Learning to speak in public

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These last weeks have been very interesting, since I’ve started taking serious steps in developing one of the skills that I’ve always considered as the most important for personal development: public speaking.

Years ago, when I still was a student, I participated in a European organization of universities in which we held debates, more or less improvised, to test our skills on how to give presentations, speeches, lectures, etc. It was extremely fun and “safe”, since you were all alone, just to learn and to improve, and nothing happened if you messed up or if you got nervous and went mute.

With time, and as our careers evolve, public speaking has become, for almost all of us, an obligation, more or less accepted with resignation, when we must give a presentation on some topic at work, at school, in a seminar, etc. So, whether we know how to do it or not, we must and we should be able to pull it through. I personally enjoy doing presentations or lectures, but that does not mean that I am either very good at it, or very bad, or that it makes me more nervous or less nervous before the speech starts.

Learn to speak in public

One of the reasons why it’s extremely important to have some command of this skill is because of the benefits that brings in almost every area of our life. With practice, not only you overcome being nervous in front of an audience, no matter how big or small, but we also learn how to express ourselves, how to think and to structure our speech, how to evaluate the way people understand us, how to learn and improve with feedback, how to control the tone of our voice. In summary, you can improve your personality in so many ways, that simply deciding to learn how to speak in public is already testing the rest of your abilities.

How to learn to speak in public

Obviously, it requires a lot of talking. Talking without concern of being wrong. And reading, and studying, and taking feedback. There are books, and techniques, and private lessons and teachers that cost a lot of dough. However, the best way I know is to do it almost for free, in a safe, friendly and professional environment. In my case, I am a member of Toastmasters, the world organization that promotes oratory as a means of personal and professional development. There are thousands of clubs, distributed around the world and meeting more or less regularly, that follow some good manuals on communication skills which you can use to prepare your presentations. You can also take feedback from more experienced members. If you want to know more, look for a club near you and ask them for information.

The benefits

You can tell when someone masters the art of speaking in public. They convey a sense confidence and expertise, their explanations are understood, their words and thoughts are structured, they are eloquent, their body language match their words, and they can infuse energy and motivate an audience much better than someone who lacks the skill. These benefits are not solely for those who want to become professional speakers, but for everyone in our day to day relationships, in our workplace, in our ability to be heard and understood.

I strongly recommend this experience, and I am already preparing my next presentation for the coming Toastmasters’ meeting. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

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