As originally posted on Quora.com
I’m not a fan of standing in front of a mirror and practicing public speaking. I know it is often recommended, but for me, I found it to be awkward and stilted.
First off, I don’t believe that it is accurate. Sure it has to be accurate, it’s a mirror image of what we are actually doing. But as a mirror image, it is reflecting to us what the audience sees, not what we see. I don’t believe that our brains can adequately process the difference between what we see through our eyes and how the audience sees us.
Secondly, when I was first practicing speaking out loud and watching myself in the mirror and timing my speech, I found that I had countless false starts. I found that all the things I was watching in the mirror were taking away from my concentration on the delivery of my content.
As speakers in North America most of us speak an average of 125 to 150 words a minute. We can pick up the speed a little to 250 words a minute, however we will likely lose most of our audience. They will be unable to process what we are saying and keep up to us. Our minds work at the speed of 1000 words or so a minute.
As a beginning speaker, we need to focus our mind and those thousand words a minute on the content and delivery of our speech. As we become more self-confident, skilled at public speaking and know our material, then we can focus on the aspects of public speaking, such as how the audience sees us.
Rather than using a mirror, in the beginning, I would recommend secluding yourself in a room to practice delivering your speech. I would set up stuffed animals or even dolls around the room. This allows you to deliver your speech, move your eye contact around the room to each of the ‘toys’ individually. It avoids the self-judgement that many of us have while looking at ourselves in the mirror.
As one becomes more comfortable with actually speaking out loud, recording yourself digitally can be helpful. This can be done with a camcorder, smart phone or a webcam. This would portray your performance accurately as a mirror does, but because you review it after you are finished, it takes the pressure and distraction off of you when viewing it live.
When you review the video of your presentation you can make note of how effective your vocal variety, facial gestures and hand gestures were. We learn by practicing. So if you factor the improvements into your following practicing you will most likely become comfortable using them.
To become a better speaker, at some point in time, you actually have to speak publicly. Friends and family can be helpful. Eventually, after they have heard your presentation a few times you might wear them down and they will lose their interest and objectivity.
I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend attending a local Toastmasters club as a way to practicing speaking before a live audience.
Thanks for your question and good luck with your speaking publicly.
For further discussion on public speaking, speech development, communication skills and Toastmasters, visit the Live For Excellence Book Store for the following publications:
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Working With Words: Adding Life to Your Oral Presentations
Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.