As seen on a social media site near you: a photo of a deserted gym on December 31, overcrowding in the same gym on January 1 – only to dwindle again by February 1.
Most of our New Year’s resolutions include exercise, eating habits, spending more time with friends and family. Have you considered a resolution to speak up more in public? The trick to any resolution – in this case, improving your speaking skills – is to take one step at a time, which will help you overcome any nervousness. There’s no need to dive directly into a keynote presentation!
How can you best go about it?
First, start by practicing. You may feel more comfortable starting out in private, even if you address your stuffed animals. Speaking in front of a mirror is better than speaking to an empty room, since you can immediately correct mannerisms such as clenching your hands. You can even use a video camera, which will help you see yourself as others will see you, and allows you to improve eye contact and speaking volume. And relax – you don’t need to show your video to anyone!
Next, branch out into small circles. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to listen to your presentations. You can also practice in a supportive environment by joining a Toastmasters club. Most clubs meet weekly, and will give you the opportunity to get feedback, and experiment with speaking styles outside of your immediate work environment. Different clubs have different personalities, so visit several before choosing one. (Or more – I’m a member of three clubs!)
How do you put this practice to work, and bring these newfound skills to your job? Again, taking small steps will help you ease into larger and more public forums. For example:
- Resolve to speak up regularly on conference calls and in meetings. This will give you the opportunity to practice as part of a more conversational interaction.
- Volunteer to give status updates. You can use this as an opportunity to practice structuring and preparing short presentations.
- Research opportunities to speak regularly. Many clubs, such as Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions look for speakers for local meetings. You can also look at other volunteer organizations that support a cause, such as cancer research.
- Ask to give a short presentation at work, for example to present the results of a project you are involved with, or a new product feature.
- Work your way up to customer presentations and conference sessions, which will increase your own visibility, and that of your company.
And if one presentation does not go perfectly, don’t worry. Usually, your audience will not notice that you skipped over a point, or that you used a particular gesture too often.
The more you speak, the more proficient you will become. And more confident!
It’s the New Year - where will you speak next?
Find a clubs in District 4 Toastmasters: http://www.d4tm.org/Membership/findingClub.php