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Tips for Speaking in Public

Updated on October 4, 2013

When You're Asked to Speak in Public

We'll all be asked to speak in public at one time or another. Some people are natural public speakers, and for others it's extremely uncomfortable. Even if you manage to avoid public speaking, there comes a time when almost everyone has to step up to the microphone (weddings, retirement, funerals, business meetings, social clubs, church, etc.) and face a large group of people.

I have some simple tips that will help keep the occasion fairly pain free, and you may even find that you're actually quite good at addressing an audience.

Photo: Krista Neher, a polished public speaker.


What's the first thing you notice about the speaker in the above picture?

The answer will be given later.


I'm not an expert at public speaking. . .

But I've found myself doing my share of it.

I'm just a regular person who avoids public speaking as much as possible. When I have a speaking assignment I find myself rating how uncomfortable it is: How bad is this - would I rather be sitting in the dentist chair than have to speak before an audience? My answer was almost always yes! Can you relate to that? Over my lifetime I've had to give short talks, long talks, presentations and several seminar classes. And of course there are times I've had to say a few words at a wedding or funeral.

For most assignments you'll have time to prepare ahead, but occasionally you'll find yourself in a situation where you need to speak extemporaneously. Sometimes that's better because you don't really have time to worry or be nervous about it. On just such an occasion I received a heartfelt standing ovation from a group of strangers I was petrified to speak in front of. When I got up that morning I had no idea I would be speaking before two hundred people. Straight from the heart is always the best, but those times are rare, and are motivated on the spot by inspiration, strong emotion, or pure adrenaline.

My tips will be helpful for those speaking assignments for which you have time to prepare ahead.



Seven Simple Tips to Prepare Your Speech or Presentation With Confidence

If the first thing you noticed about the top picture is the speaker's smile, you're right! And that's my first tip.

1. Smile. If you start with a smile you not only have the audience on your side, but you actually put yourself at ease as well. People will smile back at you, and you'll feel a whole lot better. Along with this, take a deep breath just before you approach the microphone. Taking these two first steps are sure to get rid of that "deer in the headlights" feeling.

2. Introduce yourself. Unless the speaking assignment is to talk about yourself, you don't have to make it long. Just a couple of sentences to say your name and something about yourself. Here is an example: "For those of you that don't know me, I'm Jane Smith. I'm a mother of three students here at Concord Elementary, and I love being involved in the PTA." This not only introduces you to your audience, but it eases you into what you have to say.

3. Based on the length of time you've been given to speak, make an outline of what you want to say. For a talk fifteen minutes or less, I would break this into three parts - a beginning, middle and end. For a longer speech, simply divide each of those three parts into smaller parts. What is the main subject of your talk or point you need to make? For my pace of speaking, a ten minute talk is almost exactly three single-spaced typewritten pages. The first page introduces the subject, sometimes with an anecdote to lead in to the topic, and then covers in a general way the entire scope of what I'm covering. The second page goes into more detail and adds facts or more stories and illustrations to fully develop the point. The third page repeats the main points in a different way and draws conclusions or asks questions, something to make them think about your topic or drive home your point. Conclude with a strong statement and any action you would like people to take: "So I hope that these examples will help you understand our situation more clearly. Before you leave, please visit the display table and sign up or pledge a donation. Thank you."

4. Take the written speech and read it out loud several times. If you don't read out loud, you won't get a good idea of how much time it will actually take. Also, reading it out loud allows you to hear any awkward sentences or things that wouldn't be clear to the audience. If your tongue trips over a phrase, now is the time to reword it. You might even realize you've left out something important to the entire topic. Now, edit it for length and make any changes to the wording. Print out at least two copies of your final speech. Put one in your pocket, purse or briefcase right now. Keep the other copy to work with. If you make more changes, replace the one in your purse or briefcase. I have a few stories about forgotten speeches where the first one stashed was a lifesaver.

5. Now, this is where you practice and memorize, if you wish. I know it's better if you don't read a speech, but if it's for a less formal audience, it's okay to read. Famous people use teleprompters now, so I think it's okay for us regular people to use notes. Just know your material well enough that you can look up and just talk for some of it. In any case, be sure to have notes, an outline, or your whole speech with you in case you need it.

