Public Speaking. It’s A Bitch


Public speaking can be a difficult thing for some and an easy thing for others.  Getting up in front of a group of people and giving a speach or training on a particular topic or topics, for some people can feel like a death sentance.  For others it can be like a trip to Disney.  But no matter who you are if you are terrified or nervous of talking to a group of people or in front of a crowd, know that this is something that can be overcome with time and practice.

When I first started out I was terrified of getting in front of large groups and talking.  I was a shy person and that is just something you don’t make a shy person do.  Whenever I had to talk to a group of people it normally went something like this.

I walk to the podium.

“Hello… name is…..uh” look around hoping someone will mouth my name because I have completely forgotten my own name “uh, well you know who I am they just introduced me.  Moving on.”

“I’d like to talk about sex” Now my hands go to my pockets and begin to play with my keys in one hand and my dip can in the other.  (This is distracting to the audience but I don’t realize I’m doing it.)  “I think you should always have sex on the first date and no later than the 2nd date.”  plays with keys more

Walk nervously back and forth, stop stare at one spot on the back wall.  “Um, No one wants to be with someone for a long time…um…if they suck in bed.”

You get the picture.  It was horrible.  Over time I was able to get over this fear I had.  I had to, being in the Air Force and with my job I had to train people all the time and speak in front of groups of people and high level leaders constantly so I had to kill that fear quickly.

So I thought I would give some pointers and do’s and don’ts on speaking in public.  Here are a few things you can do to control your nervousness before a presentation.

1.  Know your material.  Ensure the topic you are speaking about is one you are interested in or know a lot about.  Use humor, personal stories and converstational language

2.  Practice, Practice, Practice!  Rehearse out loud with all your equipment, note cards, visual aids, etc.  Practice with a timer if you have to be done in a certain timeframe.

3.  Know the audience.  Greet some of the members when they arrive, this makes them friends not strangers.

4.  Know the room.  Arrive early, walk around, test the microphone and visual aids

5.  Relax.  Begin addressing the audience.  Pause, smile, and count to three before saying anything.

6.  Visualize yourself giving yoru speech.  Imagine you are speeking, your voice loud, visualize the audience clapping.

7.  Realize that people want you to succeed.  They want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative, and entertaining.

8.  Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem.  They probably didn’t noticee

9.  Concentrate on the message – not the medium.  Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message.

10.  Gain experience.  Your speach should represent you as an authority and as a person.  Experience builds confidence

Now here are a few things you want to make sure you don’t do when speaking in public

1.  Don’t focus on a particular spot or object on the wall instead of making eye contact.

2.  Don’t stare at the ceiling.  Your audience will think you are not interested in them.

3.  Don’t glance around like you have something to hide.

4.  Don’t fumble or fidget.  Pay attention to what you are doing with your hands.  If you have to take everything out of your pockets before going out in front of everyone so you have nothing in your pockets to fidget with.

5.  Don’t read directly from your notes or your visual.  Use them as a guide only.  Your attention should be on the audience not the screen or your note cards.

6.  Don’t spew a long list of facts, figures, and statistics.  The audience can read a report with data.  You are to humanize the information with examples, analogies, and anecdotes.

7.  Don’t have too many visuals and avoid using overly busy slides.  This takes your viewers attention away from you and has them concentrating more on the the visual.

8.  Don’t ramble.  Get to the point.

9.  Avoid inappropriate jokes.  This goes with knowing your audience.  You don’t know if someone will be offended.  I have found the best jokes and stories are the ones about myself.  It’s hard to be offended by something that the person said happened to them instead of a sexual joke they just made up.

10.  Don’t exceed the time limit if you have one.  People are expecting to leave at an allotted time and if you go over you will start to lose them.  They are now thinking about when they are going to be leaving.

11.  Don’t talk above or below your audience’s head.  This basically antagonizes them.

12.  Avoid dodging questions.  If you do this dishonestly the audience will doubt your credibility on the subject.

13.  Don’t lose your cool with a difficult audience member.  This will make you a villian.

14.  Don’t hog the limelight when introducing another speaker.  You are to make the other speaker look good.

15.  Don’t panic at a misstep.  If you “gotta-be-perfect” you’ll never relax.

16.  Avoid too many “Um’s” or other nonword filters.  They make you sound unsure and are distractors from your topic.

17.  Don’t speak in a dull monotone.  Nothing tunes an audience out faster.  People want you to be lively, happy, funny, not dull and monotone.

18.  Avoid pacing.  Walking around is okay but don’t pace in one spot back and forth.

19.  Avoid a low-key, ho-hum delivery.  If you can’t get excited your audience won’t either.


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