Public Speaking for Beginners

Tips to get you through your first talk

Speaking in public for the first time can be nerve-wracking, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it. Learning to be comfortable speaking in public can improve your communication skills, your ability to explain complicated topics to laypeople and your confidence.

I sense much fear in you

So, you’ve got your talk written, and a speaking slot booked in and now the nerves are starting to hit, don’t panic, follow these tips:

Breathe!

I used to get super nervous before speaking and my heart would be racing by the time I was on stage. Breathing exercises can really help here. Practice regulating your breathing. Take large steadying breaths, hold them and then release them slowly. Doing this for two minutes before you speak will help slow down that frantic heart and clear the butterflies from your stomach.

Speak slowly

Slower than you’d expect, it’ll give your audience a better chance to keep up, and it will help you keep nerves in check. We all tend to speed up when we’re nervous, keeping the pace slow will help calm your breathing and allow your brain to keep up with your mouth.

Find a member of the audience that you know well and look at them if you feel nervous

It can be a little daunting being on stage in front of strangers. A friendly, smiling face will help you to remember that the audience are not your enemy and will remind you to slow down!

Pausing isn’t a problem

When you’re on stage a pause can feel like forever, but the audience probably won’t even notice it, and they certainly won’t remember it. If you need to find your place or just catch your breath, that is ok. It can give the audience a chance to think about what you’ve said before.

Keep your blood sugar/alcohol/caffeine level sensible

You know what is best for your body. If an energy drink will help you to stay focused then use it, if it’ll increase your heart rate and make you speed up then don’t. Make sure you’ve got enough energy to keep you happy and flowing, even if you’re nervous try not to skip meals. If you drink and you need one to calm your nerves/make you more relaxed then do that, but stop at one. I’ve seen drunk speakers and they never sound as great as they do sober.

If something goes wrong, don’t panic

Everyone makes mistakes. There will be technical hiccups/delays/trip-ups/you name it. Remember to breathe and don’t let it shake you.

Ask about the setup you’ll be using beforehand

Feeling comfortable is a big part of acting comfortable! Find out whether you’ll have a lectern or not, whether you’ll be above the audience or on their eye-line, whether you’ll be able to use your own machine, or even in some cases, whether you’ll have to use printed out notes! The fewer surprises on the day, the more relaxed you’ll feel.

Work out your travel route in advance

Give yourself plenty of time to arrive, setup and calm down. Rushing on the way there isn’t going to help your nerves!

Practice practice practice

Do at least one run through/practice run out loud. Even if it is just in your bedroom on your own. Getting the feel of a talk can help your memory when you’re actually giving it. I sometimes record myself doing each paragraph of a talk then play it back, it gets me used to the sound of my own voice (which I hate!) and it really aids memory.

And finally…

You are awesome and everyone wants to hear what you say and wants you to do well

Have confidence in yourself and confidence in your talk. Try not to fear the experts in the audience, even if you belive they already know your topic, they’ve not heard your perspective before. You have something new and interesting to offer, they’ll be the ones espeically keen to hear what you’ve got to say.

Your audience is on your side, they really do want you to succeed. Remember that and believe in yourself.

You can do it!

Applause!