Public Speaking

Earlier today I saw a post on another forum about speaking in public. A reader was asking how to stop being nervous before and during a public speaking event. I speak at around 3 professional events annually on top of regular speaking in my job and I don’t think I will ever not be nervous; the nerves have reduced over time but the butterflies are still always there. 

I recently chaired a speaking event; the nerves on the morning before chairing we’re very high to the point of thinking that I shouldn’t be doing it. For me, that’s normal and it was only when I realised that this is normal (at least for me) and I started to embrace the nervous energy that I became a comfortable speaker. 

Here is my four step guide to improving your public speaking skills.

  1. Preparation – the better you know your topic and the more prepared you are, the better contained your nerves will be. You may work better under pressure when putting a report together but speaking is a different kettle of fish altogether; finish your presentation early so you can run it through in your mind over and over.
  2. Speak – this step is obvious but you have to get up there and speak. Start off speaking about something you know about so you have confidence in the topic. You hear ideas of imaging the audience naked and other tricks; these don’t work for me, I just keep in my mind that regardless of how good or bad I perform I am performing better than everyone who isn’t up there speaking. 
  3. Assess – practice without assessment or review isn’t really practice! There are two important types of assessment; self assessment can be helpful if you are an honest assessor. Don’t be overly critical or soft just give yourself honest feedback and compare your last performance against earlier performances, don’t compare yourself to others. The second type is from the audience, both people you know and those you don’t know; without exception, I always find the assessment from the audience is always far better than my own assessment. I am my own harshest critic.
  4. Do it again. My first attempt at speaking in public was terrible. Not even I could understand what I was saying. But it wasn’t a failure because I assessed the performance and got back up and tried again.

The most important thing to remember is that most of the population will not speak publicly, you are doing it so you are already doing a better job than the rest.