I have A LOT of public speaking experience.
My experience ranges from being on the high school debate team, to joining Toastmasters, to making countless business presentations, to running for public office, to taking stand up comedy classes and performing stand up in front of big crowds.
I’m not telling you these things to impress you, but rather to impress upon you that I’ve “been there and done that” and can offer practical and helpful tips and techniques that can help you become a much better public speaker.
Here are 5 of my favorite public speaking tips for beginners that will get you off on the right foot.
1) KNOW YOUR MATERIAL
This will take so much of the edge off. It certainly helps when we are intimately familiar with the subject we’re talking about but that’s not always going to be the case.
Learn as much as you feasibly can about the things you’re speaking about and it will go such a long way to establishing credibility and giving you confidence.
2) REFRAME YOUR THINKING IMMEDIATELY WITH ONE SIMPLE TRICK
A lot of people will describe themselves as being “nervous” before giving their speech. Change the way you think of it as being “excited” and it will change things for the better.
Just a simple switch in words can take something with a negative connotation and make it positive. It will subconsciously relieve some pressure and will allow you to focus more.
3) REALIZE THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY DON’T CARE AS MUCH AS YOU THINK
It’s somewhat natural to think that we’re the center of attention when we’re giving a presentation but it’s really not the case. That speck of lint on your shirt that you’re obsessing about is not going to be noticed, so get it out of your mind.
The truth is that people are often thinking about themselves and not you. While you’re giving a speech they are much more likely to be wondering about when they have to leave to pick up their kids from school, or picking up dry cleaning, or planning dinner, or a million other things that we do on a daily basis.
This makes it a little more difficult if you’re trying to be persuasive or if you need them to focus, but if you’re worried about them picking you apart then don’t, because the pressure to be perfect is completely off!
4) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE… THEN PRACTICE SOME MORE
Simply put, the more you do something, the better the chances are that you’ll improve at it. Public speaking is no different.
5) YOU AREN’T LIKE OOG THE CAVEMAN
Finally I’d like to share the story that Les McCurdy told us in one of the stand up comedy boot camps I attended.
Side note: Les McCurdy has been writing and performing comedy for decades. He and his wife own a comedy club in Sarasota, Florida and have so many huge names perform there all of the time. Les McCurdy also helped a comic named Dan Whitney develop a comedic persona that would become Larry the Cable Guy.
McCurdy told us about three cavemen sitting around a fire a long, long time ago. Oog, Ugg, and Urg were all eating and suddenly Oog stood up and by using a series of grunts, he told them of how funny he thought a woolly mammoth was when he saw it taking a poop earlier that day.
The first stand up joke in history had just been made!
Ugg and Urg were not impressed as they didn’t like to have their dinner interrupted so they clubbed Oog over the head, threw him into the fire, and then ate him too.
The moral of the story is that we’ve come a long way since then and nothing as bad as what happened to Oog is going to happen to you even if you tell a bad joke.
Like almost anything else, speaking to a group is a skill and it will take time to improve and get completely comfortable with it but it is absolutely something that can be done with time and effort.
You can do it! Get out there and get some practice and share your story with others.