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A Beginner's Guide to Public Speaking

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 5 9
Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mkeefe/2349283746

Effective public speaking is a vital skill that can advance just about any career. And even though the fear of public speaking is said to be the second most popular fear, probably after the fear of death, any determined person can learn the art and act of public speaking.

This article is dedicated to teaching beginners how to get into public speaking.

Whether you’re a sales person who wants to make a sales presentation or a career person who’s been asked to defend a business proposal or a budding public speaker who wants to eke a living out of the business,you’ll find the tips below useful in launching out.

How to Prepare for Public Speaking

Preparing for public speaking need not be expensive. You can get free materials to help you on your journey to effective public speaking. Read on for more tips:

  • Read and Study Other Speakers

Learn Public Speaking

For me, this is vital as the only way you can get a hang of public speaking is to read all you can about it and also watch other speakers and learn from them. You can also go online to study as a google search I did with the term ‘free online speaking courses’ threw up some valuable resources.

  • Study and Know Your Subject Matter Inside Out

The only way for people to take you serious when you speak is to know your subject matter, inside out, so, study it. If you’ve chosen to talk about time management, read just about any book you can find on the subject and allied subjects. Become an authority on the subject and people will begin to take you serious.

  • Practice Visualisation

As a beginning public speaker, visualisation can really help you. Visualization is a really powerful concept if done right. Just sit still and begin playing images of you speaking before thousands of people. Visualise yourself being applauded, visualise yourself speaking confidently and powerfully. Build these mental images and over time, you’ll realise you can speak any where, before anybody, without fear or stage fright.

  • Learn How to Use Visual Aids

Even though I agree you may not need visual aids all the time you speak, it’s a skill all public speakers should master, so, whether you need a visual aid for your next speaking engagement or not, please, learn how to use visual aids like the flip chart, PowerPoint presentations, projectors, etc. Aside this, learn how to hold the microphone as it’s vital to delivering an effective speech. I think the microphone is best held with the left hand, while you can use the right hand to make gestures or hold a tiny card containing your speech outline.

  • Practice Your Speech Before Delivery

Days before you’re scheduled to speak, read your presentation aloud to friends and family and allow them to critique and offer suggestions. Incorporate the useful suggestions they offer after each practice. Do this consistently till the d-day and you’ll know your presentation inside out.

  • Dress the Part
Dress Well as a Public Speaker
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62804537

Your dressing sure matters as a public speaker as you’ll be addressed by the way you’re dressed. Your dressing to any function where you’re billed to speak would be largely influenced by the type of function. But for corporate functions, you know you have to dress corporately. Aside your dressing, use your body language to effectively send your message across. Use hand gestures, facial expressions, feet movement to support what your mouth is saying. A note of caution though: while moving, try to do it in such a way that you don’t have your back turned to your audience.

How to Communicate Effectively As a Public Speaker

Effective communication is vital for public speakers and you can achieve it by researching the audience you’re speaking to and being able to speak to them within their frame of reference (like using esprit de corps, when speaking to members of the armed forces or police).

Another way to effectively communicate is to employ the rule of 3 when speaking. This essentially means you should condense your presentation into 3 key points:

The first key point is: Tell them what you’ll tell them,

The second key point is: tell them what you promised to tell them,

While the third key point is: tell them what you’ve told them

This essentially means your presentation should be in 3 parts: introduction and overview of speech, main body and explanation of the speech and summary or round up of everything that’s been said.

At the end of the speech, listeners should be able to pinpoint one or two things gained. You don’t want to speak and have people scratching their heads when asked what they’ve learnt, at the end of the day.

Avoid these Public Speaking Mistakes and Speak like a Pro

  • Arriving Late for an Event

This makes you look highly unprofessional so arrive early for any event you’re billed to speak. Arriving 30 minutes before a program is slated to start is ideal but arriving an hour earlier is better, particularly, in cases where you’re not familiar with the hall and you want some things set up, like the visual aids, etc

  • Exceeding Your Time Limit while Speaking

The best speaker is the one who delivers within his or her alloted time! By observing your alloted time, you’re helping other speakers to enjoy their speeches and making the program run smoothly, without hitches. Clients would love you because of this! One way to know how long it would take to deliver a speech is to rehearse it before a wall clock and if it is taking longer than your time, remove things you feel are not too important and start all over again until you can fix your speech within your alloted time.

  • Not Engaging Your Audience

To be an effective public speaker, you’ve got to engage your audience by maintaining eye contact, speaking energetically, speaking passionately and speaking from the heart. Maintain eye contact throughout your speech, instead of burying your head in your speech outline (you see newscaters do this all the time they read the news –they maintain eye contact). Avoiding eye contact would make you look like a stranger before an audience.Bond with your audience, find what they like best and talk about it. If you discover they like sports, talk about it as it stirs up their interest and gets their attention the more.

  • Reading from the Slide

Don’t even try this as your slide is supposed to guide your speech and not replace it. If you read from the slide, your speech becomes boring, drab and colourless, you’ll no doubt have many people in the audience dozing off before the end of the speech. Also avoid speaking too fast or you’ll end up speaking to yourself throughout your speech. Carry the audience along and one way to do this is to speak so they can hear and follow and also crack jokes (where appropriate, but do this sparingly as it can sometimes backfire).

