Public Speaking Exercises

There are a number of exercises you can perform to help improve your public speaking abilities. These range from tried-and-true options such as speaking in front of a mirror to less traditional approaches, such as learning to recite the alphabet using different emotions, to taking classes or volunteering to teach them.
  • Perform jaw exercises to help improve your speech clarity. Practice making chewing motions while softly humming, or stretch your facial muscles thoroughly by yawning and moving your jaw in circular motions. Practiced over time, they’ll help immensely.
  • Practice saying the alphabet using a variety of emotions. Because the alphabet is a simple list that has been committed to memory from a very early age, you’ll be able to focus on intonation and emotional output rather than on remembering what you’re going to say.
  • Recite tongue twisters. Seashells weren’t sold on the seashore just to entertain children. They’re also games used to teach speech clarity.
  • Practice enunciation. In daily speech, individuals have a tendency to slur or shorten their words, and while this doesn’t cause problems in normal conversations, it’s detrimental to public speaking. Practice saying each word clearly, and make sure you keep your mouth free of saliva by swallowing excess. Saliva can affect the intonation of the letters “r” and “s.”
  • Record yourself speaking. You can use monologues, old speeches, or anything else that comes to mind. Then, sit down with the video and make note of what you did right and what you need to improve. This will give you the chance to become a member of the audience for your speech. Note how your eyes focus on different parts of the room, what intonations you use, and whether your gestures support or detract from what you’re saying. Make sure you speak with deliberation-not slowly but not conversationally fast either.
  • Practice speeches in front of a mirror. Making eye contact with your reflection and observing how you use hand gestures are excellent ways to improve any speech.
  • Join a public speaking organization, such as Toastmasters to help improve your public speaking skills. This will be a safe environment that will give you the chance to practice speaking frequently and receive the constructive feedback you need to improve your skills.
  • Volunteer to speak to a class. The chances are that your skills or interests are of interest to teachers and troop leaders who are constantly on the lookout for real world invitees to further educate their charges. While you might not want to jump right into a high school classroom, elementary school students can be attentive listeners, and scout troops tend to be exemplary. This practice will help to further build confidence.
  • Ask friends or family to watch your speech and give feedback. This will give you the chance to practice in front of an audience of “safe” individuals. Ask them to monitor your pacing, tone, eye contact, hand gestures, and movement about the space. If you will be using a slide presentation, include this in your practice speech.
  • Take a class. Most junior colleges and universities offer public speaking classes as part of their general education requirements. Consider enrolling as a non-degree seeking student to get the benefit of professional speech instruction.
Ultimately, public speaking is about practice. Successful public speakers are not born but made. The only way to improve your public speaking skills is to continually practice them. Whether you practice in public or private is up to you, but a combination of the two will generally be most beneficial. Organizations such as Toastmasters can help infinitely, but you can gain excellent experience practicing in front of a mirror and delivering your speech to family or friends. Exercises in public speaking don’t just encompass ways to improve your word pronunciation, but ways to improve your presence and emotional delivery. Over time, it is possible to transform from awkward public speaker to a shining example of oratorical delivery.

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