How do we improve public speaking skills? For the best advice, we ask TEDx speaker and our Game Design and Production instructor, Jim Flatmo. Jim has been designing games for most of his life, primarily active with live action role playing design, running his own independent game company, and being an advocate for gamification in education. In 2014, Jim delivered his TedX talk: “Education Isn’t a Game – But Maybe It Should Be!”. Jim is currently writing a book that covers more on this topic, and plans to publish it in the near future.
Since his TedX appearance, Jim had the honor of speaking at the Education Conference Circuit, presenting at the WASCTE, WITEA, NCCE and WASTS (Washington Association of Skilled and Technical Sciences). Jim also served as president of that branch from 2017-2019. Adding to his list of credentials, he also created the “Washington State Super Showcase”, a scholarship competition for high school-level students who have an interest in pursuing game design as a career.
Use “pitch-perfect” content.
When improving your public speaking skills, how can you tell when your content is considered “pitch-perfect”? Knowing your content, and knowing it well, are two different things. By far, really knowing your content, being able to converse with others without going off a script is by far the best way to improve your public speaking skills. If you are knowledgeable in the subject that you’re presenting, then the rest will come natural to you. Narrow down the topics of each part of your presentation to easily digestible main ideas that inspire you to share your thoughts. Add imagery or quotes that make you think. Chances are, those topics will inspire others to put on their thinking caps, which make them much more likely to be more attentive to what you are saying.
Articulation is key – and it’s okay to pause and reflect.
When it comes to presenting to an audience, delivery is one of the things that most people struggle with. Sometimes we stumble over our words, which causes a reflex hiccup in our train of thought. We stop and anxiety takes over, worried that we just ruined the whole presentation. Remember to breathe and take your time to articulate your thoughts into those words. Your audience isn’t there for an auctioneer, they want someone to speak to them plainly and more importantly, clearly. The goal is to get those people in the room to willingly participate in following your train of thought, not to just listen to your voice. Give your audience some time to take in what you’re saying, and to think about what has just been said.
Analyze your fear.
Know that fear is also a natural part of this process in learning how to improve public speaking skills. Some of these fears are easier to fix than others, as some things may take a long-term or on-going effort. The good news is that there are a thousand solutions to these common issues in public speaking, and all it takes is to for that person to be proactive in learning to understand their fear(s). While analyzing these fears may take some time, practice is the best way to solve those fears. Practice in front of those who might be included among that audience, or those who have presented to a similar audience. You can even practice to a trusted few and turn to friends and family that you know will give you honest, constructive criticism. Applying those ideas to your next presentation will take practice, but it will improve your public speaking skills for your next presentation.