improve speaking skills with baby steps

I have just finished reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and I found it an inspiring read.   So inspiring that I am now listening to the audio version in my car too.  It’s not a book about how to improve speaking skills per se, but its messages are as relevant here as in any other endeavor.

The core message is that success comes not from miraculous breakthroughs but from doing small things regularly and consistently – The little things that are easy to do but also easy not to do. That got me thinking about what small things I and my clients have done to improve speaking skills so that I can share them with you to help  you progress on your own journey towards becoming a great speaker.

So here is my list. It’s not exhaustive and I’d love it if you would contribute your own ideas via the comments option below this post. Perhaps together, our tips to improve speaking skill can inspire reluctant presenters around the globe to take the plunge,

The key thing about Slight Edge actions is that they must be easy to do (and therefore also easy not to do!). You don’t have to do all of them but get started by picking one and committing to it. Here are some simple actions that are proven to improve speaking skills.

  • Borrow or buy a book on public speaking and read 10 pages every day
  • Join a local Toastmasters club and attend at least one meeting a month
  • Say something brief in every meeting you attend
  • Watch at least one TED speaker video (www.ted.com) every week
  • Subscribe to and read blogs on public speaking skills
  • Say yes when given the opportunity to speak or present
  • Ask for specific, constructive feedback every time you speak
  • Find a mentor and ask for help and advice
  • Practice every speech or presentation out loud at least once before doing it for real
  • Keep a speaking  journal and write something new you learned about speaking or presenting every day
So if you would like to improve speaking skill pick one of these options, or create one of your own, commit to doing it every day and you will be amazed at the difference it can make.

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54 Comments

  1. humayun on 05/03/2016 at 18:08

    hello everyone i like the topic so much. i have a theory regarding speaking that speaking skill and confidence is the same thing. if you have the confidence you can speak everywhere everything to everyone. if you a lot of knowledge but you have not confidence you can not express yourself.
    please do comment….

    • Gavin Meikle on 05/03/2016 at 18:54

      Thanks for your comment Humayun, There is a connection between the two although personally I am not sure they are the same thing. I have seen some very confident people who are poor public speakers. This is not because they lack confidence, but because they lack other skills such as editing, empathy audience awareness, etc.

      • humayun on 06/03/2016 at 18:28

        this correct speaking is an art. but one thing…. this skill cont be adopted or learnt if u r not by birth, by my point of view.

        • Gavin Meikle on 07/03/2016 at 07:07

          Hi Humayun
          Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I understand where you are coming from but my experience has been different. Having coached many people in presentation and public speaking skills over more than 20 years, I can say that it is my experience that anyone who as a desire to become a better speaker can improve significantly. As a result, I now believe that most people are born with the capability to express themselves. Those people who we label “natural speakers” have invariably just had more encouragement and practice when they were younger.

          • humayun on 07/03/2016 at 17:38

            i like the topic because i am very weak in speaking in front of people. i become blush and heart starts beating, and my tongue do not follow by mind that time. my face become red. i dont know how to face people .



          • Gavin Meikle on 07/03/2016 at 18:59

            I can feel your pain Humayun and you are not alone. We have all been there and the symptoms you face are surprisingly common. Practice and supportive feedback are the keys to overcoming these feelings. Where aboutd do you live? Are there any Toastmasters Clubs nearby? http://www.Toastmasters.org This international organisation exists to help people like you build up your confidence as well as your speaking skills.



      • Madhavi on 19/03/2018 at 16:00

        I just starting reading this.yes your point is true in my case.i have good confidence and good grip on subject.but i am very bad public speaker.started implementing the few tips mentioned in this chapter like talk when ever i get a chance and try to brief in each call.

    • Abhinash on 26/12/2017 at 20:08

      I have confidence…but I cant speak well..can u give me some tips..how can I overcome it.

