Public speaking has long been noted as one of the most common fears. This is true regardless of whether you're a seasoned speaker or if it's your first time in front of an audience.
What’s interesting is that it’s not necessarily the act itself that so many find scary. Instead, it’s the overwhelming whirl of “what ifs” and frightening scenarios that tend to build up in our minds.
What if I forget what to say?
What if I trip walking across the stage?
What if the audience finds me boring?
Just as with all other parts of public speaking- speaking articulately, engaging an audience, storytelling – confidence is a skill that needs to be developed and learned over time.
But even the most experienced speakers still find themselves jittery at times. To help keep their nerves in check, they turn to a dependable routine, a trusted method, or even a quick trick to get their fix of confidence.
And if you think about it, public speaking is more than just standing in front of a conference room giving a speech.
It takes place during a job interview when you're answering questions in front of a recruiter panel. Students engage in public speaking when they are called upon by a professor in a classroom.
Public speaking even takes place in our personal lives. Have you ever been asked to give a toast at a dinner table? Even worse, perhaps you've been expected to give a speech at a wedding or during a family reunion.
The point is:
As much as we'd like to avoid the public speaking moments that scare us, the truth is that it's nearly impossible to do.
So how can you get better at speaking in front of others?
How To Improve At Public Speaking
If you've had a bad experience or two with trying to muddle your way through a presentation or speech, it's easy to feel like you'll just never be good at public speaking.
But that isn't necessarily the case. In fact, there are plenty of options available to help you overcome your performance anxiety and perform at your full potential.
A few things you can try:
- Sign up for a local improv class
- Drop into a Toastmasters meeting in your area
- Talk to a healthcare provider about a Propranolol prescription
- Volunteer to speak as often as you can
- Ask a trusted co-worker to help you prepare
- Follow-up for feedback after each presentation you give
12 Public Speaking Tips To Help You Prepare For Your Next Presentation
We’ve spoken with dozens of entrepreneurs, speaking coaches, and everyday professionals to learn more about the critical public speaking tips they rely on to feel more confident during a presentation.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Practice Your Opening Lines
The one thing I do before speaking at an event to calm my nerves is to go over my first 60 seconds of content again, and again, and again. It helps me calm the delivery of my first words and focus on the audience.”
Troy Hazard, Certified Speaking Professional
Create A Personal Success Mantra
The fear of public speaking is really just internal thoughts we’ve allowed to run rampant. Our logical mind is fighting to push through the irrationality and worry. To master this fear, I slow my breathing and repeat (either silently to myself or aloud): ‘I have everything I need to do this’. This mantra reminds me that I have prepared for this moment, I know my material well, and I have the tools I need to be successful.”
Alison Haselden, SEO Consultant at Can I Rank?
Phone A Friend For Support
Speaking to 300 tech CEOs, all of whom make millions more a year than me, left me feeling intimidated. So I called home and told my husband about my insecurity. He said: ‘Remember you have something to offer that they don’t have or you wouldn’t be there in the first place’. Then I talked to my mom and she told me to ‘Say a prayer’. Finally, I talked to my dad, who said: ‘Give ‘em hell’. All of these were supportive conversations, even if from different angles. But I walked in feeling a little more confident, and the audience loved my presentation.”
Debra Benton, Executive Coach at CEO Whisperer
Reframe Your Nerves Into Excitement
Change your mindset. Reframe your thinking to see a different side of the situation, highlighting the positive aspects. In essence, when stress and nerves occur before making a speech, try this:
1. Notice what’s going on in your body: sweaty palms, fast heartbeat, or a lump in your throat.
2. Begin to tell yourself that these nerves and stress are preparing you to do something great, rather than focusing on how they may trip you up.
3. Continue to tell yourself that these nerves are preparing you to give a great speech and you’ll notice a calming feeling over your palms, heartbeat and that lump in your throat.
4. Repeat if necessary."
Jacob Kountz, Marriage and Family Therapist Trainee at Kern Wellness Counseling
Go Back To Your Childhood Self
Sniff Crayola crayons prior to speaking! The scent has been proven to lower blood pressure and relax nerves.”
Holly Dowling, Global Keynote Speaker
I make sure I get to the event exceptionally early in order for me to set up and network amongst the attendees. This allows me to become comfortable with the environment as well as the people. In addition, it helps with engagement. I’ve noticed more people are inclined to participate when I need hands raised or a volunteer to come on stage. Attendees also enjoy it when I am able to state their name and story in my presentation. It becomes a win for everybody!”
Michelle Ngome, Connection Enthusiast & Podcast Host
Imagine Yourself Succeeding
Close your eyes, take a deep breath in and visualize yourself energetically delivering your last two or three lines, then receiving a standing ovation. Imagine yourself giving your audience just what they need.”
Robert Kennedy III, Professional Speaking Coach at RK3
Remove Any Distractions
Take a moment just prior to beginning to take care of all the items on your list, no matter how elementary. For instance, remove jangling coins from your pockets. Get rid of your name badge (it reflects light). And turn off your phone. These actions increase the feeling of control, which is critical to calming frayed nerves.”
Matt Gambino, Professional Speaking Coach at PROPEL Skills Development
Make Friends With Your Nerves
Understand that your nerves are not your enemy. Reframe your thinking to not only accept your nerves but harness them for good. Acknowledge that your nervousness is a product of wanting to deliver high-quality information to the audience.”
Sunny Lake Hahn, Management Consultant at 7D Associates
Take A Moment For Yourself
The one thing that I always do before I speak is to take time alone. I will take a few breaths and ask that I am able to serve the group to their highest good. I have found the only time I am not successful is when I do not take the time alone before I speak.”
Kerry Wekelo, HR Director at Actualize Consulting
Trust That You’ve Prepared Yourself Enough
I avoid thinking about any specifics in the presentation in the moments before I step on stage, much less any direct mental recitation. I do not run through it “one last time” because it has the tendency to worsen the butterflies and further can reinforce any negative feelings or anxieties. If there is a specific slide or section that was hanging me up in any of my practice runs, that is fair game to address; otherwise, I just let the presentation be what it is going to be.”
Gregory Bullock, Marketing Manager at Theraspecs
Move Around (Or Jump!)
There is the one unusual thing I always do before a speaking event to calm my nerves: I jump up and down. I learned this from the late Robin Williams. During his stand-up comedy days, he would do jumping jacks before going on stage. Research also suggests that we perform better when we turn anxiety into excitement. I like to jump up, jump up, and get down.”
Ron Tsang, Professional Speaker & Business Communication Coach
Which of these public speaking tips will you try before your next big presentation?