As humans, we experience procrastination motivation in many aspects of our lives—exercising, losing weight, improving our overall health and well-being, studying for a test, completing a project, saving for retirement, etc. I call myself the “ultimate procrastinator” because I have lived most of my life waiting until the last minute to do everything.
In general, people also procrastinate improving their public speaking skills until they absolutely need to! Most people, myself included, need a catalyst or a swift kick in the butt to get motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Work meetings and presentations are big motivators in shining a light on our public speaking skills, or lack thereof.
Here are a few scenarios of how this public speaking catalyst process usually works:
- Your manager asks you to prepare and give a big presentation at work. Panic sets in!
- You were put on the spot at a big meeting and did not answer as strongly as you wanted.
- You just gave a big presentation at work that completely bombed! (Exactly what happened to me 7 years ago.)
And now you are finally motivated to make some changes and work on improving your public speaking skills!
While I am all for people finding any and all motivation to improve their public speaking skills, I want to give you a different kind of motivation today:
Start improving your skills now, instead of when you have a big presentation or speech to do. If you start working on your skills now, then you will be in a much better position to give the speech or presentation when the next opportunity comes up, and trust me, opportunities will come up!
Here are some ideas on how to improve your public speaking skills a little bit at a time:
- Take a public speaking course.
- Don’t rush through it. Take your time going through the content and try to apply different skills in your speeches. I have taken 3-hour public speaking workshops before, and while they are very helpful and informative, they do not provide the most opportunities to practice your skills that you may need. Find the right course and the right pace that works for you.
- Give one speech per month.
- If you don’t have a professional/work topic, that’s okay. Tell a story about a special time in your life. Storytelling looks easy and is so lovely when done well, but it is difficult to do in an engaging and effective way.
- The interval here is really up to you, but once a month can help to keep you on track and see improvement quickly. I know other people who do a speech once a quarter. That works as well, just remember the progress may be slower.
- Listen to Ted Talks or start to notice other speakers in your workplace—what makes their speeches so great or not so great?
- I have learned so much from just watching people speak and making notes on what worked and what didn’t work. That is such a comforting thought to me too that I don’t always have to be speaking to learn how to improve. I can learn by watching others.
- It’s easy to watch good speakers and say, “Wow, that person is a naturally great speaker. I could never do that EVER.” Instead of thinking that way, list all the techniques they used that made their speech great, and think about how to incorporate some of those techniques into your next speech.
- Find ways to enjoy public speaking!
- This is where the intrinsic or internal motivation kicks in. Once you start to enjoy it, you will want to do it more often!
- Listen to stories on The Moth, listen to podcasts, or watch your favorite influencers or vloggers on Youtube. All these speakers on these platforms are using their public speaking skills to get their message across (mostly for good, but I’ll let you be the judge of that).
- Once you realize that public speaking can be about telling stories and being your authentic self in front of people, it takes the fear and dread out of the task and makes it more exciting and fun. Bring that excitement and fun into your mundane work presentations. It can be done, I promise!
Speakers Alliance offers several opportunities for people to practice and improve their public speaking skills. We have a course on Udemy, weekly community practice sessions that are free and open to everyone, and we have recently released a podcast talking about different public speaking issues and topics. If our style doesn’t work for you, that is absolutely fine. There are many tools and trainings out there to help you. The most important thing is to find the training and practice that works for you and your schedule.
My public speaking mantra is “Say Yes, Speak More.” If you live in Los Angeles long enough, you will start making mantras for yourself, but this personal mantra has motivated me to tackle big public speaking opportunities that I originally wanted to turn down because I was scared and afraid. Say yes to public speaking and say yes to the speaking opportunities that come up in your life. Say yes to improving your public speaking skills NOW rather than waiting until “later.” Because if you wait until “later,” it may never get done, and then you will be missing out on all the benefits of improved confidence, communication, and connection with your audience that you could be enjoying right now.