6. Many times I've been given the advice to look over the tops of the heads of the people in the back row if I'm nervous, or picture them all sitting there in their underwear. I've discovered that if I make eye contact and, again, smile, that it's far more comforting to see friendly smiling faces looking back at me and connecting with what I'm saying.

7. Have a small unobtrusive bottle of water in case you need it, and a tissue or handkerchief for sweaty hands and unexpected coughs or sneezes. You probably won't need either, but you'll be less nervous knowing you have them.

Photo: Public Domain Image -

Photos used with permission are credited in individual modules. Every other photo on this lens resides in original form in my personal collection.

Thanks for stopping by!

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    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 4 years ago from Naperville, IL

      Smiling definitely sets the tone from the beginning! Great tips here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent public speaking tips! I've heard the seeing them all in their underwear before to but I think your idea of making real contact is better, reassuring and energizing. You have a very comfortable and practical approach and you never know when you may need a kleenex or a little sip of water and being prepared is so much better than having to interrupt your presentation with these little practicalities. So very well done!

    • Earnlat profile image

      Earnlat 5 years ago

      Great subject! I too believe that making eye-contact along with completing a single thought to each set of eyes, works wonders. Important lens.

    • treehousebrando1 profile image

      treehousebrando1 5 years ago

      I'm terrible at public speaking. I wish I was better though.

    • LoriBeninger profile image

      LoriBeninger 5 years ago

      Nice. Concise. Well written. This would make a good verbal presentation -like a speech! Thank you. I agree about eye contact in lieu of avoidance - more comforting.

    • PastorCher profile image

      Pastor Cher 5 years ago from United States

      Good advice. I find that if I find a friendly face to focus on it also breaks the tension. Moving around keeps their attention as well as asking questions.

    • RichLeighHD profile image

      RichLeighHD 5 years ago

      I have a massive phobia of public speaking so will definitely be taking some of this advice into consideration! Thanks Nancy.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 5 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Public Speaking was one of my favorite high school classes, and I used to compete in impromptu speaking. As long as I'm familiar with the subject I don't mind speaking in public, but as I get older and my memory isn't as good, I need to prepare for anything that involves remembering information. I can do pretty well when "from the heart" is the topic.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I used to train kids in school to do this. One thing a speaker needs to do is make it to the point. Short.

    • Merstarr profile image

      Merstarr 5 years ago

      Funny. I used to love public speaking. Then I was suddenly terribly ill every time I had to get on a stage or behind a podium. And now, I would be fine to speak publicly, but I am no longer called upon to do so. Hmmm. Great lens, and I hope it help those who need the guidance :)

    • profile image

      LeisureTravelEgypt 5 years ago

      I'm not an expert at public speaking, but after reading your lense i got a lot of helpful tips (thanks)

    • profile image

      BeijingAttractions 5 years ago

      Very helpful tips

    • profile image

      Sabeauty 5 years ago

      These are helpful tips, I hate public speaking.

    • profile image

      Funkysi 5 years ago

      Great tips, cool lens.

    • Tobint44 LM profile image

      Tobint44 LM 5 years ago

      Great tips, I love to speak in public.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 5 years ago

      Great info.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      I learned about public speaking for real in my first year of college... ever since then, I haven't had any problem and have done tons of public speaking engagements :) GREAT lens!!! Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Cool informative lens.

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 5 years ago

      These tips are important, especially for me :)

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      Great info. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • profile image

      ikepius 5 years ago

      Thanks for the advice. Personally i get self conscious because i am not very good looking....great lens!!

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Great advice. I was a speech communication minor in college so I had to learn a lot about public speaking. Definitely not my favorite thing, but I feel a whole lot more comfortable doing it than I would otherwise.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

      This is wonderful information.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Great advice!

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 5 years ago

      Very useful lens.

    • BillyPilgrim LM profile image

      BillyPilgrim LM 5 years ago

      Great lens, good tips!