It's common for all of us to have to present or speak in front of others at some point in our careers.
It might be for small events like a team meeting, or larger events like company employee meetings, or even larger events like a conference for which your company requested you to present. For me, it didn't matter if I was presenting in front of five people or 500, I still got those butterflies in the pit of my stomach. Plus, my nerves presented in a physical way—my face and chest turned beet red! When your face turns red, it's kind of hard to hide the fact that you're nervous, and eventually, I just had to get used to it.
With time and practice on my public speaking skills, however, I've gotten better at presenting and speaking in front of crowds, and so can you, with the help of professional development resources. Even if you don't speak or present in front of others regularly, honing your presentation and speaking skills can help you advance in your career when the moment arises to give an acceptance speech, during an interview, or when teaching a class.
Yes, I understand that public speaking and presenting is one of the most nerve-racking things for people to do, and several studies support this. In fact, per the Psychology Today article, "The Thing We Fear More than Death," studies show we fear public speaking more than death (as the title implies).
However, if you focus on your end goal of improving your public speaking skills and the fact that you're among co-workers that generally want you to succeed at work, then it makes presenting easier. Plus, there are several very cool and free (or low-cost) professional development resources available to help you hone in on your presentation and speaking skills, many of which I've shared below.
1. Toastmasters International.
Toastmasters has been helping people become better presenters and speakers for years. It's worth it to see if there's a local Toastmasters class in your area. They also offer a lot of other professional development resources like free tips—from accepting awards to creating sales pitches—on their Public Speaking Tips page.
2. Garr Reynolds.
Garr Reynolds is a speaker and best-selling author of the award-winning Presentation Zen, The Naked Presenter, and Presentation Zen Design. His website offers a lot of free presentation tips and information. His site, Presentation Zen, has a blog with great tips and resources for public speaking and presenting, as well.
3. Networking events.
At many networking events, you're asked to give a quick elevator pitch of what you do. This can be a great, inexpensive way to overcome nerves and fear due to speaking in front of people. The more you practice on your public speaking skills, the better you'll be. Not to mention, you'll have an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals, as well.
WordStream is an online advertising and search marketing firm. Their blog, 20 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills, offers some valuable tips, from how much information to present to ways to actively engage your audience.
5. TED Talks.
You're likely familiar with TED's slogan, "Ideas worth spreading." TED has grown in popularity in recent years, and many cities now have a local TED event. To study and hone your presentation and public speaking skills, I suggest watching TEDTalk videos and attending a TED event if you can.
MindTools’ career development organization's blog, "Better Public Speaking," offers some good insights into the importance of presenting and how to become better at it. Their communication skills page also offers a lot of free information on how to be a better communicator, which ties into presenting and public speaking.
A great, low-cost way to improve your speaking and presentation skills is to have a friend record you on camera in front of a practice audience, or even solo will work. This will help you to see what your body language says about you, how your voice sounds, the types of expressions you make, and more. Practice makes for improvement.
8. American Rhetoric.
American Rhetoric has a lot of free speeches and information. Their online speech bank has more than 5,000 speeches you can listen to for free, including speeches from John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.! Listening to great public speakers can help you improve your own public speaking skills.
9. Coursera's University of Washington intro to public speaking course.
I love Coursera with all of their free courses and professional development resources, some of which offer certificates upon completion. In the Intro to Public Speaking Course, you'll learn everything from speech preparation to mastering impromptu speeches. The six-week course can be taken at any time and is taught by University of Washington Department of Communications Instructor, Dr. Matt McGarrity.
Portent is a Digital Marketing Firm. Their blog, 3 Surprising Ways to Instantly Improve Your Public Speaking Skills, has some good insights as to what you're doing wrong and how to fix it when speaking in front of an audience (such as voice speed, and so on).
11. Ginger Public Speaking.
Ginger is a firm that supports individuals in becoming better public speakers, as they boast "we turn communicators from nervous wrecks into public speaking leaders." They have a great page with FREE professional development resources you can utilize, including a free course and free book download.
AllTop is an online magazine that allows you to filter topics to create your own AllTop magazine. The AllTop Speaking page has a large collection of Public Speaking and Presentation resources to peruse.
13. The Public Speaking Project.
The Public Speaking Project offers a range of tools to support users in improving their public speaking skills. The information is offered by "a variety of speech professionals who are dedicated to providing free and low-cost instructional materials..." You'll find a free virtual classroom, e-book, and more on their site.
14. The Accidental Communicator.
With a mission of "everyone speaks," Ignite helps people build public speaking skills while having fun by giving them five minutes to present 20 slides. Events occur throughout the country and around the world.
Presenting and public speaking are highly sought after skills, yet unpleasant to many. If you're one of those people who would rather die than speak or present in front of a crowd, hopefully, these professional development resources will help. For some additional free resources to support your speaking and presentation skills, I highly recommend reading the Inc. article, "Nine Places to Learn Public Speaking for Free," by Larry Kim.
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