How I trained myself to be a great speaker

I recently received a question about public speaking on a status update I published on Facebook.

I wrote:

I need to confess. I have been having lots of fun singing today — praise singing, to be precise — along to a Maskandi song. Doing all this so I can get better at speaking — the breathing, pacing myself, making pauses and such things. I can hear a lot of improvement. Too awesome!

And Leputla Thamahane commented:

“Care to share techniques one can employ to improve overall?”

In response, I told him about how I have been training myself over the past few years to be a better speaker.

So, without further ado (I have always wanted to say that! It sounds cool), here’s what has worked for me. In no particular order.

# READ

I read magazines from back to front OUT LOUD (even the copy on adverts) for my flow and pronunciation. This has worked wonders for me. I used to suck at speaking, having come from a lowly ranked township high school. I had to work twice as hard compared to kids who attended Saint Johns or Crawford College.

# (CLOSELY) WATCH OTHER PROFESSIONAL SPEAKERS

There are so many brilliant speakers out there, that when you take the time to follow some of them, closely watch their techniques, you’ll find yourself being more aware of how YOU speak. Vusi Thembekwayo, Trevor Noah and Gary Vaynerchuk spring to mind (I used to download their videos and go through them with a fine comb). But, just be careful you don’t end sounding like other people. From others, you’re only looking for technique (how they articulate), not style. Super important distinction.

# SPEAK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

I’m known for talking to myself when I find some time alone. I’m so crazy about speaking well that I’ll go over a single phrase ten times, just to get and articulate it right. For you, you can practice expressing yourself in social spaces with friends.

# DON’T CARE MUCH ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS!

What this means is, the number one reason most people are scared of public speaking is not because they sound bad or they are not smart enough to deliver value to other people. It is because they are more concerned about what other people think of them. Lose that worry, and you’ll be better off.

Finally.

# BE CONFIDENT

I know this sounds vague. Let me explain: to some extent, it does not make sense to be scared of delivering knowledge on stage. Because the person who has the knowledge is YOU, you should be the most free in a room where you are speaking. The audience relies on you for the duration you are presenting.