Deliberate Steps to Mastering Your Speaking Challenges

Practice to Help Your Speech - 13991275 - lady speaker in business suit with podium.

“Is there anything physically you do to ease the anxiety symptoms before a speech?” I was asked this by a fellow member of our club.

He then recommended I throw my arms wide, take up some space and that may help with my approach of the lectern.

It was kind advice from a different perspective. However, his suggestion got me thinking about how I practice my speeches — including taking control of the lectern.

How many minutes or hours do you spend practicing your speech? How many times do you recite your next five-to-seven minute presentation in the comfort of your living room?

Many of us aren’t born with the skills or confidence to take center stage. Public speaking is an art form and, like masters in any field, it takes a lot of practice.

A recent article in Success Magazine entitled “5 Deliberate Steps to Master a Skill”, suggests that “research on the science of peak performance has shown it’s not just talent and hours of practice that lead to expertise. Instead, it’s the type of practice one does.”

In order for to improve our speech delivery, we have to push ourselves outside the comfort zone. We do this by focusing on improving aspects we have found challenging. Meaning, instead of reciting the words of your speech, use those practice sessions to focus on improving an area you have experienced some challenges in such as hand gestures or vocal variety.

To incorporate deliberate practice into your next speech prep here are tips from Success Magazine:

1) Identify the goal
2) Identify the challenge.
3) Purposely work on improving this skill.
4) Seek feedback.
5) Do it again. Over and over.

Let’s take the example of how I approach the lectern. By approaching it with confidence and my shoulders back, it may help my initial confidence and fight off the slumpies (slumped shoulders). How I approached my new deliberate practice:

1) Identify the goal: My goal is to start a speech or any speech from the lectern with more confidence.

2) Identify the challenge: The anxiety that washes over me when my name is called and the applause starts.

3) Purposely work on this skill: Before each time I run through my speech, I take a deep breath. Throw my hands wide. Take up space. I practice walking to the center of the room and imagine shaking hands with the chairperson.

4) Seek feedback: This is a new practice for me. However, it is my intent to ask others for their perspective and suggestions.

5) Do it again: Sign up for another speech and practice it again.

You may not have been born with mad speaking skills, but deliberate practice can make it look like you were!