5 Ways to Start to Improve Public Speaking Skills for those with autism
Autism spectrum disorder, as it’s known medically, is a developmental condition that is characterised “by difficulty in social interaction and communication, and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behaviour”.
Autism affects one in 59 people and is displayed to varying degrees – in other words, it is a spectrum. Everybody with autism is different and those with autism can have any level of intelligence. Autism is not an illness, and those with autism can lead full and enriching lives. One part of life that we all struggle with is public speaking. Those with autism may struggle with public speaking, although it isn’t always necessarily directly caused by their autism.
Let’s explore some ways to improve public speaking with autism:
1. Prepare what you’re going to say.
It’s common for someone with autism to have trouble “reading the room”: taking in body language, tone of voice, what you might call the overall “vibe”. If your speech is prepared, however, there’s no need to worry about this as what you’re saying is already written down for you.
2. Create the speech scenario in advance.
For those with autism, a change of scenery might be a little daunting, so try creating the scene ahead of time. Eliminate distractions as this may throw you off mid-speech. Wear the outfit you plan to wear on the day so that you will notice an itchy collar or a distracting logo on your jumper and can make changes accordingly. This way, you’ll know exactly how you’ll physically feel, and this will allow you to ease into this less new situation.
3. Film your speech as practice.
This may feel uncomfortable, but it’s really worthwhile to take note of any anxious habits you may have, and allow you to smooth them out. Everyone has certain things they do when nervous, such as picking at their hands, looking at the floor, closing off their body language (folding their arms, crossing their legs), but these habits can only be reduced if you’re aware of them.
4. Memorise your lines.
As mentioned before, each individual is different, autism or not, but you’ll know your own mind and what works for you. Sometimes, those with autism may struggle to read from a script as it may interrupt their train of thought, but may find it easier to memorise huge amounts of information in a far shorter time than a neurotypical person might. If you’re someone who finds it easy to process long passages of script, why not use that skill? People will be amazed that you’re ratting off such facts, and this will be especially effective if you’re talking about a topic that is particularly interesting to you.
5. Turn your speech into stories.
A lot of people react to stories much more positively than they do to numbers, statistics and facts, and for good reason – stories are far more fun! Take your listeners on a journey, weaving in the information you want to convey. That way, your audience will feel connected with you as a speaker, and you’ll also have their attention. Your speech or talk will also feel a lot more comfortable for you, because you’ll be able to share a story with your listeners.
It’s important to remember that one of the reasons many people feel anxiety about public speaking is the fact that they are unpredictable and cannot be preempted. The more comfortable you are when speaking, the more comfortable your audience will be. An audience will be much more likely to listen and believe what someone is saying if they come across as confident and self-assured. I run public speaking workshops for people from all walks of life, so if you’d like to find out more about my courses, click here.