Before we begin, I’d like to preface this post with a statement: All speaking is public speaking, unless you’re talking to yourself. This is not a three-step “how to” on getting better at your school poem recitation.
Aight. All the advice that follows is drawn from personal experience, you have been warned.
Be comfortable in your own skin.
I have actively taken part in things that require me to talk to people outside of my usual circle. Sometimes, it’s a big crowd of middle-schoolers, sometimes teachers, sometimes friends from my grade or the Cambridge wing, and I feel the one thing to remember is to be okay with who you are.
It might seem completely irrelevant to the theme of public speaking, but I realize more and more now that unless I’m entirely in tune with myself, unless I know what makes me do the things I do while talking to people, I can never make myself better. If you realize that when you’re nervous about talking to someone, you shift your gaze downward, you can take steps to change that in your own time. Which brings me to the next big thing I learnt–
Take your time.
Better communication skills definitely make any relationship better, and while you should do everything in your power (and more) to constantly improve them, it’s grossly unproductive and hard on yourself, even, to pressure yourself into doing things you’ve never done before and hating yourself if you fail at it the first time.
The whole joy of talking to others is the uncertainty of not knowing how a single word or expression can lead to a completely serendipitous conversation. This can seem like a daunting process at first, but I assure you, it is not. If you find it hard to step outside your comfort zone, I encourage you to find a friend who can keep you accountable to your growth, AS LONG as you do it in small steps. Baby steps is key.
Have Courage and Be Kind
I cannot emphasize how important it is to be both firm enough to stand by your views, and also flexible enough to be open to others’ worldviews as well. I can’t!
Speaking to a larger crowd requires you to have a sense of humility and non-defensiveness that only comes with age, if you ask me. I surely haven’t mastered the skill of being slightly vulnerable to my audience, enough for them to relate and actually listen to what I’m saying. The simplest thing that we often forget is that, in the end, we’re talking to people. Not evaluating machines. Treat them as people who might want to talk to you the way you’re talking to them, not just mirrors for you to bounce your words off.
Once you realize this, I guess you’re halfway home.