How to Improve Your Public Speaking

microphones facing audience

Public speaking anxiety afflicts most everyone.

Mark Twain said, There are two types of speakers: those who are nervous and those who are liars.”

If you’re dreading an upcoming speech, you are in good company. Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Elvis Presley, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, Barbara Walters, Johnny Carson and even Aristotle all suffered some measure of public communication apprehension.

We can take solace that many talented and important people have felt nervous before or while performing. If they can achieve so much despite battling butterflies, then there must be hope for all of us.

It’s impossible to eliminate public speaking anxiety, but here are 20 things you can do to keep calm:


1. Enlighten your audience; don’t just inform them.

Anyone can read words off a script. Your job is to simplify your subject matter and convey it in a compelling manner. You’ll be far less nervous if you focus on turning information into something your audience can relate to and remember.

2. Speak to your audience before you meet them.

Make your speech about your audience, not about you. Learn as much as you can about your audience, and prepare with them in mind.

If possible, ask attendees beforehand how you can help them in your presentation; find out how much they already know and what they would like to know. Do your best to gain insight into how your presentation might benefit the people you’re addressing.

3. Practice makes perfect.

Rehearsing only on the morning before you speak isn’t good enough. Set aside as much time as you can to practice your presentation. Don’t just rehearse in front of your dog; find someone you trust who will give you honest feedback.

Practice your content, your spoken delivery and your physical delivery.

4 . Get acquainted with the room.

Always get to the venue at least an hour early to make sure everything works, and then take as much time as you can to get comfortable with your surroundings. Spend 10 minutes standing where you’ll be speaking. Take account of potential distractions, such as the temperature, the lighting, creaky floorboards or ambient noise. Immerse yourself in the room before anyone else arrives.

5. Take a seat.

Once you’ve acclimated yourself, spend a few moments sitting in some of the audience seats. Note whether any view is obstructed, and identify where you might direct stragglers to sit if you have to deal with late arrivals.

6. Look sharp

Dress for the occasion; now is not the time for bold fashion experiments. Find out in advance how your audience is likely to dress for the event, and attire yourself accordingly.

If you are staying overnight to speak in the morning, take a spare shirt or blouse just in case breakfast gets the better of you.

7. Get moving.

Exercise before you speak: Take a brisk walk, go to the gym, swim, or take a yoga class. Exercise allays nerves and replaces dread with healthy adrenaline.

8. Get some sleep.

Go to bed early the night before your presentation. Avoid junk food and alcohol the night before. Set two wakeup alarms, just in case.

9. Take time to calm your mind.

Take time to meditate, pray, do yoga, practice self-hypnosis or employ whatever calming method you prefer before you speak.

10. Nail down your opening.

For many speakers, the first two minutes of a presentation are the most difficult. Practice your opening to the point that it’s ingrained in you, giving you a springboard into the meat of your speech.


Find more tips on public speaking


Article Credit(s): Maurice DeCastro, PRDaily