10 Sure-Fire Steps to take the Fear out of Public Speaking

Do you "feel the fear" when asked to do some Public


Public Speaking is still one of our greatest fears and it

turns grown men and women into nervous wrecks. The mere

thought of it turns our tongue to cotton wool, causes our

internal plumbing to act up and turns our knees to jelly.

Well, there's no need for all of this because help is at

hand. All you need to remember are your P's and Q's. Let's

start with the P's

Preparation -

When you sit down to write what you're going to say, bear in

mind who you'll be speaking to. Will they understand what

you're talking about; will they understand the technical

stuff and the jargon? If in doubt remember the old saying -

"Keep It Simple Stupid".

Make sure that what you say has a beginning, middle and an

end. Think of some anecdotes that help reinforce your story.

People think visually so paint verbal pictures for your

audience. And always remember, people want to know what's in

it for them - so make sure you tell them!

Place -

Have a look at the venue before the event if you can. It's

not always possible, however, even if you get there half an

hour before, you can check out where you'll be speaking.

Stand at the point where you will deliver from, imagine

where the audience will be and check that they can see and

hear you. You may even wish to place a glass of water where

you'll be able to find it.

Personal Preparation -

Before any Public Speaking event, think about what you are

going to wear; when in doubt dress up rather than down. You

can always take things off for a more casual look. Men could

remove their jacket and their tie. Women could remove items

of jewellery.

Part of your personal preparation should include some mouth

and breathing exercises. Practise saying some tongue

twisters to give your speaking muscles a good work out. Take

a deep breath and expand your diaphragm. Then breathe out,

counting at the same time; try and get up to fifty and not

pass out.

As part of your personal preparation, write your own

introduction. Write out exactly what you want someone to say

about you, large font, double-spaced and ask the person

introducing you to read it. Believe me they won't object and

will probably be pleased and impressed.

Poise and Posture -

Whenever you're called to speak, stand up or walk to the

front quickly and purposefully. Pull yourself up to your

full height, stand tall and look like you own the place.

Before you start to speak, pause, look round your audience

and smile. You may even have to wait until the applause dies

down. Remember, you want the audience to like you, so look


Pretend -

I'm suggesting you pretend you're not nervous because no

doubt you will be. Nervousness is vital for speaking in

public, it boosts your adrenaline, which makes your mind

sharper and gives you energy.

The trick is to keep your nerves to yourself. On no account

tell your audience your nervous; you'll only scare the

living daylights out of them if they think you're going to


Some tricks for dealing with nerves are:

Before you're called to speak, get lots of oxygen into your

system, run on the spot and wave your arms about like a

lunatic. It burns off the stress chemicals.

Speak to members of your audience as they come in or at some

time before you stand up. That tricks your brain into

thinking you're talking to some friends.

Have a glass of water handy for that dry mouth. One word of

warning - do not drink alcohol. It might give you Dutch

courage but your audience will end up thinking you're

speaking Dutch.

The Presentation -

Right from the start your delivery needs to grab their


Don't start by saying - "Good morning, my name is Fred Smith

and I'm from Smith Associates."

Even if your name is Smith, it's a real boring way to start

a presentation. Far better to start with some interesting

facts or an anecdote that's relevant to your presentation.

Look at the audience as individuals; it grabs their

attention if they think you're talking to them personally.

Talk louder than you would normally do, it keeps the people

in the front row awake and makes sure those at the back get

the message. Funnily enough, it's also good for your nerves.

PowerPoint -

And for those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a

software programme that's used to design stunning graphics

and text for projection onto a screen.

As a professional speaker, I'm not that struck on

PowerPoint. I feel that too many speakers rely on it and it

takes over the presentation. After all, you're the

important factor here. If an audience is going to accept

what you say then they need to see the whites of your eyes.

There needs to be a big focus on you, not on the technology.

Use PowerPoint if you want but keep it to a minimum and make

sure you're not just the person pushing the buttons. Why

not get a bit clever at using the faithful old Flip Chart,

lots of professionals do.

Passion -

This is what stops the audience in their tracks. This is

what makes them want to employ you or to accept what you're

proposing. Couple this with some energy, enthusiasm and

emotion and you have the makings of a great public speaker.

Give your presentation a bit of oomph and don't start

telling me - "I'm not that kind of person." There's no need

to go over the top but you're doing a presentation to move

people to action, not having a cosy little chat in your

front room.

That's the P's finished, so let's look at the Q's.

Questions -

Decide when you're going to take them and tell people at the


In a short speech it's best to take questions at the end. If

you take them as you go then you may get waylaid and your

timing will get knocked out.

Never - never - never finish with questions; far better to

ask for questions five or ten minutes before the end. Deal

with the questions and then summarise for a strong finish.

Too many presentations finish on questions and the whole

thing goes a bit flat.

When you're asked a question, repeat it to the whole

audience and thank the questioner. It keeps everyone

involved, it gives you time to think and it makes you look

so clever and in control.

Quit -

Quit when you're ahead. Stick to the agreed time; if you're

asked to speak for twenty minutes, speak for nineteen and

the audience will love you for it. Remember, quality is not


One of the most famous speeches ever - "The Gettysburg

Address", by President Lincoln, was just over two minutes


Right, that's my cue to quit when I'm ahead.

Now that you're armed with this information you too can

minimise your fear of Public Speaking.


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