The Only Real Way to Get Better At Speaking, and the 4-to-1 Rule
If you want to become a better speaker, there is a wealth of information available. Today we have access to countless apps, blogs, video courses and scientific papers.
Many of these resources are great. They have useful information and they help us understand how to improve our desired skillset.
But when it comes to speaking and communication, they cannot help us truly transform. This is because speaking and communication in general is a primarily physical process, not an intellectual process.
Speaking is like a sport, a board game, or a skill like writing, dancing or swimming.
You cannot become a better football player by watching football games.
You cannot become a better dancer by reading instructional manuals about how to dance.
And you cannot become a better speaker by reading, or even watching videos, about speaking skills.
With any physical skill, you have to actually go through the process firsthand to develop the muscle memory, subtle intuition, and involuntary reflexes needed to perform well, on command.
Intellectual material (articles, videos, etc) provides useful ideas and guidance on what to practice.
Reading an article about presentations can tell you mistakes to avoid and even how to improve specific aspects of your verbal delivery. But only by practicing it will you actually improve.
Watching a video of a great speaker and observing his or her body language will reveal specific movements and behaviors to mimic. But you still have to go out and perform those movements over and over to get good.
A client of mine has done exactly that. He has been preparing for several months for a major pitch to a big company. Through rigorous and frequent practice, he has made massive improvements.
Today was our last practice session before the presentation, and he was at peak performance. He has literally gone from a nervous, stuttering and overall weak communicator to a strong and persuasive speaker, sure of himself, with calm body language and confident delivery.
That is what weeks of practice will do for you.
And these kinds of changes are typical for my clients.
Naturally, the absolute best speakers, like the top performers in any field, will get that way through many months and years of practice and firsthand experience.
Repeated practice rewires the brain. Movements and words that might have been awkward or hesitant in the past become second-nature. By practicing, you are literally building a new brain. A brain that is tailor-made for your chosen skill.
So if you find yourself spending too much time reading, watching and thinking about how to improve, remember these numbers: 4 to 1.
For every minute of reading, watching or learning about speaking, plan to spend four minutes actually speaking.
Take every opportunity to practice, even if it’s not perfect.
Maybe you can’t replicate a 50-person audience three times a week. But you can take opportunities to speak up in impromptu meetings, tell stories to groups of friends, or give brief presentations to social organizations you’re involved in.
Now that you have spent 4 minutes reading this article, go out and spend 16 minutes speaking.