  • Not Envisaging Interruptions and Preparing for Them

As a speaker, I’ve had situations where my computer refused to function. I’ve also had situations where my projector malfunctioned, so, I’d advise you envisage such situations and get alternatives before they occur. Ask yourself, ‘what on earth could go wrong with this speech?’ The projector may not work so, get a back up. The computer may crash, so, save your presentation on an external hard drive and also have it saved on the web. Just envisage things that could go wrong and get back ups to avoid ruining your speech.

  • Not Studying the Audience You’re Going to Speak to

As a speaker, I always research the people I’m going to speak to: ‘are they housewives? Are they young people? Are they business people?’ I try to find answers to this question because the way I’d speak to young people will definitely be different from how I’d speak to elderly people.

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

Get Over the Fear of Public Speaking

Like I said at the beginning, this is the second most popular fear and we’ve all experienced it at one point or the other. I did experience it the first time I spoke before an audience but I’d read in a book by Dr. Susan Jeffers’ titled: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway so, I did not think twice about speaking despite the butterflies going around in my tummy. I was shaking like a lily but I still went ahead, grabbed the microphone with shaky fingers and observed the 5-minute rule (this means,I spoke for 5 minutes and realised afterwards, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be).

So, my tips for overcoming the fear of public speaking are:

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway: It’s normal to experience anxiety and fear when you’re onto something new but don’t allow the fear to stop you from doing what you’ve decided to do. So, my take is, experience the fear but do it anyway.
  • Calm down your nerves: When you’re called to speak, stand or walk boldly to the stage and when you get to the stage, allow some seconds to pass by to enable you calm down your nerves and then proceed.
  • Use the 5-minute rule: speak for 5 minutes, you’d realise it’s not as diffcult as you thought it was going to be.

Want to Make Public Speaking a Business?

If you really desire to get into public speaking, know that it’s a skill you can acquire but you’ve got to be well-prepared by studying other speakers, practicing and setting up speaking engagements, even if you’re not going to be paid for doing them. You really have to get speaking engagements to expose you and also sharpen your skills. To get these speaking engagements, you can approach NGOs in your area and volunteer to speak at their empowerment programs. Aside NGOs, we have Lions Clubs, rotary clubs, etc, approach them and offer your speaking services free. It is one way to expose yourself to get paying jobs and also improve as a public speaker.

Summary and Action Takeaway

There you have it, a beginner’s guide to public speaking. Implement the tips in this article and see your performance as a public speaker soar to high heavens!

One last thing: never ever fall into the trap of perfection. You'll always strive to be perfect and every speaking engagement will provide another opportunity to improve your act, so, keep on moving, instead of avoiding speaking engagements, just because you think you're not perfect. A word to the wise, they say, is enough!

Even though I have taken my time to write this article, you need more information as a beginning public speaker. So, I took some time off to search for a book that can help. Luckily, I found one and it's by Scott Berken, a public speaker with more than 15 years experience.

One thing I can say straight off is, your next speech will be 10 times better if you get and read this book. Whether you're an established speaker or a beginning public speaker, this book will open your eyes and minds to concepts you never thought off. Get more information about the book below.

Confessions of a Public Speaker (English and English Edition)
Amazon Price: $16.99 $8.95 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 16, 2013)
Confessions of a Public Speaker teaches how to effectively present ideas to anyone (as an employed or self-employed). With lessons that jump at you and surprising confessions (from a master of the trade), this book is a must-have as it provides excellent insights into the art of persuasion and presentation. Get this book now and speak like a pro.


Jan 30, 2013 9:56am
Hi--this is just a wonderfully written article with lots of good advice and insights. 2 BIG thumbs up for you.
Feb 2, 2013 7:29am
Marlando, Thanks, really appreciate this!
Jan 30, 2013 2:05pm
Great article!
I don't think I could speak in public.

Thumbs Up!
Feb 2, 2013 7:31am
Ascentive, I think you can if you want to. It's just a matter of making up your mind to do it. All the best and thanks for the comment!
Jan 30, 2013 6:44pm
Public speaking is something that I am working on improving myself. It definitely isn't easy and takes a lot of confidence, but the skills and rewards you obtain from being good at it are truly amazing.

Great article, thumbs up!
Feb 2, 2013 7:32am
AlexSherman, Thanks for the comment. I really do agree that public speaking is rewarding. Wish you the best as you try to improve.
Jan 30, 2013 10:19pm
I think the single most important thing is to have something to say.

I've been fortunate to speak all over the world. That is largely due to the fact that the topics I talk about are innately interesting and things people want to hear about. Consequently, the content is so compelling that it almost doesn't matter what I do. But - of course, I always want to do a great job.

It's much like writing. Hard to write if you really don't have anything worthwhile to say. But - if you do, then you want to do as good a job as possible with what you write, and people will want to read it.

Nice job.
Feb 2, 2013 7:33am
aguy, I agree that having something to say is the single most important thing. Thanks for the comment.
Jun 11, 2013 7:35pm
Great article, really comprehensive and helpful guide to public speaking
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  1. "Facing Your Fear and the Power of Public Speaking." Open Learning World.com. 10/12/2012 <Web >
  2. "Beginners Guide to Public Speaking." Tools for Abundance.com. 10/12/2012 <Web >
  3. Ed Andriessen " Public Speaking Training on Presentation Skills – a Beginner’s Guide ." Ed Andriessen: Trainer. Speaker. Manager. 15/08/2010. 10/12/2012 <Web >
  4. "THR 189: 8 Public Speaking Mistakes That Make You Look Like a Newbie." The Hopkinson Report. 7/06/2012. 10/12/2012 <Web >

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