The key to becoming better at anything is to practice. Want to be a better tennis player, gourmet chef or carpenter—practice. Need to make a speech and want it to be terrific? Practice. The physical and mental act of repeating something over and over again can help you learn to do just about anything better. Practice also helps eliminate fear and nerves because practice gives you confidence. You know you’ve done something before and can do it again.
Other tips for successfully learning new skills include paying attention to the teacher or text, and honing your technique by learning what works for you and what doesn’t—then adapting.
We all know what interpersonal communication is: all our interactions with friends, coworkers, and strangers fall under that category. But before we can have really successful communication with people, especially in social or public speaking situations, we need to cultivate kind, conscious, and positive INTRA-personal communication skills. Those are the skills we use in private--the talk that goes on between out ears, or that we mutter out loud as we look in the mirror in the morning or put dishes into the dishwasher at night. It's the "you idiot" that you yell at yourself when you drop something. Intra-personal communication is the sigh you let out in the morning when you wake up to grey skies. And it's the self-pitying "why me?" or the fearful "I can't!" that goes through your mind when something unexpected happens.
"Understanding comes through communication, and through communication we find the way to peace." Ralph C. Smedley, founder of Toastmasters
Can knowing how to speak confidently and to communicate effectively and respectfully really change the world? I believe so. As a student of history, I know that while wars are fought on the battlefield, ending them--or better yet, avoiding them in the first place--is something that happens when people sit down and talk eye-to-eye. Peace comes when the yelling stops. It arrives when people start to understand the motivations and the fears, the hopes and the needs, of others. Peace comes from compromise, from listening, from empathy and from personal connection--peace takes place when people really communicate.
"Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future." -- Corrie Ten Boom
I often joke that I've never been paid to do anything other than talk, and that's mostly true. On the rare occasions when I've had a desk job I've been miserable. But there is a difference between telling a customer about the daily special in a busy restaurant, sitting behind a microphone, teaching a class at a university, or leading a tour through a museum gallery, or standing on a stage. How I got from tearful meltdown to being a professional speaker is an interesting story.