How to improve your public speaking skills for the IELTS?

Public speaking can be a dreadful experience for many people, particularly those who are introverted and shy. However, it is a common situation that arises at different stages of life, including school or college presentations, customer meetings at work, and delivering a speech at significant events like weddings or graduations.  

To effectively express your ideas and convince your audience, it is crucial to remain calm and manage your anxiety and nerves. This article provides you with some useful tips to help you achieve this goal. You will also be surprised to know that by doing so, you can improve your IELTS score. 

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1. Overcoming anxiety and nerves in public speaking

Overcoming nerves and anxiety for public speaking can be challenging, but with practice and the right techniques, you can improve your confidence and performance. Here are some tips to help you get through these feelings.

Thoroughly prepare your speech

Knowing your material well will boost your confidence. Practice your content until you feel comfortable with it and be ready to answer potential questions or concerns.

Regarding the IELTS speaking, familiarizing yourself with the test format in advance will be helpful to know what to expect. This section takes about 10 to 15 minutes, is face-to-face with the examiner, and is divided into three parts.

On the first one, you must introduce yourself (who do you live with, talk about your friends and family, your hometown, hobbies, work, or studies, etc.). This lasts about five minutes. Here is a sample question:

  • Can you please tell me your full name and where you come from? Describe a little about your hometown or the place you currently live in.

In the second part, you will be given a card with a topic on it, and you will have to talk about it for around one to two minutes. You will also have one minute to take notes and organize your ideas. Let’s look at this sample question:

  • Describe a memorable journey you have taken. You should say where you went, how you traveled, who you were with, and what made it memorable for you.

Finally, you will be asked questions regarding part 2, which may include developing details or giving your opinion on a certain topic. Usually, the examiner won’t take the time, but you can allocate about four to five minutes to develop your ideas well. Here is a sample question related to the previous example:

  • In your opinion, how do you think traveling and experiencing new places can broaden a person’s perspective on life and the world? Can you give some examples from your own travel experiences to support your views?

As you can see, there will be unexpected questions (mainly in the third part), but you can prepare at least your self-introduction and study some sample speaking topics to perform more smoothly.

Two women talking in front of a computer

Practice, practice, practice

Rehearse your speech multiple times. If you don’t feel comfortable around people, practice in front of a mirror or record yourself to detect mistakes or improvement areas.

When you feel ready, you can present to a small group of friends or family. This will help you become closer to the material and the act of speaking and prepare for the exam.

Use relaxation techniques to manage anxiety

Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help calm your nerves. Visualize yourself succeeding and focus on positive outcomes. Here are some techniques that you can apply:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing):
  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  3. Inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your diaphragm to expand and your abdomen to rise. Feel your chest remaining relatively still. 
  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely and letting your abdomen fall. 
  5. Repeat this for several breath cycles, aiming for deep, relaxed breaths. 
  • 4-7-8 breathing: 
  1. Sit or lie down comfortably. 
  2. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4 seconds. 
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds. 
  4. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth for a count of 8 seconds. 
  5. Repeat this cycle several times, progressively relaxing with each breath.
  • Body scan meditation: 
  1. Lie down in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
  2. Mentally scan your body from head to toe, paying attention to any sensations or areas of tension.
  3. As you notice tension or discomfort, consciously relax those areas, and release any stress.
  4. Continue to move your attention through your body, promoting relaxation and awareness.

Break your speech into smaller parts

Instead of thinking about your entire speech as one large task, break it down into smaller, manageable sections. Focus on delivering one section at a time, which can make the overall presentation feel less overwhelming.

2. Engaging and persuading your audience in public speaking

Keeping the examiner’s attention and interest is key to success, so here are some tips that you can follow:

  • Develop a clear message. Your main point should be easily understandable. Make sure to include details in public speaking that help you answer the IELTS questions 
  • Start with a compelling hook or story to grab your audience’s attention from the beginning. 
  • Organize your content in a logical and easy-to-follow structure, such as the classic “Introduction, Body, Conclusion” format. 
  • Stories, anecdotes, and real-life examples make your message relatable and memorable. 
  • Maintain good eye contact, use expressive gestures, and move around confidently. Your body language should support your message. 
  • Vary your tone, pitch, and speed to keep the examiner engaged. Avoid a monotonous delivery. 
  • Employ rhetorical techniques like metaphors, similes, and parallelism to make your speech more persuasive. 
  • Acknowledge potential counterarguments and provide well-reasoned responses. This shows that you’ve considered different perspectives. 
  • Clearly state what you want the audience to do or believe after your speech. Make your call to action compelling. 
  • Get feedback from peers or mentors to improve your public speaking skills. 
  • Respect the allotted time for your speech. Being too short or too long can harm your effectiveness. 

Remember that the key to engaging and persuading your audience is to be authentic.

A man talking to a group of people

3. How to express your ideas as intended in the IELTS speaking section?

You should focus on several key areas: fluency, coherence, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Here are some tips to help you succeed in each of them:

  • Work on your pronunciation and intonation. Clear pronunciation makes it easier for the examiner to understand you.
  • Avoid speaking too fast or too slowly. Aim for a natural and moderate pace.
  • Use a wide range of vocabulary. Don’t repeat the same words and phrases.
  • Practice using synonyms and paraphrasing to enhance your language skills.
  • Ensure your grammar is accurate. Common grammatical errors can affect your score. Review writing and speaking in correct sentences.
  • Listen carefully to the examiner’s questions and answer directly. Don’t deviate from the topic.
  • Minimize the use of fillers like “um,” “uh,” “you know,” and “like.” They can make your speech less fluent. Practice pausing or thinking silently.
  • When the examiner or your conversation partner is speaking, actively listen and respond appropriately. Engage in the conversation and show that you understand what is being discussed.
  • If you don’t comprehend the question, feel free to say it and ask again.

Remember that the IELTS speaking test is designed to assess your ability to communicate effectively in English. These tips should help you showcase your language skills and express your ideas clearly during the test.

How do these public speaking techniques help you to improve your IELTS score?

Public speaking strategies emphasize the importance of clear and organized communication. When you apply these principles to your IELTS speaking responses, you are more likely to express your ideas and opinions in a logical and well-structured manner, which is a key aspect of test scoring criteria. 

They also help you build confidence and composure when speaking in front of an audience. This translates to the IELTS speaking test, where a calm demeanor can positively impact your overall performance and the impression you make on the examiner.

Get ready to succeed at the exam!

Visit the IELTS Canada homepage to find out more

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