Quiet Time: Why prep work always wins out in public speaking

As you continue to wonder aloud why you’re so afraid of public speaking, some who are novices aren’t asking questions anymore but rather opting for one piece of advice that works so much better than any other to curb those fears.

Say hello to doing your homework, again.

Remember when you were in college or high school, and you hit the books in preparation for that big exam, never thinking for a moment about “winging it” (although some kids were able to do that and still do well, and you were always jealous). That prep work for the majority of students always seemed to be the difference between endlessly watching the clock, having no clue what any answers are versus breezing through a test and feeling confident when you turned it in that you were well on your way to a good grade.

Not sure why, but somewhere along the way we lost our penchant for practice, for making sure there were no surprises when it came to getting a good grade or, in the case of the working world, a passable, pat on the back when it came to how well we performed, public speaking included.

Nothing sends your public speaking woes to the back of the classroom more so than the same element that got you through school: practice, practice, practice.

While some public speaking experts will argue that eye contact, subject matter and how the speech is structured all play huge parts in the success or failure of the speech, none of it is going to mean much if you don’t practice the speech. And when you talk about “practice,” you can define it in more ways then you’d assume.

For instance, it goes beyond staring in a mirror and running your lines as if you’re up for a movie part. Practice as far as public speaking goes means knowing your audience and subject matter, for sure, but also knowing what parts to hit on, when to back off the jokes or the key points that are highlighted and stressed throughout the course of a speech. You have to work on elements of tone, voice inflection and knowing when to pause at appropriate times to really let the information sink in (nothing is worse then a speech racer, someone who reads and blows through all their topic in a few minutes).

Public speaking is always going to be, for the masses, a project that they’d rather not accept. But success and being able to communicate in front of a group are more and more become synonymous with one another, and in this case practice truly does make perfect for your pending speech.