Public Speaking Tips

How to manage your nerves and be a real and compelling speaker

These ten simple steps stem from my more than 40 years as a public speaker and speaking coach. They work like magic for me and they'll do the same for you! They'll help you unlock the natural public speaker in you so people respect who you are and what you are saying:

  • Value your own self-worth and have a sense of this in your speech or business presentation. Take stock of your 'lessons' and achievements in life and acknowledge your right to consider yourself an expert through experience in some areas.
  • Does your speech reflect who you are and what you stand for? What is it that you feel deeply about? Where has life's journey taken you? In your presentation, come out of the stories that are the turning points for you and bring the learning principles of these to your audience.
  • Ensure your presentation is an exercise in making friends with your audience. Quit striving to be the 'perfect' public speaker. Instead, focus on being a warm accessible human-being people can relate to. A fallible person just like them. Think two-way dialogue instead of one-way monologue. Think conversational friendliness instead of staid and distant public speaking 'correctness'.
  • Make sure you relate to people during your speech. Share a little of your journey with your listeners. One of the most powerful ways to create rapport with your audience and win their trust as your presentation unfolds is to have them understand that you are subject to the same human frailties and vulnerabilities as they are.
  • If appropriate ask little rhetorical questions like, “Anyone relate to that?” or “I see a few smiles and heads nodding... “ Helps people engage with your examples and stories. 
  • Have your speech Influence people on their wavelength. As we see, feel and hear things when we share experiences in everyday conversation, make sure you tap into these same senses when speaking before groups. Bring your examples and case studies to life by paraphrasing what was said and reliving what was seen and felt. Your listeners will experience the reality of an immediate one-to-one conversation. They'll believe you're talking to them personally. And you won't come across as yet another boring public speaking clone.
  • Body language. Don't stage or pre-set your movements for your presentation. We are not actors. We are public speakers. Do what comes naturally. By reliving your examples from readily visible key memory joggers your body will be free to spontaneously and intuitively mirror the chemistry of the moment - just as occurs in everyday situations.
  • Have a clear idea of the purpose of your speech and keep this end clearly in mind. Know precisely where your presentation is meant to take your listeners. What exactly is it that you want them to be thinking when you step down from the platform? What specific action do you want them to take? How do you want them to feel? Now decide what vivid, illustrative examples you are going to use to take them there. Make it a speech with impact!
  • Make your listeners sit up and listen from the very beginning with a question they can relate to. “Anyone here ever felt the slightest bit apprehensive when asked to speak before groups?” This will take all the pressure off you by dealing with the combination of your adrenalin-rush and your audience sitting there thinking “Let’s check this person out!” Now they'll be tuned into things you want them to think about! And a universal question that gets everyone in, like my above example, is a great way to do this!
  • Finish your talk with impact and on a high note. Many speakers finish in a tentative, wishy-washy way with lackluster comments like: “Well, that’s about it…” Make sure your final words are crisp, clear, and deliberate so they won’t forget!
  • Rehearse your speech or business presentation 'Live' for a week or so before the event. Seat yourself comfortably, then mentally take yourself to the venue for around 5-10 minutes each day - not in front of a mirror as this tends to be distracting. Visualise yourself communicating as the confident, interesting public speaker you desire to be. Apart from the beginning and end of your speech, rehearse to key ideas rather than the exact words. Jot these down on a piece of paper if you wish. This will ensure that each time you rehearse, your speech will be ever so slightly different, a dynamic living thing. When you arrive at the venue your presentation will no longer frighten you because you will have created an internal comfort zone within yourself. Mentally, you will have already been there speaking warmly with these people. You'll be among friends.

These tried-and-proven public speaking tips reflect the exciting outcomes embodied in my Panic-Free communicating publications click here to learn more and check out my package deal! 

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Taken from the 2nd Edition best-selling classic, How to take the Panic out of Public Speaking by Inspirational Speaker, Author, Laurie Smale.