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10 Easy Tips For Better Public Speaking

Updated on March 10, 2015

Help, I have to give a speech!

Most people don't have trouble getting up and speaking in front of a small group of friends and family, but the thought of having to speak in front of a group of strangers, especially a large group of professionals can often bring about an attack of "stage fright." I used to get nervous from public speaking, but now I enjoy it. As with just about any skill, you really do get better with a bit of time and practice.

I had to get up and talk in front of an audience for the first time when I was in grade school, as I did a summer camp program in acting. In junior high, I had a teacher that made us do book reports in front of the class. High school brought even more presentations. Then there were self-critiques in college, and an extremely nerve-wracking Master's thesis defense in graduate school. By the time I got to the working world, talking in front of a group had almost become easy.

Here are my ten best tips and suggestions for how to improve your public speaking skills. Some things are advice I was given and some are things I've learned along the way.

Did you hear the one about...?

Do You Talk Funny? 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker
Do You Talk Funny? 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker

A touch of comedy is something that many speakers find as relaxing and pleasing as do their audiences. Here is a light but sincere guide to adding some humor to your presentations.


Getting Ready...

1) Breathe - don't be afraid to pause or just take a breath. I had a high school teacher who was the one to point out that those long awkward silences we think we've fallen into are in fact only about 2-3 seconds and the audience doesn't think you've stopped or gotten lost. Most of the time, they won't even register those pauses.

2) Make an outline for yourself and print it out in type larger than usual print size, so that it's easy to read at just a glance. Having the outline helps keep your presentation on track so you don't ramble off and prompts you if you lose your train of thought. You don't want to actually read a speech, as your audience doesn't want to look at the top of your head while you talk to your chest. And don't be afraid of losing your train of thought and having to check your notes. That's what they are for.

3) Own what you know - this wonderful saying came from my graduate school adviser. Remember at the presentation that the audience presumes you are the expert. If you act confident, they really will believe you are confident. This helped me so much when it came time to get through my thesis presentation for my Master's Degree. And it comes in really handy when a co-worker in a meeting gets stuck and suddenly turns the discussion over to you!

Public Speaking, Movement and Gesture (Highlights) - 1940s

While Speaking...

4) Make eye contact - slowly scan across the audience and look people in the eye as you talk. A good audience gives energy back to you and participates when you demonstrate a friendly presence, so invite them in. This is also how you can see if your information is being comprehended, and helps you spot people with questions.

5) If you are really nervous, practice your speech ahead of time - Even if you wind up talking to your pets, kids or significant other, hearing yourself run over the presentation can really help you feel more comfortable with it and iron out any awkward spots, as our ears are really smart and will catch stuff that sounds "off." Some people tape record themselves for practice and listen to it to catch and note their verbal mannerisms (see #9)

6) Take all questions at the end so that you can get through the material you intend to present - It's better to run short on time for questions than to have the audience derail the presentation. Sometimes for longer presentations, you might want to pause after key sections and ask for questions then. Don't be afraid to tell some that their question will be answered by material you have yet to talk about, or ask them if you can take it at the end if that works better for you.

Avoiding Bumps in the Road...

7) Don't freak out heavily on timing - People speak a bit faster when they're nervous, so if you time the presentation at home, it can often run shorter when you actually give it. Make sure you know if you absolutely have to wrap up by certain time so that you don't run over. It's better to take off your watch and put it where you can see it, or find a clock you can see while you speak than to keep looking at your watch during your presentation. That can really turn off an audience. If all else fails, bring along a friend or ask a colleague to give you time signals during your talk from the back where no one will see them doing it.

8) Be mindful of nervous habits - i.e. twirling hair, playing with a necklace, bracelets, etc. The audience will often be distracted by the movement and watch your behavior thus losing the presentation part. As part of this, don't wear clothing or jewelry that will make noises as you speak. Again, the audience's attention will wind up focusing on that instead of what you are saying.

