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How to improve my public speaking and interviewing skills? Answered

Much to my surprise I've been doing a fair number of media interviews lately. (TV, radio, podcast)  I'm not really happy with the way that I sound.  I either sound a bit scatterbrained or uncertain.  I meander, give run-on sentences, finish different sentences than I start, etc.  This happens even if I get the questions in advance.

Usually the interviews are taped and the editors work hard to make me sound coherent, but even then my speech is full of pauses, "um"s and "ah"s.  I'd like to break myself of the habit. 

So any hints, tips, ways to practice and/or relax more?



Best Answer 8 years ago

Practice, practice, practice!  I also can't stress enough: know your material.

There are speech clubs like toastmasters (etc) that offer an audience and team support to come up with, and deliver speeches effectively.

Prep:  If you have the questions in advance, write out each question, and the responses you would give.  Now take the responses and distill them down into 5 key words.  The intention here is to not sound like a robot reading off full sentences, rather you just need reminding of the shape of the sentences.

"How is your company coping with the recession?"
We are using innovative strategies such as bla and bla.  While others are doing whatever, we are doing whatever else that is better.

what you would write down for this question:  Innovation with bla/bla.  they suck, we do better.

Interviewing is a really tricky task, whether its live or taped, you still feel on the spot when you get asked questions and need to formulate the answer in your head before you start to talk.  (same is when I'm live on the dispatch radio.  Think, THEN talk, or you will sound silly).  This may sound BRUTALLY obvious, but taking just a second to ponder the question and glance at your (hopefully prepared) notes on the key things you want to cover will remind your brain what you practiced earlier.  It makes a lot more sense to have a delayed coherent message than a forthright garbage message.

Again:  Practice, Prep, and think before you act.

Voting on Toastmasters.  My SO has been the president of a couple clubs, and he's broken himself of all those bad habits with all of his presentations and speeches.  He gave the speech at our wedding, and people cried like sissies because it was such a charming speech.  It's honestly because of his experiences with Toastmasters and being a judge for speeches/contests.

There are literally dozens of Toastmasters clubs in my area.  I tried going to a few of them but wasn't terribly comfortable there.  They were all very focused (everyone in the club worked together or was a member of a specific profession) and I really felt like an outsider.  Which really didn't help with the whole speaking problem!   Unfortunately I don't have a traditional job, and employer, or professional organization that I can used to find a club that would be a good fit for me.

But I'll try to give it some more research.  Toastmasters is pretty universally praised for  this kind of thing.

I just started toastmasters and different clubs can have very different styles depending on the goals of the members. My experience is that clubs are very friendly to new members and everyone wants you to find a club that is a good fit for you. If you don't feel like you fit in ask around about different clubs in your area, chances are that at a least a couple of members moved from nearby clubs.

It really sucks that you felt like an outsider because one of the things I like about toastmasters is the way they bend over backwards to welcome new members. Even so it can be a bit overwhelming at first because they do run the meetings in a bit of an odd way.

I'd say if you feel like you don't 'get' the club then just try to hang in there for a few more weeks because it all starts making sense eventually, but if you don't get along with the people just keep trying clubs until you find one that clicks.

Look for a professional speaking coach.  It may seem expensive but they get results by focusing on YOU and don't waste time.