’s not the driving that he is afraid of, it’s this honking and screaming that he doesn’t like. Like this situation the best thing to do is to stay calm. Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is to move forward making a note of the mistake so as to not make it again. Also a lot of mistakes can be avoided if you come prepared.
Bonus Point – I try to write as much as possible and that is also helpful as it provided me with an avenue where I can try different ways to express myself in a non-restricted less demanding environment. For me it is just more practice.
As I mentioned earlier, we are all living very interesting lives with many wonderful stories to share. You should come out of your shell and share your stories with the world for the world too has a lot of great stories for you.
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I have helped many startups in building their products and I would be happy to have a chat with you about your idea. Catch me on twitter at @akhilrex