Your New Year’s Resolution—Become a Better Public Speaker

It’s that time of year again when we’re all busy making our New Year’s resolutions. I’m a big fan of this tradition. It seems like a great way to kick off the year—especially when it comes to professional development. So, how about adding a few items to your 2009 list that will help you improve your presentations skills?

Your list is probably already filled with the usual lifestyle suspects-- losing 10 lbs, paying off debt, being nicer to your in-laws. But if you also want to add professional heft to the coming year, I suggest adding a few action items that will help you become a better public speaker. But how do you add more to your list without becoming overwhelmed or unmotivated?

First rule of thumb, keep it simple -- add no more than three action items. Next, choose two skills you enjoy, already do well and want to improve even more—your strengths are the easiest avenue to success. And finally add one tough challenge. Selecting just one will help you stay focused and inspired.

When my son was little we always enjoyed writing our New Year’s resolutions together. My husband and I had lists of standard fare—re-cycled items from the year past. But my son’s list was quite unique:

  • Play with Benny (his best friend)
  • Clean my room (a tough challenge)
  • Eat more pies (his favorite dessert)

His simple list included just three important items, two things he already enjoyed and did well and one big challenge -- a simple and effective success model out of the mouth of a child.

So, keep your list short, include items that you already enjoy and add one big challenge. Your list will of course be unique to your level of interest and experience but here’s a sample to get you started:

  • Observe other speakers on such sites as www.YouTube.com www.ted.com www.fora.tv (This fun and enjoyable activity is easy to do well!)
  • Tell stories www.storynet.org (We do it all the time and most people love to hear them.)
  • Use more pauses (This is a challenge for most speakers so remember to practice in your everyday conversations on the phone, at business meetings and at the dinner table.)

By following these simple steps for improving your presentation skills in 2009 you will increase your credibility, create stronger opportunities for personal and professional growth and find more enjoyment every time you speak. Don’t be surprised at how quickly you see improvements and when you do reward yourself. Eat more pies.