I’ve read a lot of articles on this topic, and the majority of articles came to the same conclusion; coaches are a waste of time unless you truly want to become a professional speaker. If you are speaking to crowds of people on a regular basis and they are paying you to do so, a public speaking coach may be of great benefit to you. However, if you are speaking at a convention or presenting at a networking event once every couple of months, then you may not need to invest in a public speaking coach.

That is not to say that you do not need help or practice. Here are a few things you can do on your own that will save you money and help hone in on your public speaking skills.

Practice: Volunteer to speak at your local chamber of commerce meeting. Ask to present at your next networking event. Join a Toastmasters group and get advice from your peers. Toastmasters is a wonderful organization that helps individuals become better speakers through practice, praise, and feedback from peers. To find a local Toastmasters group visit http://reports.toastmasters.org/findaclub/

Record Yourself: Record yourself with both audio and video. You can play back the voice recording while sitting at your desk or driving in the car. Listen to your voice inflection. Are you upbeat? Enthusiastic? Passionate? Try and count how many times you say the word “um”. When you have more time, you can sit down and watch yourself. Watch your body language and your facial expressions. Your body language is going to set the stage for your entire speech. Make sure you are calm and keep your hands to your side or clasped in front of you. People notice when you fidget.

Be Prepared: Rehearse your speech over and over again. If you are using slides as visual aids, do not read directly from the slides. Power Point presentations with just text can be very boring, and you will lose your audience if you are not careful.

Watch Great Speakers: We have all heard wonderful speakers, and we have walked away wishing that we could speak as well as they did. Remember, they have years of practice and have probably fumbled on a few early speeches themselves. Watch them on video and take notes of the things you like most. Did they make you laugh? Were they genuine? Try to emulate their strengths into your speech.

Stay Calm: Of course you are going to be nervous. However, the more prepared you are for the speech the more confident you will feel before the event. Take some time before your speech to sit and breathe. Do not check e-mails and get distracted. Take a walk. Clear your mind. You have prepared for this moment and you are ready. Feel confident. If nothing else, fake it. If you stand up there with confidence and ease, your audience will feel the same way and will enjoy listening to what you have to say.

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously: Lighten up. Everyone makes mistakes. Give it your best shot and have fun. You do not need to prove to everyone in the audience that you are smart enough to be there. You are up there for a reason. Talk to your audience, not at them. Imagine you are having coffee with a couple of friends and you are explaining to them why you do what you do. Be passionate and refrain from lecturing.

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published by Heather Myklegard

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