So, you’re on stage wearing your best suit, with your script on hand in case you forget what you have to say. You look in front of you and you see the faces of an audience waiting for you to share your expertise. You open your mouth but nothing comes out. Or you finished your speech but stuttered all throughout.
If you belong to any of these two groups of speakers, don’t worry. You’re not alone. According to the National Social Anxiety Center, 73% of the population have glossophobia or a fear of public speaking (the first group). Meanwhile, according to Forbes, about 10% are not comfortable with the act of speaking in front of an audience (the second group).
So, does that mean everything is lost for all these people? Not really. You have to remember that the best public speakers weren’t born that way. They were made. In other words, at one point or another, they just taught themselves how to face an audience and speak with confidence. If they were able to do that, why wouldn’t you be able to do it, too?
That said, it brings us to the following question:
How Can I Teach Myself Public Speaking? 6 Ways
1. Read up on public speaking techniques
If you want to be a great speaker, you need to brush up on basic public speaking principles in the first place. If you don’t know what makes for great presentations, you won’t know the standards you should aim for.
The great news is, nowadays, it’s very easy to search for those basic principles on the Internet. On the Space 4 Speaking blog alone, there are already many articles you can read so you can expand your knowledge.
Spend some time on the blog and read as much as you can about public speaking. Know the strategies to prevent your throat from closing up and ways to ensure your emotions don’t get in the way while you’re presenting. It’s just a question of doing your research and having that thirst to learn. As an alternative, Amazon has a great library of books on public speaking and is a great resource at a very low cost to you.
Once you know all there is about the theory, you can see how that theory is implemented by great speakers. This is what we’ll discuss in the next section.
2. Look at how the great speakers do it
You know when people say that you can learn from the greats? Well, you actually really can. You can get pointers on how you should speak, move, and act when in front of an audience just by watching the great speakers do it on stage. It’s called observational learning. Just ask the psychologists.
The good thing about now is that you don’t have to physically go to the venue to marvel at how the great speakers perform. The world wide web is a great source of information. Just go to YouTube and look for TED talks. You can even just Google the name of the great speakers such as Steve Jobs and Tony Robbins and you’re bound to find some of their videos there.
While watching, make sure you get your pen and paper and make a list of the things they do that make their presentations so great. Do they speak forcefully or calmly? Do they pace around the room or do they just stand on one spot? Do they keep their hands on their side when they speak, or do they use them to emphasize points? So, the next time you make your presentation, you can imitate bits and pieces of what they do and come up with your own style yourself.
3. Give yourself constructive criticism
Your harshest critic is always going to be yourself. In a way, it’s a good thing. You can use that to your advantage to improve.
Timing is everything, however. You can’t just go about criticizing yourself WHILE you’re making your presentation. That will only make you doubt yourself in front of many people. You’ll just end up losing self-confidence and end up, well, yielding a very bad output.
So, when is the right time to give constructive criticisms of your speeches? Afterwards of course, when your focus is no longer on giving a good presentation. You can just ask someone to record your public speaking event and then watch the video when you’re cozied up inside your house.
While watching, take down notes. Do you stutter any time during the presentation? Do you have mannerisms you’re not aware of? Do you use your hands to emphasize points? The more detailed your notes are, the better. That way, the next time you make a presentation, you’ll be more conscious of what you do and say, and do a better job overall.
In my previous article, "How to Collect feedback", I cover this topic in extensive detail if you are looking for more information.
You might be your harshest critic, but like everybody else, you have your own biases as well. That means there might be things you need to change when you make your presentations but you don’t change them because, well, you just don’t think there’s anything wrong with them in the first place.
That’s why it always pays to ask other people to give you constructive criticisms or feedback as noted in my previous article. You might say, but that’s no longer self-studying? In a way it still is. You’re just seeking other people’s opinions so you yourself can study those and make the necessary changes to improve.
There are two ways you can go about this method. You can ask people close to you to watch you live as you speak and take notes. Or you can just show them a recording of your speech when they’re with you. Either way, pay close attention to what they have to say. Don’t give justifications. Remember, they’re there to help you improve. If you don’t accept there’s anything to improve in the first place, you can’t improve at all.
Practice makes perfect. The more times you do something, the better you become at it. That applies to public speaking as well. The more times you speak in public, the better a public speaker you become.
You might ask, so does that mean I can just get as many speaking engagements as I can? Well, sure. The thing, however, is this:
One, the number of speaking engagements you get is actually not within your control. It’s the organizers who invite speakers to their events.
Two, practicing during the presentation itself isn’t really advisable. If you keep on repeating a point to determine the right way to emphasize it right in front of an audience, you’ll only end up with an annoyed audience. Your presentation is the real thing. You can’t just look at it as your “practice” platform.
That said, the best strategy is to conduct those practice sessions on your own. They don’t even have to be that complicated. You can just face a mirror, for instance, and start making your speech. Look at how you use your hands when you talk. Look at your facial expressions as well. Do that often enough and it will become a habit. So the next time you go to that “real deal,” you perform better.
Check out the article, "9 Killer Public Speaking Exercises You Can Do At Home" for more details surrounding this topic.
6. Attend a Public Speaking Class
Self-studying is great. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to understand concepts on your own. And with conflicting information on the Internet sometimes, well, it can be difficult to determine what is factual and what isn’t.
That’s where public speaking classes can help you. You can enroll in a course and let the experts teach you the concepts you need to know. Access any online educational platform, search for public speaking classes, and I’m pretty sure you’ll find a long list. You just need to check out the course modules, look for the course that fits your schedule, and, well, hit that click button. A few good resources that we found are VirtualSpeech, Brian Tracy's '6 Figure Speaker', and LinkedIn Learning.
The downside to enrolling in a public speaking class, though, is that you’d need to shell out some money, of course. But if you find a course that will make you a great speaker, why not, right? There is a huge return on investment!
I talk more about the pros and cons of public speaking classes in the article "Are Public Speaking Classes Worth It?"
How Can I Teach Myself Public Speaking: Final Thoughts
Public speaking is a skill. Since skills are acquired, it's no wonder that you can acquire public speaking skills, too.
The good news is, nowadays, it’s fairly easy to self-study. The Internet is a goldmine of information. People aspiring to be the next Steve Jobs or Tony Robbins only need the will and determination to access that information in the first place.
You learned six strategies you can use to teach yourself public speaking. Read up on public speaking techniques (that’s what this blog is for, hello), look at how the great speakers do it, give yourself constructive criticism, and seek others’ opinions. Practice of course, and then enroll in a public speaking course.
You don’t have to do all these at once. Just pick one or a combination of these strategies that work for you. Put in the work and the determination, and you’ll be well on your way to developing those public speaking skills. Who knows? You might just be the next Steve Jobs.
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check the articles Online Resources for Public Speaking and Where Can I Learn Public Speaking.