      • Gavin Meikle on 28/12/2017 at 12:38

        Hello Abinash
        Thanks for asking the question. I would love to be able to help you. Confidence is only one part of being a good speaker. The other key elements are Content, Structure and Delivery. Content relates to “what you say”, Structure relates to how you organise and sequence the information and ideas you present, and Delivery relates to the how you use your energy, voice and body language to bring that content to life. I have written about these elements extensively in the other posts in this blog and also in my book “The Presenter’s Edge”. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback formats from Amazon. I hope this helps. Gavin

  2. azadmalik on 08/08/2014 at 09:53

    small things make a perfection but perfection is not a small thing…

  3. surbhi on 25/07/2014 at 20:07

    Hey gavin….
    This post helped me a lot.
    But I have a problem.i am really bad at extemporizing…..when given a topic I don’t
    know anything about…..
    Would be really helpful if you could write a post on it

    • Gavin Meikle on 31/07/2014 at 19:12

      Thanks for the feedback and the suggestion :-). I have made a note of it and will post on this topic shortly!

  4. Anonymous on 08/01/2014 at 09:42

    Hi,
    Gavin, iam raghu , my problem is like when i speak to my friends i speak fluently and they say that i have good communication skills but when i try to speak something in the office or in a group of people iam nervous and is not able to express the thoughts properly which are in my mind can u plz help on this

    • Gavin Meikle on 12/01/2014 at 15:57

      What a great question Ragu..
      My first thought is to ask you the question “How do you know that you are unable to express your thoughts properly when in work or in groups?” I don’t wish to be flippant, but I suspect that in reality you are actually much better than you think you are. Our own internal self-critic means well, but it can get carried away and be very unfair! Of course we can always improve, but it’s best to acknowledge our strengths, as well as our weaknesses.

      My second question is ” What are you saying to yourself in your head, when presenting at work, or in groups, that is causing you to be nervous?” Our thoughts create our emotions, so if you are thinking “I’m no good…” you are naturally going to think about failure and feel nervous. In your original question you have already stated that friends tell you that you have good communication skills so, next time you start to doubt yourself, replace that negative voice in your head with the voice of one of your trusted friends saying “You are a good communicator, you’ll be fine”. We can’t stop ourselves having negative thoughts, but we don’t have to accept them! Let me know if this was helpful.

      Gavin

  5. Hussain on 26/11/2013 at 14:48

    Hi.
    These are great tips to learn speak English i am trying my best as well as i can do. thanks again

    • Gavin Meikle on 29/12/2013 at 19:39

      Thanks for the feedback Hussain. I am delighted to hear that they are helpful. Please feel free to post any questions or topics you would like be to cover in future posts.

  6. Ratan Mondal on 18/11/2013 at 15:45

    Those are really very good option and easy to adapt. Thank you very much for helping us.

    I would like to get more help from you.

    • Gavin Meikle on 20/11/2013 at 17:24

      Thanks Ratan. I appreciate your positive comments. Let me know how else I can help.

  7. M.AYYAPPA SAI NAGU on 30/10/2013 at 13:21

    THANKS FOR PROVIDING SUCH TYPE OF ADVICES.IT IS VERY USEFUL TO OUR YOUNGSTERS

  8. Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities on 22/08/2013 at 13:28

    As I was having trouble posting links to great speaking resources, I’ve put them all in this post instead:
    5 free public-speaking courses (available worldwide)

    Hope you enjoy them all!

  9. Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities on 22/08/2013 at 07:45

    Hi Gavin, please check your spam folder — I posted a comment with 2 links and it says “awaiting moderation”. Thanks!

    • Gavin Meikle on 22/08/2013 at 16:42

      Thanks Craig, Even speakers need a holiday! I’ve just got back from a few days up in Scotland and have approved your links today.
      Best Wishes

      Gavin

  10. Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities on 20/08/2013 at 15:30

    Great tips – thanks Gavin.