9) If you find yourself about to say "Um..." or "Uh....." just close your mouth, take a breath and think what you need to say next - Ever been to a lecture or talk where the presenter said "ummm...." every other word? We all have, and it doesn't sound very good. Not saying anything sounds more professional than thinking aloud. (This was another gem from high school and it can take some practice to master) One of the best ways to work on this is to tape record yourself giving your speech or presentation and then listen to yourself talk.

10) Bring water along if you might get thirsty, and have some tissues in a pocket - There is nothing so uncomfortable during a presentation like having a dry mouth or having to sneeze and not being able to take care of yourself. Have the water in container that is hard to spill but not hard to drink from and take very small sips when you do. That way you don't run the risk of coughing on a mouthful of water that "went down wrong" or giving yourself hiccups.

Improve Your Public Speaking Right Now!

Speak Out on Public Speaking! - comments and contributions

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    • relache profile image

      Raye 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Many people who give speeches write out the entire thing and then read them.

    • Bianca Mccoullum profile image

      B.Mccoullum 3 years ago from Fort Wayne

      I always forget what needs to be said even after I've written the speech and I have notes.

    • gwilliamskc profile image

      Grant Williams 3 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

      Excellent article! I really enjoy public speaking, and I hate seeing people in my Speech class at college struggle with it. I honestly have a blast with giving speeches. Hopefully this article will help those struggling get on the right track.

    • relache profile image

      Raye 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Good luck in the contest!

    • profile image

      lara 4 years ago

      Thank you so much for these tips ,i made it to a national public speaking contest ,and your tips are really useful

    • dafreesan profile image

      dafreesan 4 years ago from India

      Great tips to improve oratory skills. I like your hub. I will follow your tips next time I give a public speech.

    • profile image

      fauzan 4 years ago

      a great solutions

    • Anjo Bacarisas II profile image

      Anjo Bacarisas II 4 years ago from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines

      Voted up! This hub contain thoughts and ideas that was immensely important. Keep up providing tips about public speaking. :)

    • profile image

      smith-k 24 5 years ago

      thank you for all that yall have done

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Those who want to speak in front of an audience, but do not know the technique, should read this Hub. Voted up.

    • relache profile image

      Raye 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Rosie, re-read the Hub. Many of the tips can help minimize nervousness. However, in the end, the best cure for that is to actually get used to speaking in public by doing it regularly.

    • profile image

      Rosie 5 years ago

      Please help this coming Sunday will be my first sunday to make announcements in front of the congregation in church. I am not good in speaking in front of the public and I relly need to get off this nervouseness form me I always wish in my life to speak confident in fornt of the church. What are some helpful tips to avoid this nervouseness.

    • GClark profile image

      GClark 5 years ago from United States

      Well thought out Hub with useful tips for beginners. Toastmasters is a great place for budding speakers to perfect their skill and learn to enjoy the process. Thanks again for sharing. GC

    • AllSuretyBonds profile image

      AllSuretyBonds 5 years ago

      Public Speaking can be very intimidating. Great tips I think all of these things if followed would make a great public speaker.

    • profile image

      Jeff_McRitchie 5 years ago

      There are some great tips in this Hub. I'll be sure to try some of them out the next time I have to lead a meeting.

    • Paul Raisbeck profile image

      Paul Raisbeck 5 years ago

      A good Hub, thank you.

      Practice is always a big one for me (my cat gets to hear all sorts of things but is very patient!).

      Also, I like to try to open with something that connects me, the audience and the subject so that the whole talk is put into context. Making it personal helps make the connection, too.

    • rallyre profile image

      rallyre 6 years ago from San Diego, California

      Great Article about public speaking... Toast Masters Club#7 San Diego!

    • profile image

      adair_francesca 6 years ago

      wonderful hub and great information. Public speaking is my weakness especially I do have stage fright. I hope you tips will work for me.

    • Treasuresofheaven profile image

      Sima Ballinger 6 years ago from Michigan

      Good tips! I think practice is really helpful before one speaks to the general public is good.

    • Tusitala Tom profile image

      Tom Ware 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      He Relache,

      I just became a follower and lost what I'd said by way of comment. Just wished to say, "Hi." We have a lot in common I expect, when it comes to public speaking. Will re-read your Hub. One can never learn to much.

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