Each week, TopResume’s career advice expert, Amanda Augustine, answers user questions like the one below. We’ll be republishing those answers here. A certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW), Amanda has been helping professionals improve their careers for over 10 years. Have a question for Amanda? Submit it here.

Q: How can I improve my public speaking skills?

How can I develop my communication skills for speaking in front of strangers? — Pias

Most of us aren’t naturally-gifted public speakers. In fact, many avoid speaking in front of groups whenever they can. However, this fear of public speaking can negatively impact your career over time. You may be very proficient in your technical skills, but that will do you little good if you can’t effectively communicate your ideas to an audience,

Here are a few tips to help you improve your presentation skills and become a better public speaker.

A little nervousness is natural — embrace it!

Even the most experienced public speakers get a little nervous before a big presentation. Instead of dreading those sweating palms and racing heart, embrace it. The adrenaline rush that makes your hands shake can also make you more alert and ready to give your best performance.

Practice makes perfect

Preparation and practice are key to becoming a more confident public speaker. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel. Rehearse your presentation out loud with all the equipment you plan on using. If possible, record yourself using your smartphone or laptop so you can review the footage and identify any nervous quirks you’ll need to work out. Consider the following points when critiquing your pitch:

  1. Did you stay within the allotted time frame?

  2. Were you talking too quickly, slowly, softly, or loudly?

  3. Was the presentation conversational enough or did it sound too rehearsed?

  4. Did you use a lot of filler words (“um,” “so,” and “like”) or a particular phrase repeatedly?

  5. How was your energy level? Did you sound confident?

  6. What did your body language say? 

  7. Was your presentation memorable?

Know your audience

Before you sit down to work on your presentation, take a step back and consider who will be in the audience. After all, your presentation is for them, not you. You’ll want to take your audience into consideration as you’re choosing your words, the examples or stories you share, the images for your slides (if applicable), and even your outfit for the occasion.

This is similar to when you’re crafting an elevator pitch to use at a networking event. For instance, if you’re speaking to a group of people in your industry, you may decide to use industry jargon in your speech that wouldn’t make sense to people who didn’t work in your field.

While you’re presenting, look for cues from the audience to gauge whether or not you’re connecting with the group and holding their interest.

Seek out help

If you want additional help becoming a more confident and effective public speaker, look for additional resources to help you hone your skills. There are a number of online courses you can take advantage of for little to no cost. Here are three courses to get you started:

If you’d prefer to practice your public speaking skills with other people, check out your local Toastmasters chapter or even an improv class for beginners — a simple Google search for “local improv classes” should do the trick. 

Click on the following link for more resources to improve your presentation and public speaking skills.

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