As a novice or seasoned public speaker becoming better isn’t an option… it’s an expectation. Given that fact, it will absolutely behove you to engage in some speaking exercises as a way to rapidly and effectively increase your speech making skills.Below are some exercises that countless theatre folks have found useful throughout the years and which translate well to the public speaking arena.
Tape YourselfWithout a doubt, this is one of the least favourite activities of most public speakers (the majority of people simply do not enjoy listening to or watching themselves on tape), but this exercise produces fast results.
Have a friend or colleague tape you at an actual or simulated public speaking event and then review the video in the privacy of your home. Watch yourself for moments of greatness… and for moments of weakness. For instance, are you mumbling at any points? Do you have a tendency to read, never looking up from your notes to acknowledge listeners? Is your cadence too rapid?
After evaluating yourself on camera, you’ll have a much better indication of where you need to focus your attentions.
(Special Note: If you’re feeling particularly brave, allow someone else to watch the video, too. Having another individual’s objective feedback can be invaluable, if somewhat unnerving initially.)
Recite Tongue Twisters
- “New York’s unique. Unique New York, You know you love unique New York.”
- “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
- “Red leather, yellow leather.”
Repeat each phrase (you can search for other tongue twisters online) five times, attempting to perfectly and naturally recite the words without sounding too “robotic”. This exercise will not only help you improve your enunciation; it will also help you focus on becoming aware of what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.
Speak ImprovisationallyThis is a fun method of learning how to speak with authority and can be done alone or (preferably) with a partner.The basic premise is to give a one-minute talk about a subject without any prior knowledge of what the theme will be. For instance, if you’re trying this technique with someone else, have him or her shout out a topic area (i.e., “cat food”, “houses in Costa Rica”, “mistakes made at weddings”). Then, you, as the “public speaker”, will talk about the topic. (If you’re solo, pick up a newspaper, point randomly to any headline, and use that as your topic area.)
Not only is this exercise useful for exercising your brainpower and improv skills, it will also help you become more comfortable when speaking to a crowd. Additionally, it can increase your ability to answer unexpected questions with ease.
Sing or HumMany thespians like to sing (even if they aren’t in singing roles), hum, and/or whistle before a performance, as it “warms up” the throat, tongue, and lips.
You can also intone a few of your favourite tunes as a way of preparing your body and mind for a public speaking engagement. The point isn’t to become a great singer, of course; it’s to work your vocal chords.
(Side Note: When you engage in this kind of activity before a speech, it also helps keep nerves at bay by giving you something upon which to concentrate.)