How-to: Top Public Speaking Tips

Presentation - Wikimedia CommonsThe article Top Ten Speaking Tips has been published by Business Works at

Speaking well in public is a vital business and personal skill that can enhance your professional and social standing – and yet people can be more nervous of public speaking than of spiders and death.

The ancient Greeks, of course, had a word for the fear of public speaking – glossophobia, or ‘tongue terror’.

I’ve trained public speaking and presentation skills for business for over ten years now. I’ve worked with firefighters who’d rush into a burning building to save your life, but ask them to make a presentation and they visibly shake with nerves. It’s not about courage, it’s about stepping out of the comfort zone and doing something out of the ordinary.

My ten tips for successful public speaking will help you to feel more confident, project confidence and inspire confidence in yourself and your business.

Tip 1: Planning and preparing will help develop your confidence and ensure that your speech or
presentation is a success. Ask the organisers what they want to achieve by having this presentation – are you there to inspire, to inform, to entertain?

Tip 2: Focus: Decide on your aim and objectives for the presentation. If you can’t state the aim of
the presentation in one sentence, you haven’t focused your thinking yet. Find out about your audience’s needs, so it’s relevant to them. Ask ‘what does this group of people need to hear from me right now?’

Tip 3: Gather, prioritise and structure your material. Brainstorm all ideas initially, not editing or
censoring any ideas at this stage. Then when it’s all laid out, start to prioritise into essential, useful and
nice-if-we-have-time. Be ruthless with editing to time – you can always send the extra material later.

Tip 4: It’s usually better not to read word-for-word verbatim. Better once you’ve written the presentation
to make brief speaking notes from it, with bullet points and key words to trigger your memory. You may like to use A6 cue cards to refer to – tag them together and make sure they’re numbered.

Tip 5: Use a visual aid to make it more interesting and memorable. We really do retain more if we’ve seen
as well as heard the information. It doesn’t have to be PowerPoint; we’ve all seen audiences droop in their
seats in the half-dark as the presenter drones on over the hum of slide after tedious slide – keep it short,
keep it relevant and remember your best visual aid is you and how you come across to the audience.

Tip 6: All performers – and the public speaker is a performer – know the value of rehearsal. It will
increase your confidence, ensure a smooth performance and iron out the glitches. Make sure your first and last words are off pat and not read out, as these are the bits they’ll remember best.

Tip 7: Deal with nerves. Even though you’re prepared and rehearsed, you’ll feel nervous – everyone who
has ever stood up in front of an audience has felt nervous. Some confidence-building techniques:

  • Relax: drop tension from your shoulders, raise your head a little, and your mood will lift.
  • Breathe: from the diaphragm, not from the chest, to calm your heart rate and control your voice.
  • Engage: Remember they want you to succeed, so make eye contact and smile.

The best cure for nerves is just to get on with it and to take every opportunity you can to speak in
public. You don’t want to get rid of nerves entirely – actors know that adrenaline, excitement and that sense of occasion are the fuel you need to power your presentation.

Tip 8: Work on your vocal skills to develop an interesting voice. Try some breathing and projection
exercises to develop control and energy.

Tip 9: Dealing with the audience can be difficult, especially if the message is unwelcome or
controversial. Prepare for questions in advance. If you practise answers to the six worst questions you can
imagine being asked, the chances are the ones you are asked won’t be nearly so bad.

Tip 10: Always ask yourself and those you trust the questions “How did I do?”, “What was I pleased
with?”, “What would I do differently if I were to do it again next week?” Seek out and accept feedback
positively, working on your message and delivery for improving your next presentation.

For more information and advice on public speaking skills for business, please visit:

About Philippa Hammond

Speaking Well In Public offers a portfolio of public speaking courses for business, performance and social occasions designed and developed by Philippa Hammond, combining her skills and techniques as an award-winning trainer, working actor and voice artist. Philippa is a member of Equity and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.


One thought on “How-to: Top Public Speaking Tips

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Regards

    Posted by bethany carmichael | Nov 27, 2013, 10:40 pm

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