Public Speaking Tip 3: Make Public Speaking Practice a Game

In Public Speaking Tip 2: Make a Small “Speech” Every Day, I talked about practicing the small actions — for instance, speaking clearly and slowly — that distinguish public speaking from just talking.

I also said that one of the best ways to build your public speaking skills is to act like a public speaker for a few minutes every day.

This is a great way for you to sharpen your basic public speaking tools without anyone even knowing what you’re doing; and it works even better if you make it into a game.

Articulate Like a Public Speaker

Let’s look at the public speaking skill of articulation. When you articulate, you pronounce your words more clearly by:

  • Pronouncing every consonant — in other words, making sure that your consonants (every letter in the alphabet except A, E, I, O. U, and sometimes Y) sound out loud, instead of being glossed over. Example: Say the word jump so that people can hear the “p” sound at the end.
  • Putting more energy into the way your mouth (lips, tongue, and teeth) forms words.

If I’m coaching a client, leading a workshop, or delivering a speech, I’m working overtime to make sure that EHV-ree SIN-gull SILL-uh-ble I proe-NOUNCE is CLEER-ly ahr-TIH-cue-lay-ted (hear that “d”?). But most people don’t even notice what I’m doing, because I don’t sound like an uptight phony, I just sound clear.

the game of public speakingThe best way to start sounding clearer, but still like yourself, is to play with this a little every day — and here’s the game part:

  • Can you slip some extra articulation into a conversation with a friend?
  • Can you do it without them noticing that something’s different?
  • How far can you take this before they notice?

If no one comments, or looks at you funny, you win the game!

And if you go too far, and people realize that you’re practicing public speaking skills in real time? You still win the game, because you learned someone important about how to be a natural public speaker.

Just dial it down a bit and try again some other time!

Pause Like a Public Speaker

Another thing that public speakers do…   is leave a lot of pauses in their speech…  so that listeners have a chance to hear one phrase…  before the speaker goes on to his or her…   next idea. Once again, the game is:

  • Can you add…   pauses…   to a conversation with a friend?
  • Can you do it…   without them noticing that something’s…   different?
  • How far can you take this…  before they notice?

Again, you can’t lose this game.

Variations on the “Can You Tell I’m Practicing My Public Speaking?” Game

You can take this approach to practicing almost any aspect of public speaking. Want to:

  • Speak louder?
  • Speak slower?
  • Use more emphasis?
  • Make more eye contact?
  • Smile while you’re speaking?
  • Sound more forceful?

Once or twice a day, take a few minutes to play with these habits. Start by making a tiny change to the way you normally speak. Then ramp up the amount of change, little by little.

If people start looking suspicious, you’ll know that you’ve gone a step too far.

Take one step back, and practice staying right there, in the sweet spot where your speech is easy to understand, but still natural.

Won’t I Be Embarrassed if I’m Caught Practicing Public Speaking?

Unless your friends are nasty people (and they’re not, right?), the worst thing that happens, if they figure out what you’re up to, is that you’ll have a good laugh, and maybe get a little teasing.

But I’m willing to bet that they won’t catch you. They may find themselves paying more attention, or thinking more about what you say, but they won’t know why.

Try it, and see!