Be a Better Educator: 15 Tips to Boost your Public Speaking Skills
This month we are delighted to be hosting a public speaking workshop with one of our clients. It’s all about becoming a better educator and increasing public speaking skills. That means confidence, engagement and authenticity while presenting, and the ability to distill key messages into meaningful learning outcomes.
We often get asked about how to develop skill as a public speaker. We’re flattered! We’ve hosted hundreds of presentations, and a variety of interactive workshops on the subject at various natural health companies and wellness organizations such as Whole Foods Market, Vega and Semperviva Yoga Teachers College. Each time we notice how common it is to fear public speaking, but we’ve also noticed that even seasoned speakers are eager to expand their skill set.
We believe mastery comes through practice and preparation. Aside from the obvious tips you’ve probably already heard (like make eye contact, move around the room, and avoid “like”or “um”), below is a slightly more unconventional round-up, that should add a few new strategies to your toolkit.
Much like a variety of exercises are best for increasing strength, using a variety of public speaking skill development techniques will be more effective to boosting your results and performance.
Pineapple Collective’s Top 15 Tips to Improve your Public Speaking Skills:
1. Sign Up for an Improv Class. Maybe one of our boldest tips, but if you open yourself up to being vulnerable, it can actually be one of the most effective ways to develop the ability to integrate humour and think quick on your feet. Look up classes at local community centres or theatre houses (like the improv drop-in’s offered by Vancouver Theatre Sports League at the False Creek Community Centre), or search for local improv troupes who may host seasonal workshops. If this idea horrifies you, maybe start with watching live improv and progress from there when you’re ready.
2. (Audio) Record Yourself. Using your smart phone, try recording yourself as you practice your next presentation or speech. Without body language (which can account for as much as 70-80% of your communications), this will really help you focus on the finer details of intonation and emphasis. See if you pronounce certain words in a distracting way, if you pause too long (or not long enough), and keep a tally of words that you may use as a crutch. (Author’s note: for the longest time I used to finish my sentences with “does that make sense?”. While I thought I was doing the audience a service and checking in, I soon realized it was too frequently used, and distracting.)
3. Video Yourself and Watch Without Sound. The opposite of the tip above, this exercise is ALL about body language. The best method is to have someone record a few minutes of you as you deliver your next presentation. Or as with the above tip, simply record a practice session. When we are coaching clients, we look for things like: shifting your weight from one foot to the other (swaying), fiddling with a prop in your hand, leaning on a table or podium (perhaps seeking strength?), poor posture and distracting hand gestures. This is also a good chance to look carefully at your facial expressions. Do you appropriately convey the emotion you are seeking to evoke from your audience? (joy, confidence, or perhaps the need to be stern).
4. Practice Enunciation with Tongue Twisters. This is a fun one! We promise. English as a second language sites are a great place to look. We often use these tongue twisters from A-Z. Focus on enunciating clearly, and specifically. There should be no confusion about what you are saying. Take it slow. This is a great warm up before a speech too. Try some of our favourites to get started:
- Can you cook a proper cup of coffee in the copper pot
- Inexplicably mimicking him hiccupping
- Grab the groundhog from the glazed grass
5. Distill Down to Your Key Message. Using the idea of a “meal”, “snack” and “bite”, try re-writing your main speaking points several times, each time getting more and more succinct. You will likely start with full sentences, and should end up with key words. This makes for a more effective outline to take up with you when presenting. It will help keep you from using your paper as a crutch, and merely as a cue card.
6. Embrace Pauses. Every time you want to use one of your word crutches (which you’ll find out by trying Tip #2), try pausing instead. The brief moment will feel longer to you than it will your audience, and it will also give you a moment to catch your breath (if speaking too fast), or gather your thoughts (if you’ve been rambling). The pause will also give time for your main points to sink in, so choose a few places to use them intentionally.
7. Practice Savvy Segues. A mark of a skilled speaker is the ability to move seamlessly from one point to the next. This is also a useful skill if you are asking for audience input and have to pivot from an off topic response and bring the conversation back where you want it. A great example of this is action is late night host Stephen Colbert. Watch a few of his interviews and opening monologues to see how he navigates between topics with guests, and interacts with his band (he welcomes unscripted moments). You can also pick out two slides from your presentation deck at random and practice finding a way to merge the content if you had to present them back to back.
8. Power of the Pep Talk: Visualize Success. We encourage taking a moment alone pre-presentation (in your car, the bathroom, before you leave home) to give yourself a positive, encouraging pep talk in the mirror and strike a power-pose. We take our inspiration from athletes, who often get a motivational talk from their coach before they play/perform. A research study from The International Journal of Sport Science found that athletes were more inspired to perform if they watched a motivational video compared to those who did not. For inspiration, and a dose of adorable, watch Jessica’s Daily Affirmations.
9. Find Your Breath. Before you “go live” try not to sit for too long. Get up, stretch, walk around, or at the very least sit up straight and take a few deep breaths. Your diaphragm is restricted when sitting and can affect your breathing, which can heighten your feelings of anxiety and nervousness.
10. Use Calming Nutrients. Such as holy basil, L-theanine and adaptogens like reishi mushrooms can help you feel more resilient in the face of an impending adrenaline or cortisol spike. We’ve enjoyed New Roots Chill Pills (capsule), Four Sigmatic Instant Reishi (functional beverage), and Medi Herb – Nevaton (tablets). Best when used on a consistent basis.
11. Include Your Audience. Look for opportunities through out your presentation to get your audience involved. Take a poll. Open up the discussion for Q&A. Ask for participant examples. Facilitate break out discussions. Make a worksheet. Use fill in the blank slides, or hide & reveal content. Stimulate your audience, don’t just talk at them.
12. Nail Your Opener. First impressions are EVERYTHING. If you can’t reasonably memorize all your content, focus on the first 5 minutes (or first minute if you only have 5!). This is one of the most poignant ways to build trust with your audience and showcase your confidence (putting them at ease). Even if you are less confident through the rest of your presentation, you’ll have won them over already and they’ll be more forgiving.
13. Tell a Story. If you’re not usually good at nailing a comedic punch line, you may find storytelling to be a more effective way to draw your audience in. This is a great way to show your authentic connection to a topic. We recommend scaling the length of it relative to your presentation, and leveraging one of the 7 Types of Story as you draft your narrative.
14. Respect the Clock. Start on time. End on time (or even a little early). Respect your audiences time, and your own. If someone is late, it shouldn’t take away from the experience of those who show up on time. Often we want to wait for all seats to be filled, but you can also use a longer personal introduction, overview of the agenda, or ice-breaker to create “buffer time” instead.
15. Be Yourself. May sound obvious, but it can relate to everything from your clothing choice, to your humour. Being comfortable puts you at ease and allows you to deliver your message authentically and naturally.
Let us know what you plan to try out, and how it goes!
Stay tuned for more related content, we are currently working on some initiatives that will continue to boost your confidence. We announce all new content and digital product releases through our Pineapple Social feeds. Be in the know: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter