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Speak Up: How To Get Better At Public Speaking and Why It’s So Important

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

Like most people, I am not great at admitting what I am good at (I partly blame my Englishness for that). However, one skill I will proudly acknowledge is that I am a good public speaker – though it wasn’t always this way. Many people make the mistake of thinking that you are either born confident speaking in front of crowds or you are not, but in my opinion, public speaking is a learned skill – one, that can be developed through practice and following some helpful pointers. 

master the power of Silence

Firstly, and this may seem contradictory, to be a confident public speaker you need to conquer the art of silence. Pauses are natural when talking and – more importantly for public speaking purposes – these breaks in speech can be emphasised or added to further the point or tone you are trying to create. 

Make it fun (for you and everyone around)

Secondly, adding humour is a great way to improve your public speaking. Not only does it make what you are saying (as well as you in general) more relatable, entertaining and engaging, but it can also make you feel more comfortable when speaking. Taking control of, and even actively encouraging, laughter can lessen the fear of being laughed at, instead of laughed with. It can also help you feel more relaxed and comfortable when speaking, making the whole experience less terrifyingly formal and cold and, as such, making you more engaging and easier to listen to.

Pace Yourself

In regard to how you are speaking, slowing down is key. People are often so nervous to get over with an intense situation that they rush to get all their good ideas out as soon as possible. This, however, can have an adverse effect – as people start to rush, they tend to forget key details or points, begin to trip over words or repeat themselves. Slowing down helps by keeping you calm, ensuring you get all your points across in a comprehensible way – and sometimes doesn’t even extend the time of your speech. After all, slowing down will prevent you from spending a minute stuttering and trying to remember what point you were trying to make. 

Find your volume

Finally, I recommend amplifying your voice when performing a speech. I admit that this one is more of a learned skill – it takes time to find that perfect balance between volume and tone while not veering to the extremes of shouting or just talking normally. Even though the main way to get better at projecting your voice is simply through practice, there are some little pointers that can help, such as focusing on your enunciation, learning breathing techniques and improving your posture. It’s important to remember not to shout, just to project – there is a big difference. 

Hopefully these pointers will help improve your public speaking and build your overall confidence in developing and communicating your own ideas. 

Mastering public speaking is a key life skill. You’ll need to voice your opinion in work or school scenarios, as well as in your personal life, whenever you have to speak in front of a crowd. As women, we not only need to make our voices heard to share our own unique perspective on issues that have been neglected so greatly in the past, but we also often face discrimination and distinctive criticism when public speaking – with social conventions labelling outspoken women as too loud or too opinionated. Learning the skill of engaging and coherent public speaking is, therefore, key for women to grow and develop personally, and also to fight prejudices that we face daily both in the workplace and wider society. 

Josie Smith

St. Andrews '24

Josie is a fourth year studying philosophy. She is particularly interested in writing about health and well-being topics as well as the unique financial and business issues that women face. Josie feels so excited and grateful to be a part of an editorial that focuses on amplifying and empowering women’s voices.