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Student's Guide to Public Speaking

Updated on November 7, 2015

Do you have to give a speech? Or you would rather die, than speak in public . . . then you may have a glossophobia – fear of speaking in public or stage fright. Don’t be worry it affects as much as 75 percent of the population. But speaking in front of a group doesn't have to be a nerve-racking experience, especially if you practice before you do it. Public speaking shares many of the principles of a good negotiation - Preparation - Practice - Presenting.


  • Know what you’re going to say

Write out your speech and practice saying it aloud. You don’t necessarily need to memorize it but you should know it well enough so that if you had to talk without your notes you could pull it off.

  • Know who you’re going to say it to

Knowing your audience is good advice no matter what you are performing. If you are a student and you will be giving a speech in your history class, that’s going to inform your material such differently than if you are giving a toast to your dad’s 50th birthday party. You want to adapt your speech to fit the people you are speaking to. That way nobody gets bored and what you say will be a good match for your audience.

  • Know where you’re going to say it.

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the place where you’ll be speaking, if you can. It is a big room or a small one? Will you have to speak loud and project or will thee be a microphone that you will have to adjust? Is there a lectern or a chair or will you be able to move around while you talk.? When you have some information about where you’ll be, you ‘ll know what to expect before you get there and that will help cut down on your nerves once its’s showtime.


  • Visualize

Most of the fear we have around public speaking isn’t about talking in front of people, but about doing something potentially embarrassing in front of people. To combat this, practice imagining yourself giving your speech and doing a great job. Walk yourself through it in your head from beginning to end, giving yourself a chance to visualize yourself doing well instead of living out your worst fears.

  • Realize

Make it real by practicing your speech ahead of time- by yourself in front of your family in front of your friends or even your family pets, whoever you can get to be an audience for you. It is a good idea to either write out your speech on note cards or print it out in a very big font so that you can quickly look down see what you need to say and look back up to say it.

Practicing delivering your speech so that it becomes routine, Practicing with an audience is also a chance to realize that your audience wants you to succeed. People want to hear what you have to say and they want you to do well.

  • Exercise

If you are waiting around while other speak before you, it is helpful to step outside the room just before you speak to calm yourself down with deep-breathing exercises, breathing in slowly through your nose and breathing out through your nose and breathing out through your mouth. If you’re too nervous to breathe, try shaking out your arms and legs, then take some deep breaths to feel calm and centered. This is something you can do in practice and in performance.


  • It's about your message.

Remember as you begin your presentation, it’s about your speech, not about you. It’s helpful to concentrate on the message – not the medium. That way instead of thinking about all different ways things could go wrong as you deliver your talk, you focus yourself on the content of your talk and about getting those points across.

  • Its all about you.

Whether or not you crumble out of nervousness or do fantastically well thanks to sheer nerve is completely up to you – in other words, it is in your control. When you’re incredibly nervous you have the opportunity to harness that energy and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm. Take a deep breath and dive in.

  • It’s all good.

No matter how you do, it is always good in the sense that every time you speak in public, you gain experience. Use this to build your sense of self-confidence; if you’ve done well, you now have proof for the next time around that you can do well.

And if nerve have gotten the best of you, you now have proof that the worst has happened and you’ve survived. Either way you know that you’ve done it- you’ve spoken in public once and you can do it again. This confidence –building is crucial, because having confidence is the key to speaking well.

Good Luck

Quick Tips

  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Slow down: Don’t talk too fast.
  • Look up! – It it’s too scary to look at the audience in the front row, look at the people in the back of the room.
  • Smile : Look confident, even if you don’t feel confident.
  • Pretend: Pull a ‘Brady Bunch” where you imagine everyone in the audience sitting there in their underwear. Find a friendly face in the audience and pretend you’re only talking to that person.
  • Practice: Join a debating team, dare yourself. To speak up in class, give a speech in front of a mirror. The more opportunities you have speak in public the easier it gets.
  • Biggest asset: Self-confidence. Act as though you have a right to be there – because you do.


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    • profile image

      saurabhpande 8 years ago

      Thanks.It will certainly help me to prepare for my first public speech which i am going to deliver in couple of days.

    • johncheung profile image

      johncheung 8 years ago from Hong Kong

      just having the thought of public speaking make me stammer,really stammer. Any advice

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      Great tips which both adults and students can use. Public speaking is one of the most difficult tasks, but once you've done it, it becomes easier and more fun. I'll be sharing this article with my son who will be competing in a student public speech this year. Thanks!