The top public-speaking tip I forgot to mention

I wrote an article recently for ColoradoBiz talking about some tips to improve your public speaking…or at least tips which might help you feel less apoplectic while speaking. I neglected to include one of the most important tips, in my view, that can help improve your speaking.

Join Toastmasters.

I promise I am not getting any kickbacks from this organization, but it has helped thousands of people improve their public speaking, including me. Yes, it can be corny at times — but it works. That’s why it’s still going strong after 90 years!

Here’s why I think it works:

  1. Toastmasters makes you stand up and speak before an audience so many times that you kind of get used to it. You begin to relax…and you learn what “relaxed” feels like by having to speak so much.
  2. You learn there are people who have more trouble speaking than you do. I guess misery loves company. When you realize that maybe you’re not so bad, you’ll actually get better or at least feel more confident. That is major progress.
  3. Toastmaster audiences are incredibly supportive. No matter how bad you are – or think you are – people will clap uproariously for you. I have witnessed some remarkable performances in Toastmasters and no matter what we all clap like mad. “That guy is a regular James Earl Jones -what an orator,” we lie. Clap, clap, clap. Great job. Lots of smiles. James Earl Jones sits down feeling a whole lot better than he did before. “Maybe I’m not so bad,” he thinks. And you know what, next time he probably won’t be so bad.

Toastmasters is not for me, you say. I don’t have time. It’s too corny. I encourage you to try it and follow three more tips:

  1. Visit several Toastmasters’ groups. Choose the one that has an audience that you identify with. There are young, professional groups; groups for older professionals, some with predominantly women or men in the audience. Choose the one you relate to. It will make a big difference in your progress.
  2. Choose a time that works with your schedule. In most communities there are at least three meeting times to choose from – morning, noon and evening. If you find one that fits your schedule you’re more likely to attend.
  3. Get involved. The more you contribute to the group, the more you will gain. And that means you’ll not only become a better speaker but you’ll likely make some strong professional connections.

A final incentive: they still give plastic gold-toned and silver-toned trophies for the best speech in various categories.