The single best way to improve as a public speaker is to practice. And while technology makes reviewing yourself easy, the best way to practice public speaking is to get a partner.
Find a partner
Email an acquaintance or colleague, letting them know you are looking for a short-term public speaking partner for a month or two, and that you’d like to meet for thirty minutes every week. Decide on a goal - it could be to give a presentation or a talk at your company, host a meet-up or prep for an interview. Clearly defining the goal and setting end dates will help you stick to your plan.
Find a space
Book a conference room large enough for about 8 – 12 people so that you can practice using enough volume (the bigger, the better). If you can use the space that corresponds with your final speaking goal (giving a talk at work), all the better.
Start with an autobiographical story. It could be your first job, your first car, your first apartment, your first day in school, you decide. Run through it out loud at least 3 times before you meet so that you’ve translated what’s in your head to language. See previous blog post on CAR to structure the story of your talk.
Try to keep your weight evenly on both feet to avoid swaying back and forth. If you decide to move, move with purpose, coming to a stop when you end a thought. Feel free to use the same gestures you use in everyday conversation.
Eye contact is key when speaking to groups. Besides your partner, choose 2 or 3 other imaginary people (putting post it’s high on chair backs) to practice landing your thoughts to assure that you’re speaking to everyone in the room.
After the first run-through, collect feedback from your partner on filler words, any uhs and ums, monotone delivery, and any up-speak (going up in pitch at the end of sentences so that it sounds like you’re asking a question).
Give it another go incorporating the feedback, then switch.
Once you’ve identified your specific challenges (filler words, monotone delivery), start to practice incorporating your new delivery style in your everyday conversations in low stakes meetings or calls. Eventually, it’ll become automatic, and you won’t have to think about it. That way, when you get up to speak, you can focus on telling a great story rather than how many times you say “um.”