    A couple of former world champs of public speaking offer 52 free weekly tips to help you practise and improve.
    Craig Valentine: http://www.52speakingtips.com/
    Darren LaCroix: http://www.getpaidtospeak.com

  11. Anonymous on 17/08/2013 at 19:28

    hi, I am suraj.
    I am a shy person, so that i am not speaking with everyone for long time. when I am speaking to someone at that time I am not deliver whole thing so can you help me

    • Gavin Meikle on 22/08/2013 at 16:41

      Hi Suraj
      Thanks for contacting me. I hope you are finding the blog posts helpful. I’d love to be able to help if I can. Perhaps you can contact me directly at enquiries@inter-activ.co.uk with some more details including your location, age and what you have tried so far.

      Regards

      Gavin

  12. Nate Cool Katz on 03/08/2013 at 12:00

    Simple task which are not easy to do….hehehe..I know because I am one of them. Thanks anyway because I watch TED to get inspiration, I join the Toastmasters and I am trying to improve my English with a mentor’s help.

    • Gavin Meikle on 03/08/2013 at 15:01

      Thanks Nate, you are right in that these are simple things but it takes a little effort and focus on our part to apply them consistently. I find that reminding myself of my end goal, helps me to maintain my focus.

  13. Anonymous on 30/07/2013 at 19:09

    Hi!
    I’m very shy and therefore I get nervous when having to say something long, not necessary a speech, but even a long phrase. This makes me speak faster, in order to finish sooner what I have to say, which in turn makes my message more confusing the more I talk. Reading your article and the posts here gave me an idea that never crossed my mind before, that I should read out loud my many books in order to get used with my own voice and pronounciation and in time my problem will dissapear by itself. You think it’ s gonna works?
    Thanks a lot.

    • Gavin Meikle on 31/07/2013 at 08:28

      I think there is a very good chance that this will help. Another good tip is to pick a passage of 100 words and then time yourself to see how long it takes to read, A good conversational speed is around 170-180 words per minute. A good public speaking speed is closer to 120 words a minute. Practicing speaking slowly and calmly is a powerful way to retrain your brain. Hope this helps.

  14. jevan rey on 22/07/2013 at 14:16

    Hi Gavin
    I have a speech in my class but im scared i dont know what to speak or what to present… what should i do.. im just 15 years old high school.. hoping for youre help (^_^)
    a great thanks..

    • Gavin Meikle on 22/07/2013 at 14:20

      Hi Jevan
      Thanks for getting in touch and posting such a great question. Choosing a topic can seem challenging at first but needn’t be so. checkout my post on this very subject https://www.inter-activ.co.uk/speech-writing/choosing-a-speech-topic/ I hope this helps.

      Gavin Meikle

      • jevan rey on 22/07/2013 at 14:26

        THANKS.. a lot Gavin this article help me much…..i know what to discus i will do my best accept for stagefrigth .. (^_^)

  15. Anshul on 19/07/2013 at 03:09

    Hi Gavin
    My problem is even after speaking/giving presentations for more than 50 times in front of people I get nervous and forget what I prepared even when I am using PPTs as support. How to overcome this fear?

    • Gavin Meikle on 19/07/2013 at 11:15

      Hi Anshul
      Thanks for having the courage to share your concerns. The first thing I would like to say is that you are not alone, most speakers still feel nervous when they speak, even if they don’t show it. There is no shame in feeling nervous. Your nerves tell me that you care about the end result and that is so important. It’s not about getting rid of the nerves, it’s about harnessing that nervous energy and turning it into something that lifts your speaking ability to a new level. I also noticed that you say that you have presented over 50 times but forget what you prepare. This sounds like you could be making life hard for yourself by trying to deliver a word perfect script. In my experience, your audience are looking for passion, not perfection so I would suggest you cut yourserlf some slack and worry less about being word perfect.

      I hope this helps.
      Gavin, The Presentation Doctor.

  16. Pradeep Dhoundiyal on 12/07/2013 at 15:57

    well…………
    i WILL START IT FROM NOW ON WARDS……………

    • Gavin Meikle on 12/07/2013 at 18:37

      Thanks for your comment Pradeep. Best wishes and please check out my other posts.

