Everyone is not a natural orator. Although the art may not be your thing, mastering public speaking isn’t impossible. Public speaking is a crucial skill to have in the workplace, as is any interpersonal communication in the workplace. 

This is especially true for Black women who often face communication barriers that make navigating the workplace difficult. Whether it be code switching, microaggressions or the constant need to prove themselves, communication in the workplace can feel like running on a hamster wheel for Black professionals. 

Co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer of SpeakHaus Sherhara Burrell argues that Black women professionals have a unique relationship with public speaking in the workplace.

“For Black women professionals, we often fear reinforcing negative stereotypes,” she said. “This leaves pressure to conform to societal expectations of how Black women should speak or behave, which may create self-doubt or inhibit authentic expression.”

You should not be petrified or stumbling your way through every time you are tasked with taking the mic or leading a meeting. Here are five tips to master public speaking.

Self-Awareness is Critical 

Burrell encourages women to become an expert on themselves. Knowing your strengths and embracing your insecurities is key to having great presence and connecting with your audience. 

“When you truly know yourself, nobody can tell you anything about you,” Burrell said. “When you show up, people feel you first and then begin receiving your message.”

Women can cultivate self-awareness through practices, like journaling, meditation, and introspection. These tools will allow you to show up authentically and confidently. 

Approach it Like a Conversation

Licensed voice specialized speech pathologist Shulunda Gibson emphasized that public speaking is a dialogue, not a monologue. 

“Listen actively to your audience’s responses to tailor your message dynamically, which will enhance your engagement and connection,” she said.  

You can master public speaking by realizing that every conversation is an opportunity to practice. Burrell explained that you are public speaking anytime you’re speaking and someone is listening. 

“Whether it’s a Zoom call or a casual chat, see it as your stage to speak confidently,” she added. “Embrace these everyday moments as chances to find comfort in speaking in front of others.”

Master public speaking by treating it like an everyday conversation. Ask questions, expect responses and leave space for interaction. Keep your speech conversational to draw people in.

Keep It Simple

If you want to master public speaking, then you’ll need to know how to engage your audience effectively. Burrell encourages women to focus on three key points. 

“Focus on what you want your audiences to know and share three talking points about it,” she said. “Simplifying your message makes it easy for you and your listeners to remember your message.” 

Gibson agreed about the importance of communicating your thoughts clearly and concisely. She also emphasized the importance of organizing your speech strategically. 

“Structure your message to be straightforward and easy to comprehend,” she said. “This ensures that your audience can follow along and grasp the essentials.”

To keep your speech on track and impactful, Gibson encourages women to start with an anecdote, followed by crucial information and a practical application or activity. In keynotes, speakers can integrate stories, lessons learned and a conclusion with a call to action.

Embrace Authenticity 

To master public speaking, it will require you to stand tall and walk proudly in your truth. Gibson explained that showing up authentically builds trust with your audience and it deepens the impact of your words.

“Embrace your identity and experiences, using them as a source of power and connection,” she said. 

Utilize diction and nonverbal cues that reflect who you are. Gibson encourages speakers to use language, gestures, facial expressions and your overall presence to reinforce your message.

Prioritize Genuine Connection

Instead of solely focusing on a polished speech, prioritize building meaningful rapport. Transition from seeing yourself as a public speaker to a connection speaker.

“Speaking is simply a tool to facilitate togetherness,” Burrell said. “No matter how perfect it comes out, if you and your audience aren’t ‘feeling’ each other or ‘vibing,’ that’s when you’ll fall flat.”