As 2014 starts, improving your public speaking skills must be one of your priority. I remember reading in a book that professionals in business make on average 30% more than their peers who cannot communicate their messages and ideas effectively. In other words, you can increase your income by about a third if you consciously work on communicating better in public, as well as in private. toolbox-for-public-speakers

Throughout the past 12 months, I put myself under a strict speaking schedule. In this post I share a few of the tools and strategies I used to improve my public speaking. To give you a sense of the improvement I am talking about, you can refer to this video which was recorded in December 2012, this is the (BEFORE) video. And this second (AFTER) video was recorded in November 2013, speaking on the same platform, to the same group of people, the Orange County Speakers Bureau.

Here is the list of the five essential tools and strategies you can use to improve your public speaking:

  • Get Mentors (NOT coaches)

This is indispensable. In your current social circles (or outside), find someone who is very good at public speaking and schedule a meeting to learn from him or her what it takes to become as good, if not better. From my personal experience, most people will gladly share the process they went through to become effective public speakers and communicators. Write down a list of 5 people you have (or can easily get) access to who are very good or excellent public speakers. Call or email them to schedule a meeting for the first quarter of the year based on their availability, not yours.

A mentor who likes you and genuinely wants you to succeed will be much more valuable than a coach. Only if you cannot get access to a mentor who would work with you should you seek the help of a coach. I personally have three mentors who can help me with any question on how to communicate better, especially in public.

  • Read Books

If you read twelve books in a year (one every month) about public speaking, you will have enough information to be able to coach anyone on how to effectively speak in public. It is less daunting than it sounds. It can be achieved by reading 2 to 6 pages every day. The best time to read being the morning, within the first two hours. It helps to wake up early and include reading in your daily activities.

I personally have read many books on public speaking and recommend these two: 1) Speaking as a Professional by Dan Grandstaff and 2) Money Talks by by Alan Weiss. If you are totally new to public speaking and need a book for beginners, I would recommend the book The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking by Dale Carnegie.

  • Get Stage Time

You can only improve your golf swing by swinging. You can only improve your cooking by cooking, you can only improve your public speaking by speaking. The reason why most people don’t speak in public, it is because they want to get it right the first time. It does not work like that. It takes a lot of practice with the right information to create knowledge that will make you speak like a pro. The 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking with Toastmasters International is always keen on this when he shares his experiences from the stage, the platform. Get as much stage time as you can.

Volunteer to speak in public to groups of varying size and in different settings (work, church, home, bar, …) Your objective is to have as many opportunities as possible to speak in public. What I personally did was to become a member of 3 different Toastmasters clubs and volunteered to serve as an Area Governor, lead for 5 different clubs. That enabled me to create more than enough opportunities to speak as I needed. Do the same, or better. Are you not a member of Toastmasters International yet? Find and join a club near your house. Local schools and colleges are also looking for speakers who have a relevant message to share. Network and get as much stage time as you can.

  • Get a Video Camera

This will be one of your most valuable expenses as you are committed to working on developing yourself as a public speaker. Get a digital video camera and a tripod. A budget of USD $300 can cover both expenses and get your a camera of good quality. My camera and tripod are two of my best tools as a speaker. The ability to look back on a speech and learn from what went well and what did not go so well is priceless. It is like going back in time to conduct a forensic analysis of your speech. If one of your mentors would be available, have him or her work with you to review your progress at least once a quarter. You can get a new digital video camera online. Get the best most affordable deal you can find.

  • Get a Voice Recorder

There will be situation where you do not have the opportunity to setup your video camera for recording, but in order to capture what you say, a voice recorder will help. I use a voice recorder which I drop into the front pocket of my jacket or shirt every time I am on stage. A decent voice recorder will cost you less than USD $50 and you will be able to take it everywhere you go. It is very discrete and you can also use it to practice improving the sound of your voice.

Because one can always better his or her best, I plan on using the elements listed above to continue improving my public speaking skills. Which one of the list items is your favorite, and why?

Day 19 of 21: 100 words per day for 21 days. 987 words.