  17. aire on 22/06/2013 at 17:12

    thank you for posting this steps 🙂 I’m practicing to speak English fluently and confident…because every time I speak English i feel nervous and my voice become chappy and i can’t even pronounce words correctly and im shy at afraid to talk to others who are fluent in speaking English…sometime others always laughing when i try to speak english…so that i want to learn the real english…

  18. Praveen Maurya on 18/04/2013 at 13:07

    i want to improve my communication skill’s. I understand every thing but not speak. So what i do?

    • Gavin Meikle on 12/06/2013 at 19:10

      Practice with feedback is the key. Look for a local Toastmasters Club. They offer affordable practice and support to develop your communication skills. The Global site is http://www.Toastmasters.org

  19. How to improve your presentation skills on 05/04/2013 at 17:27

    Great Article!

    I can definitely say that the quote:

    The little things that are easy to do but also easy not to do.

    Perfectly addresses a major problem in people who want to conquer their fear of giving a presentation.

    Thanks for the insights!

    • Gavin Meikle on 06/04/2013 at 08:45

      Thanks for sharing the love! I’ll check out your blog too.
      The Presentation Doctor

  20. Anonymous on 04/04/2013 at 05:03

    it is really grt exp to listen you

    • Gavin Meikle on 04/04/2013 at 11:29

      Thanks for the comment. Glad you found it interesting. Have you subscribed to get the latest updates?

  21. Ashok on 11/02/2013 at 19:04

    Really i greatly inspired about how to improve speaking skills.thanks to the team

    • Gavin Meikle on 12/02/2013 at 07:38

      Hi Ashok
      Thanks for visiting and for sharing your comment. Everyone has something worth saying, but it takes courage to share. Good luck on your speaking journey. Get in touch if I can help in any way and please let me know if there is any particular aspect you would like me to write a post on.

  22. Anonymous on 15/11/2012 at 18:45

    i really like your options and hope after doing it my confidence will develop and
    my speaking power as well because i really get problem

    • Gavin Meikle on 15/11/2012 at 19:28

      Thanks for sharing. I am please you found this post useful. Please feel free to share it with your own network. Best Wishes on your speaking journey – we all started as nervous quivering wrecks but practice and feedback is the key.

  23. rio on 14/09/2012 at 02:31

    I would like to read book, magazine or journal and then try to speak briefly in front of the class room before starting to teach my students.

    • Gavin Meikle on 14/09/2012 at 07:59

      Hi Rio, that sounds like a great starting point. Remember that everyone was nervous to begin with but the more you practice the more confident you become. Susan Jeffers said it so well in her great little book “Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway”. I would also recommend you check to see if there is a local Toastmasters Club Nearby. They provide fantastic support and encouragement.

  24. Serena Greenslade on 08/04/2012 at 18:17

    I always suggest to people I teach that they read the ingredients/cooking instructions on things they come across in the kitchen out loud. For example if you're using a tin of baked beans just read the label out loud. So easy to do and it gets you used to hearing your own voice and gives you a chance to practice articualtion and projection.

  25. Fred E. Miller on 11/05/2011 at 13:13

    Thanks for the Post, Gavin.

    I really like the idea that you are listening to the audio of the book.

    I’ve recently started recording and posting the audio of my Posts. It is something I recommend to everyone because it will make you a better writer and speaker.
    http://www.nosweatpublicspeaking.com/speaking-opportunities-arebusiness-and-career-opportunities/

  26. capital on 09/05/2011 at 04:56

    Great list of simple actions to improve speaking skills. Small action can really add up if done regularly.

    I like to read different forms of writing OUT LOUD like books, news paper and magazine articles, blogs, short stories etc. as part of my daily routine. The variation of material and styles of writing challenges how you use your voice. It is a simple action that I find helps in many ways, such as; strengthening my voice, improving pronunciation, emphasis of words and phrasings, my inflection and cadence.

    Overall it makes me a better speaker and helps me better understand my voice 🙂

    Thanks for the tips.

    Cheers

    Capital

    • Gavin Meikle on 09/05/2011 at 07:35

      Thanks for the excellent addition to the list. I too love to read out loud but had forgotten that I do it, when writing this article. Many thanks and keep commenting. Gavin

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