Developing great public speaking skills is one thing. Holding onto them is quite another. In this short video find out how to do both.
The secret to maintaining your skills is to understand that public speaking is nothing like riding a bike. When it comes to cycling, no matter how long it takes you to learn or master, once you acquire that skill then it is with you for life. You can easily go months or even years between rides, but the minute you jump on a bike your abilities instantly return. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of addressing a roomful of people – no matter how proficient you become at it, if you go for long periods of inactivity your skills will start to diminish and you will find yourself very rusty indeed.
As a result, it is much more useful to view public speaking
as being like exercise. This tells us that the longer you go without doing it, the more ‘unfit’ you become. On the upside, no matter how ‘unfit’ you are, you can always get back in great oratory shape just by giving speeches/presentations on a regular or semi-regular basis. Viewing it like exercise also helps us to understand that no amount of planning or theorising is any substitute for getting out there and doing it. Although spending time preparing for and rehearsing a presentation will help to make it better, the best way to improve how you speak to a group of people is to gain firsthand experience of speaking to groups of people!
This can create something of a challenge for many speakers. Those fortunate enough to have regular speaking opportunities as a result of their job will be able to quickly improve their abilities and maintain them without too much effort. For the rest of us – where can we go to safely hone our skills? One option worth considering is public speaking clubs. Access to these will vary depending on where you are located, but most cities and large towns will have a least a few to choose from. They might be independent or part of a large global network, such as Toastmasters or Meet-up. Either way, they can provide excellent risk-free environments in which to desensitise you to the shock of addressing a roomful of people.
So, the best way to maintain your speaking skills is to treat it like exercise and create regular opportunities to flex those speaking muscles.