Public Speaking is an underrated skill that is crucial to success in your personal and professional life. Whether you’re a business owner, an employee, or a customer, you need good communication skills. I recently sat down with Brenden Kumarsamy, the founder of Mastertalk, to talk about common communication problems and improving your communication skills.
You can listen to the full interview below.
As with every interview, I’ll share a few of my key takeaways from the conversation. If you’d like to listen to the full interview with timestamps or learn more about Mastertalk, you can check out the podcast.
Understand Why You Want to Improve
If you’re only trying to improve your communication skills to achieve superficial goals like a promotion at work or increasing your sales numbers, you’re likely to fail. Brenden noted that the best communicators feel like they have a message or an idea that needs to be heard because it will benefit others in some way.
Their motivation for improving as a speaker/communicator is rooted in a desire to help others more so than helping themselves. In short, they know exactly why they are speaking. Figure out how hearing your message is going to help others. By doing that, you’ll understand your motivation, and that will help improve your mindset toward public speaking.
What Makes a Good Public Speaker?
Don’t look at public speaking as a chore. When we were in school, and we had to give a presentation in front of the class, the majority of us dreaded the experience. It made us start to look at it as something we had to do. Perspective is everything when it comes to communication.
Brenden compared public speaking to playing a sport and noted that the difference between the two is that you play a sport because you want to, but you often give presentations because you feel like you have to. Your mindset matters, and if you can start looking at public speaking in a more positive light, you will dramatically improve as a communicator.
The Most Common Communication Problems
Public speaking can be scary. It’s a very sobering feeling when you’re standing up in front of a room of adults, children, or potential clients who you’re hoping not to bore to death. According to Brenden, the two most common communication problems that he comes across are fear and a lack of practice.
Most of us get our first exposure to public speaking through school projects. We likely had to talk about something that didn’t interest us, or our classmates, very much, and the experience left a scar. The problem wasn’t public speaking itself. In reality, the problem was that we weren’t presenting something that we felt passionate about.
It can also be quite difficult to find willing participants to practice speeches on them. Luckily, you can practice on friends and family. Your focus should be on improving your fundamentals like eye contact, projecting your voice, and speaking clearly, instead of crowd sizes. Once you are confident in your fundamental speaking abilities, the crowd won’t matter, and you will feel confident in any situation. The key is repetition.
Brenden noted that the best speakers in the world give the same presentation hundreds of times. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you give a speech. Create a repeatable presentation that you can alter as necessary. All you have to do is polish it as you gradually improve as a speaker.
Should You Be Funny or Informative?
Many speech coaches will tell you to try and add some levity to your speeches, but Brenden believes that can be a mistake if you’re being inauthentic. If you’re not a funny person by nature, don’t try to be a comedian during your presentation. You’ll be noticeably uncomfortable, and that can be cringey and off-putting for your audience, to say the least.
Stick to your natural personality, and you will most likely to win over your audience. Besides, it’s much harder to maintain a facade than it is to be genuine. Lean towards what makes you feel comfortable.
Ask yourself the following two questions, and your answers will help you shape your presentation style:
- If people only remembered one thing from your speech, what would you want it to be?
- What is the best way for you to defend your idea?
Content vs Delivery: Which Is More Important?
We’ve all heard the saying that content is king. Brenden made an interesting point to the contrary during our discussion. Think back on your high school or college years. Which presentations and teachers do you remember the most? Do you remember them more for what they taught you or how they taught you?
If you think about every memorable speech you ever heard, you might remember the overarching theme, but you’ll definitely remember the speaker’s delivery. What you say is important, but how you say it can make or break your presentation. Focus more on delivering quality. According to Brenden, “delivery will always be king, provided your content has one or two key points.”