Like most people, I used to be terrified of public speaking. Just the thought of public speaking was enough to upset my stomach. But with a little guidance and regular practice I have been able to tackle my fear of public speaking and now I regularly speak at local meetups and I also put on seminars.

I’m here to tell you that you can also overcome your fear and develop your public speaking skills with a little bit of effort and persistence. Public speaking is something that most people avoid like the plague, which is exactly why you need to master it. The fact that so many people won’t do it makes public speaking such a valuable and sought-after skill.

The #1 Skill For Establishing Trust and Credibility

I believe that becoming a confident and effective public speaker is the best way to establish your expertise and advance your career. When you are up on stage, you are able to speak to a large group of people who will be listening to everything you say. If you know what you’re doing, this will allow you to instantly build trust and respect with this audience. This means these people will be far more likely to want to hire and do business with you.

If you are an entrepreneur or even if you are simply looking to kickstart your career, I can’t think of a better way to increase your personal brand and get new customers than speaking at local meetups, networking events and conferences in your industry.

To help you get started, I created this quick guide so you can start practicing your public speaking skills in a safe environment. You may never completely overcome your fear of public speaking — I certainly still get nervous before I speak in front of people — but after completing public speaking training I know how to communicate my message effectively and I have the tools to manage my fear and anxiety.

With a little practice, you will also be able to manage your fear and gain a basic mastery of effective public speaking techniques so you can start reaching a larger audience in your community.

1. Take This Introduction To Public Speaking Course

I highly recommend taking this excellent 10-week course on Coursera from the University of Washington. It is free and  I found it to be the best freely available online course for developing public speaking skills.

This self-paced course teaches you the principles of effective public speaking and it demystifies the process of writing, practicing and delivering a clear and engaging speech. After taking this online course, you will know how to:

  1. Design and deliver basic presentations concisely;
  2. Design and deliver informative presentations clearly;
  3. Design and deliver complex arguments persuasively;
  4. Speak confidently with appropriate rate, projection, movement, and vocal variety;
  5. Evaluate and critique speeches insightfully.

2. Join A Local Toastmasters Chapter

If you’re not familiar with Toastmasters, it is a highly-regarded non-profit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for “the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills.”

The kind of people who go to Toastmasters are typically highly-motivated to improve their skills and advance their careers. This makes it an excellent place for networking and making new friends that will challenge and inspire you. I was part of a Toastmasters club in the city of Vancouver where I live and I found the bi-weekly meetings and working through the Toastmasters program by writing and delivering speeches gave me the confidence to do my own seminars.

There are often many Toastmasters clubs in major cities, so I recommend trying a few out and finding the one that is the best fit for you. For example, in downtown Vancouver there are 16 different Toastmasters clubs, each with a different theme that attracts a particular demographic of people.

3. Speak At A Meetup In Your Area

Once you have done a few speeches at your local Toastmasters club, I would recommend finding a local meetup to speak at. Ideally, find a meetup in a niche that is related to your career or speak at a local business networking event.

Start out by preparing a presentation in PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi on a topic that you specialize in and will be of interest to other people. If you’ve already done some Toastmasters speeches you can easily re-work them into a 30-45 minute presentation with slides.

After you have your presentation ready, reach out to the organizers of some local meetups that you interest you. Explain to the organizers what you would like to speak about and what value it will have to their audience. The best way to approach this is to attend the meetup a few times before you ask so the organizer already knows who you are.

Also, you should keep in mind that at busy meetups it can take a few months to get a slot to speak so you may want to reach out to the organizer well before you have your presentation completed.

Your Path To Better Public Speaking Skills

After taking the Introduction to Public Speaking course on Coursera, doing a few speeches at Toastmasters and delivering a presentation at a local meetup I can guarantee that you will be well on your way to overcoming your fear of public speaking and becoming a confident speaker in front of a large audience.

If you found this quick guide to developing your public speaking skills useful, you’ll find more excellent resources for online education and advancing your career in my HyperLearning Toolkit.