Let’s face it, some people are more comfortable talking in front of groups of people than others, and it doesn’t matter the size of the group. I know people who could walk up to a person in any setting and start a conversation. I also know people who have a difficult time connecting in one-on-one situations.
Many posts have been written on introverts and extroverts and how either group succeeds in a work environment. And while this is absolutely true, I feel that public speaking for 95% plus of us could always use some pointers and assistance in this area. Think about it, going on an interview is public speaking. You are presenting, in a Q&A fashion, in a one-on-one environment or maybe for a panel type of interview. How can you improve your presentation skills?
First, a few free ideas to consider:
- Make a voice recording: This is a great way to experience how you sound to others, and identify and correct any issues you see. One way is to call your own phone and leave a message of an answer you would give in an interview. Then listen and see how well you came across. This is an excellent technique to prepare for both face-to-face interviews and phone interviews. Another idea is to use your phones (if you have this feature) to leave a “voice memo” that you are able to refer to later and continue to refine your answers. It is an easy way to quickly review when you have only two minutes to convey a thought. Tip: You could also, of course, use a regular voice recorder if you have one.
- Make a video recording: One of the easiest ways to start on this road is to video record yourself giving a brief interview. Put the video recorder back about 10 feet or so from where you are sitting and conduct a mock interview answering questions which you have written out, then review the tape. Pay attention to your word selection as well as your body posture. Are you bouncing your legs too much? Are you moving your hands too much or not enough? Do you use words such as “like” or “um” too much? This is you watching you, be critical to help yourself improve. Tip: When you are thinking about what you are going to say, keep your mouth closed! This will prevent you from saying “um” over and over again, just try it!
- Have a friend interview you: Find a friend and have them think of a few interview questions you haven’t prepared for already, then sit down and conduct a five minute interview. The important part is to take this seriously and ask for serious feedback. Now you are able to engage in a live, on the fly conversation and provide unrehearsed answers. Ask for feedback on your word choice and body language. This may seem a little out of the norm, but you will be speaking with someone you are comfortable with. It’s is a great introduction to an interview style setting without the pressure of a job on the line. If your friend is also in the job hunt, you can switch roles so that you both benefit from the exercise. Tip: Many college career services offices offer mock interviews, either with office staff or with actual interviewers from companies. This is the best way to put yourself in a realistic interview situation and get feedback from actual decision-makers, without any real-world pressure. Take advantage!
Now, a few ideas that might cost some money:
- Toast Masters: If you are not familiar with Toastmasters, they have local organizations across the country where you are able to work in a small group to gain comfort in front of an audience. There is a nominal fee associated with Toastmasters, a new member fee and a 6-month renewal (details can be found on their web site). Also, this is a great way to network with local professionals… never a bad idea!
- Dale Carnegie: An organization that focuses on self-improvement. While the majority of the Dale Carnegie coursework surrounds sales and business, every course is focused on public speaking and engagement. They also offer a ticket for one free session for anyone to take advantage of, if it is offered in your area. These courses are typically more expensive but certainly worthwhile training if you are able to attend.
To say public speaking is easy isn’t always the case. There are varying levels of stress that might occur but ultimately you are in control of how you come across to your audience. We have conversations every single day, make the most of them!
These are a couple of ideas but please share any tips that might work for you as well!