When we think about public speaking, we generally think about someone standing on a stage in front of a packed audience. The act is inherently social (the clue is in the name), and so it’s easy to think that there’s not much you can do to improve yourself when you’re at home alone.
It’s certainly true that one of the best ways to improve your public speaking is to give talks in front of an audience, however, your opportunities to do that are obviously limited. Fortunately, there are other avenues available to you, and plenty of things that you can do to develop your public speaking skills from the comfort of your living room.
And so with that in mind, we’ve pulled together ten top tips on the best ways for you to practice public speaking at home. Here’s what you need to know:
How to Practice Public Speaking at Home
1. Practice in front of the mirror
This is the classic method for improving as a public speaker, and you can bet that many of the most famous public speakers in history have done this. And it’s pretty easy to see why.
If you practice in front of a mirror, you can watch yourself in the act and keep an eye on your body language. It also gives you a feel for what your audience will see, and if you’ve got a particular presentation in mind then you’ll experience it in an entirely new way. As well as finding ways to improve your delivery and the way that you speak, you will probably also find areas where you can improve the presentation itself.
2. Film yourself
The next step up from practicing in front of a mirror is to film yourself and watch the footage back. This has the same benefits as using the mirror, with the added advantage that you can give the playback your full attention instead of trying to concentrate on both presenting and analyzing your presentation at the same time.
When you film yourself speaking, you can also easily skip backwards and forwards to replay key moments, and you can also upload it to YouTube as an unlisted video and then share that link with friends and family to ask them for their feedback.
3. Present via Zoom
Presenting via Zoom is interesting because it requires a slightly different set of skills to presenting in an auditorium. Although, as you’re limited by the frame of your webcam, you can’t walk around the stage or meet up with audience members to shake their hands and network in person, of course.
This means that there’s additional emphasis placed on your body language and the way that you use your voice. That’s good news, because both of those will make a big difference when you deliver a talk in person, and presenting to people via Zoom – even if it’s only to your loved ones – can force you to focus on those elements and to get them right.
4. Join a toastmasters’ club
Toastmasters’ clubs are basically social groups that are designed for people to meet up and to take turns delivering a talk or a toast. They can be a great way to practice your own public speaking while simultaneously learning what works from the other members’ talks.
Back in the day, toastmasters’ clubs met in person and so you were somewhat limited by your physical geography, but these days there are plenty of them that meet up online. You can get started by giving it a Google, and Toastmasters.org also has a useful list of clubs that you can take a look at.
5. Try talking without stopping
This one is pretty neat because it tests you on your ability to think on your feet. The idea is to set a timer on your phone for ten minutes or so, to pick a topic and then to try talking for the full ten minutes without pausing for longer than it takes for you to take a breath.
The goal is to get you used to talking off the cuff while also teaching you a little bit about the pace of your delivery. When you practice talking without stopping, you get better at improvisation and can also increase your overall competence when it comes to your abilities as a speaker.
6. Make it part of your daily routine
The best way to ensure that you get some practice is to make it a part of your daily routine. If you carve out some time each day to practice public speaking, and you stick to it, you’ll start to notice improvements in no time.
It’s a little bit like trying to get into shape. If you want to increase your muscle mass or lose weight, you can’t just go to the gym whenever you’re in the mood for it. You need to establish a routine that you stick to come hell or high water, and you need to avoid making excuses to get yourself out of it. There are no shortcuts.
7. Practice in the shower
You’ve heard of singing in the shower, but you’ve probably never thought about practicing your presentations in the shower. There’s actually a little bit of irony here, because one of the tips that people often share is to imagine that your audience is naked. This turns the tables.
Practicing in the shower is a great way to squeeze in some extra practice without taking up time in your already busy schedule. It can also get you used to speaking loudly and clearly because you’ll need to raise your voice to make it heard over the running water.
8. Practice varying your tone of voice
The tone of voice that you use can make a huge difference to the way that you’re perceived. There’s a big difference between a speaker who uses a dull monotone and one who varies his pitch and volume to emphasize points and engage the audience.
When you’re practicing at home without an audience, it’s the perfect time for you to practice using different tones and delivery styles, because if it doesn’t work out, there’ll be no one there to hear it. And who knows? You might just find a new way of speaking that you hadn’t previously thought about.
9. Study other public speakers
This one’s a no-brainer and is made super simple thanks to the prevalence of YouTube. Simply carve out some time in your calendar to look up different public speakers and to watch videos so that you can analyze their techniques and the way that they deliver their messages.
You can also benefit from looking at a wide variety of different speakers, from Apple keynotes to speeches by seasoned politicians. If in doubt, check out the TED Talks YouTube channel, which has literally thousands of videos on all sorts of different topics. Just be sure to actually analyze the speech and not get too engrossed in the topic rather than the performance. Remember, you’re supposed to be working!
10. Write some speeches
Writing speeches is a good way to practice public speaking because it allows you to approach things from a different angle. True, it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to write a speech outside of a wedding unless you’re a business person or a politician, and even they use speechwriters. But written language is very different to verbal language, and it’s all about helping you to see things differently.
By writing some speeches and then practicing delivering them, you can start to see different things that work well by looking at them out of context. It sounds crazy, but there’s a world of difference between writing a speech and delivering one, and if you try comparing the two of them, it will help to give you a deeper level of insight into the way that public speaking works.
Now that you know a few of our top tips for practicing public speaking at home, you’re ready to put what you’ve learned today into practice. Feel free to try out each of the different techniques that we’ve covered and to see what works and what doesn’t.
Remember that everyone is different and so what works for someone else might not work for you. That’s why we’ve shared a selection of tips, because it means that you can try them all out one by one and then stick with whichever methods work best for you.
Of course, there’s always room for improvement and you should always be on the lookout for new ways to practice and improve your public speaking. The good news is that we’ll continue to share some of our top tips in our upcoming blog posts, so be sure to check back often for more tips on all aspects of public speaking. Also, please do let us know in the comments which of these techniques you found useful.