To be a good public speaker, you need to practice. But it’s not easy, especially if you don’t have an audience around to rehearse with. The good news is that we all have an audience of one: ourselves.
Here are just a few ways you can hone your public speaking skills even without a room full of people:
1. Practice Your Delivery
Research shows that delivery matters even more than your content. In fact, did you know that a presentation is 38% about the voice, 55% about non-verbal communication, and just 7% about the content? This means that even if you know your content backward, you can still fail if you do not deliver it well.
To practice your delivery skills, you can either find a foreign language passage online or write some gibberish yourself and deliver it as if you’re giving a speech. You can also pay attention to the tone, emotion, and ways that you can make it sound interesting.
Tip: If you’re not sure how an expression works, try reading it with a very different voice, as though you are an entirely different person.
2. Watch Other Speeches
Look for a few talks that are popular and highly rated, which you can easily find on YouTube (e.g. an Emma Watson’s UN speech or Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech). Then, analyze the speakers’ storytelling techniques and how they connect with their audience.
You won’t necessarily be an expert after watching a couple of videos, but you will learn how to structure your speech so it’s memorable and attention-grabbing. This will help make you become a better speaker.
3. Talk to the Wall
People who fear public speaking often think of the worst-case scenarios. Most of them assume that the audience’s reactions have something to do with them, even though, in most cases, they don’t.
Hence, getting used to speaking to a wall will train you to focus on your message rather than the audience’s facial expressions. It will help you stay in the game when you speak to an actual live audience.
4. Talk To Yourself About Something With Enthusiasm
If you want others to care about your presentation, you have to show that you care about it. Practice speaking about something mundane (i.e. a chair) with excitement. Use your voice, tone, and body language to get your imaginary audience excited about it.
5. Challenge Yourself To Give An Impromptu Speech
For this exercise, you’ll set a timer on your phone for one minute and talk about something that interests you. You should not write anything beforehand because the point of this exercise is to make you feel more comfortable about not having anything prepared, which is a big obstacle for many people when it comes to public speaking.
6. Record Yourself on Video
Film yourself speaking. Once done, start playing it. Pay attention to what you’re doing with your hands, feet, face, and mouth as well as any verbal fillers you have. Decide what you want to change and write a list of them to serve as a reminder for when you are about to give a presentation.
To help you decide what to improve on, ask yourself: How does your nonverbal communication affect your overall message? Do you think it strengthens your delivery? Or does it just distract your audience?
7. Speak in Front of a Mirror
One of the reasons we’re afraid of public speaking is because we think our audience might be distracted by our appearance as we speak. This is why we encourage you to practice speaking in front of a mirror.
Seeing yourself speak lets you know how you look while delivering a speech. This helps your mind visualize how you present when the big event comes.
8. Do a Mock Interview
For this exercise, you need a friend to help you get into character. It doesn’t matter if you do it over the phone or in person. Have your friend ask your opinions and statements as though you’re an expert. This way, you’ll learn how to deliver information with confidence and authority. It can also help you to be more familiar with the feeling of having an audience watching you.
9. Explain an Idea to a Child
Take a complex issue, break it down into simpler ideas, then explain those ideas to a child. Take for example, if you want to explain the idea of investing, start by explaining the concept of investments. If you can explain this idea to a child, you should be able to explain it to an adult member of your audience.
This exercise is designed to help you to remember the fundamentals of a topic, break down complicated concepts, and focus on the details that truly matter. Once you learn how to do this, it will be easier for you to simplify complex terms into easily digestible concepts for any audience.
10. Do Belly Breathing
A good way to lower stress while speaking in public is by taking a few deep breaths and then exhaling slowly. It not only lowers your heart rate but also ensures that your brain is getting a steady supply of oxygen, which helps your brain function more efficiently.
To practice good breathing habits, you should learn how to breathe with your diaphragm, which entails breathing into your stomach area, instead of just expanding your chest. Stand up straight, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, and slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while keeping your chest still.
11. Speak with a Pen in Your Mouth
One of the most common pitfalls of public speaking is poor articulation. You could have the most brilliant idea in the world and still fail to get your message across and engage the audience if you don’t form your words clearly. So, how do you improve your pronunciation skills?
You can try speaking with a pen in your mouth. Place it across your teeth like you’re biting down on it and then recite the months of the year or read the newspaper aloud. Doing so forces your speech organs to work harder and enunciate every syllable of your words more accurately.