Be Real — How To Speak In Public (and Everywhere Else)

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

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.

Watch a TED Talk.

#TEDTalkTuesday

From TED Talks: The Official TED Guide To Public Speaking by Chris Anderson :-

The house lights dim. A woman, her palms sweating, her legs trembling just a little, steps out onto the stage. A spotlight hits her face, and 1200 pairs of eyes lock onto hers. The audience senses her nervousness. There is palpable tension in the room. She clears her throat and starts to speak.

What happens next is astounding.

The 1200 brains inside the heads of 1200 independent individuals start to behave very strangely. They begin to sync up. A magic spell woven by the woman washes over each person. They gasp together. Laugh together. Weep together. And as they do so, something else happens. Rich, neurologically encoded patterned of information inside the woman’s brain are somehow copied and transferred to the 1200 brains in the audience. These patterns will remain in those brains for the rest of their lives, potentially impacting their behaviour years into the future.

The woman on the stage is weaving wonder, not witchcraft. But her skills are as potent as any sorcery.

Ants shape each other’s behaviour by exchanging chemicals. We do it by standing in front of each other, peering into each other’s eyes, waving our hands and emitting strange sounds from our mouths. Human-to-human communication is a true wonder of the world. We do it unconsciously everyday. And it reaches its most intense form on the public stage.

The campfires or old have spawned a new kind of fire. A fire that spreads from mind to mind, screen to screen: the ignition of ideas whose time has come. From the first time our ancestors teamed up to take down a mammoth to Neil Armstrong’s first step onto the moon, people have turned spoken words into astonishing shared achievements.

We need that now more than ever. Ideas that could solve our toughest problems often remain invisible because the brilliant people in whose minds they reside lack the confidence or the know- how to share those ideas effectively. That is a tragedy. At a time when the right idea presented the right way can ripple across the world at the speed of light, spawning copies of itself in millions of minds, there’s huge benefit to figuring out how best to set it on its way, both for you, and for the rest of the world who need to know what you have to say.

Are you ready?

Let’s go light a fire.

Watch the most popular TED Talks of all time:

https://www.ted.com/playlists/171/the_most_popular_talks_of_all