Why Public Speaking Classes Won’t Make You A Better Speaker

Glossophobia, for nerds like me, is the technical term for the fear of public speaking. If you are shocked to learn that there is a real term for this fear, buckle up because what we are about to tell you next will really shock you.

Most people, when trying to overcome their fears or improve their presentation skills, sign up for a public speaking class. Sure, that makes sense. Unfortunately, though, going to a class is only going to introduce you to theory and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a chance to get up in front of the class to practice and get feedback.

Sure, minimizing your fears by understanding the concepts of what makes a strong speaker and learning ways to feel more in control is great. But all the best speakers work with coaches regularly to get ongoing feedback. The only way to get better is to practice regularly and build your muscle memory. Keeping your gestures open or maintaining engagement through eye contact cannot be mastered by reading tips on how to do it well. Nor can you simply learn by watching others. You need to do it again and again and understand when you’re doing it well and when you’re not.

Dating back to the Romans,  we have relied heavily on our ability to stand in the arena and share our thoughts. In fact, for most of civilization, the only ways to express ideas was to either stand in front of others and speak or scratch the words into rocks or using quill and ink. It’s only been in the last century that modern technology has allowed us to avoid eye contact and hide behind a Twitter account to express ourselves.

Now that we have evolved from cavemen and cannot grunt out our thoughts in one or two words, we are required to articulately and effectively converse with others to do everything from negotiate the best deal, encourage our children to brush their teeth, or convince someone to marry us. Human interaction relies upon effective communication and this is particularly necessary in the workplace. We simply cannot function as employees, managers or leaders without the ability to share our ideas in a meaningful way. And yet, more than 75% of the population reports being riddled with anxiety when the time comes for them to speak in front of a group of people, even if that group is as few as two.

Warren Buffett sums it up perfectly: “If you can’t communicate and talk to people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.”

With all this in mind, here are 4 tips for becoming a better speaker (without taking public speaking classes):

1. Watch some of your favorite speakers on YouTube

While you cannot actually improve your presentation skills simply by watching other speakers, you can observe what they do well and understand the impact of their behaviors. Pay attention to their body language and how they use their voice to convey passion.

2. Practice, practice, practice

There is nothing that will help you to improve your skills more than practicing. If you are giving a presentation or talk, make sure to practice in an environment similar to the one in which you will be presenting. If you’re going to be standing on a stage, try to practice on a stage. If you’re going to be sitting at a conference table, try practicing at a table. This will help you do more than just memorize the content but also work out your body language and eye contact.

3.  Hire a public speaking coach

This is definitely a more expensive option but it will give you the ongoing feedback and direction you need to improve your presentation skills. We work with companies all the time to provide workshops and coaching programs that allow their employees to get personalized coaching over a period of time to allow them to build on their skills and, ultimately, build their confidence.

4. Use a public speaking app

Presentr is a great solution for people or organizations that cannot afford the price tag associated with individualized coaching. The app employs similar methodologies as human coaching, providing tips and tools for practice plus it offers you a score. This way, you can track your progress and see which areas still need work.

No matter what you choose, remember that repetition is key. You need to continue to build your muscle memory the same way as if you were learning a sport so you can be more comfortable, confident and competent.

Tammy Palazzo

t3 interactive LLC, 515 Valley Street, Suite 2, Maplewood, NJ 07040