Public Speaking 101: B is for begin

To become a better speaker, you have to begin to speak as often as you can. Read all the tips you can about communication but in the end you have to start speaking. Just do it

A Rasta friend once told me “The beginning of everything is dread”. And it is very true. Often we are filled with a sense of extreme fear and apprehension just before we start something new and public speaking presents a similar scenario. That is why a lot of people do not take the plunge. They will spend a lot of time observing other speakers and reading about public speaking tips but hesitate to actually do it. Remember, public speaking is like riding a bicycle. No matter how much you know about doing it, you will not actually become good at it until you begin to do it. How do you begin to speak in public especially if you have not done it before? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Look and listen

Before you become an accomplished public speaker, learn to be a good listener. Attend as many public talks as you can and listen closely to the speakers. You will get a feel for the skillful ones. Observe the reaction of the audiences – you can learn a lot about public speaking from the way people respond to speakers.

  1. Sit in front

Many people become self-conscious when they open their mouth to speak. They imagine everyone is looking at them and just lying in wait for them to fail. When you go to a talk, sit at the front. That way, when you raise your hand to make a contribution you will not see those who will be looking at you. If you cannot see them, you will not be distracted by them.

  1. Be the first

Make sure you follow the talk closely and take notes. Write down the question you would like to ask and when the time comes, be the first to raise your hand. Get up, look at the speaker, look at your written question and read it out slowly and clearly. When you are done, sit down and wait for the answer. The decision to speak first will do wonders for your confidence. It will force you to focus on the talk and gather your thoughts. It will also make you get used to standing up and hearing the sound of your voice in public.

  1. Lose the notes

After the repeated practice of asking questions in public, you will be able to formulate your questions without writing them down verbatim. Your manner of speaking will sound more conversational because you will have gained the confidence to express yourself in public.

  1. Ask to speak

By now you will have attended several public talks, sat at the front and asked many questions. Time now to begin to actually talk to an audience. But where will you get such opportunities to speak in public? Being an MC at weddings, naming ceremonies, parties and even funerals offers occasions to speak in public. The act of introducing speakers and making announcements will hone your skills. At work, volunteer to be the company MC at office parties, launch events and training seminars. Look around you. Opportunities abound for you to begin to be a masterful speaker. Grab them!

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