I just finished a public speaking skills discussion with a group of young professionals.
Typically, I deliver these sessions in person. Now, it’s online. I shared my usual “8 proven practices for better than average presentations” along with “5 additional tips for delivering online presentations that will get people to stop doing their email.” I covered ideas like getting to know your audience, presenting a clear value proposition, using simple by powerful visuals and providing an achievable call to action. I reiterated the importance of practice because it’s the only way to master any skill, including public speaking.
However, I started thinking about how much more difficult it can be to practice your speaking skills while you’re stuck at home or working remotely. I Googled “great speaking practice activities at home” and found suggestions like speaking to a wall or watching TED Talks. I don’t like those suggestions. So, I made my own list of other things you can do to build your public speaking skills from home.
Don’t talk to a wall or a mirror or a houseplant. Talk to your phone. Setup your smartphone with a tripod or lean it against a bookshelf and deliver your presentation. Then, watch the recording multiple times while critiquing specific parts of your delivery, such as pace, tone, body language, terminology, movement, etc. Then do it again and focus on other areas. If you want to be a great speaker, you have to get used to watching yourself. People are usually their own biggest critics. Leverage this tendency along with the advanced technology in your pocket.
Invite people you trust to a practice Zoom session.
If you can’t go to the audience, bring the audience to you. Invite people you trust to practice sessions where you can focus on specific elements of your delivery. Deliver a practice session focused just on how you engage an audience with your pace and tone. Deliver another focused on how you leverage visual aids to support your message. Ask your invitees for honest, direct feedback. Invite them back to review a future delivery so they can determine if you’ve been able to successfully implement their suggestions.
Nothing helps you get used to the sound of your own voice like podcasting. Podcasts are easy to setup and execute with basic equipment. Sure, it’s helpful if you have a microphone and nifty audio editing software. But you can also pull off a podcast with just your smartphone. Practice breaking down and explaining concepts in a podcast format. Listen back and critique your delivery, including enunciation, pace, tone, etc. Publish your podcasts to support or professional community or just keep them to yourself as a form of audio journal.
Tell stories to your family.
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about workplace learning, cooking or government policy. Public speaking is storytelling. We tell stories every day to our friends and family. We just usually don’t pay attention to what we’re doing as we engage the people we know best. Think about the most recent stories you’ve shared. What made people laugh? What made them eager to learn more? Ask your friends and family about the stories you’ve shared. What makes you a great storyteller in their eyes, and what could you work on to get better?
Audit other people’s digital presentations.
There are plenty of free digital sessions available right now. Next year, we’re just going to see more online conferences and webinars and podcasts and YouTube channels. Find recordings from professional peers and influencers that you admire. Critique their deliveries. What do they do well? Which tactics could you borrow to improve your own style? Don’t try to be someone else. Adapt rather than adopt.
BONUS IDEA: Reach out to the people you critique and ask for proven practices to improve your online and in-person delivery.