Top 10 Tips for Public Speaking

Are you terrified of public speaking or do you enjoy getting up in front of a crowd?  If you happen to identify with the former, you’re in good company.  It has been stated that ‘Glossophobia,’ or the fear of public speaking, is one of the top phobias that individuals experience.  
I have done my fair share of public speaking over the last 10+ years and I know how debilitating it can be if you are anxious about the process.  I am an IT / Oil & Gas consulting executive and my job is to give sales presentations, software demos, execute the proposal response process, manage our client relationships and lead our team in the delivery of projects and client support.  There are a lot of opportunities to speak publicly to both my superiors and my team.  I am probably one of the few/weird humans who actually enjoys speaking in public.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still nervous every time I do it.  My heartbeat quickens, I worry that I’ll forget everything I prepared to say and I fear that I’ll be judged.  But oddly enough, presenting gives me a rush and I always feel energized after doing it. [Now, I will say that while I like to give presentations, speak at conferences and lead meetings in a professional setting, I can completely clam up in a social setting.  I think that with my work, I feel like I have a script to fall back on and that gives me the courage and confidence I need. However, socially I can get nervous and let the fear of people’s judgement shake me.  Interesting dichotomy, huh? But that’s a topic for another day. 😉 ]

Let’s get to the good stuff! If you have a presentation coming up, you’re going to be leading a team meeting or you’re just wanting to improve your overall confidence at work, here are my top 10 ways to do so:


  1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. You will still be nervous when you speak but at least you know you did everything you could to prepare beforehand.  I’m so much calmer when I present if I know in the back of my mind that I prepared as much as I could.  Whenever I don’t prepare as much as I know I can, I mentally beat myself up during my presentation.  I’ll blame myself for anything that goes wrong and then kick myself for not preparing to the max.  Skip this whole cycle and do the work!
  2. Before your presentation / meeting / etc, go into the bathroom, raise your hands in the air in a V shape and say “I am so awesome. I got this. We’re going to connect and they’re gonna love me.” Give yourself a pep talk and say whatever will make you feel confident! This performer power pose has an awesome affect on your energy and presence when you walk into a room. 
  3. Dress the part.  If your presentation is live, make sure you pick out your outfit well in advance. If I’m speaking in front of a group, I’ll get my suit drycleaned a few days in advance so that I feel my best.  When I look my best, I feel my best! And what I am feeling my best, I’m more confident in front of an audience.
  4. Breathe. A critical item on the list!  When we’re nervous, we tend to forget to breathe. Crazy, huh?! And when we forget to breathe, we look and sound nervous and unsure of ourselves. Remember, slow down and breathe (and smile!! 😄)
  5. Smile when you pause.  At times, when you’re focusing so intently on what it is you’re going to say, you may forget to smile.  You can end up looking as though you’re miserable when you’re actually not! This happens to me all the time and I have to remember to pause and smile in between sentences. A smile does so much to ease the tension (if there is any in the room), it’s warm and inviting and allows you to connect with your audience in a more personal way. I find that a smile also humanizes you as a presenter.
  6. Film yourself – this is an invaluable step in nailing a presentation. If you’ve never done this before, it’s a game changer. Let me tell you, you have absolutely no idea what you look or sound like when speaking until you tape yourself doing it. I first did this in a women’s leadership program at work and I was floored. I fidgeted, I never smiled, I aimlessly moved around, I gestured with my hands without purpose, etc.  Once I saw what I looked like, I was able to fix the distractions that were taking away from my presentation. 
  7. Keep your hands by your side – oh man, do women (myself included) like to talk with their hands! It can become distracting and detract from your presentation if you’re doing it constantly and not intentionally. This was and is one of the hardest things to nail down for me. 
  8. Stand rooted in one spot. Do not pace! Now, if it makes sense for you to move from one side of the stage to another (i.e. it helps illustrate a point), then you can do it.  But just shuffling around from one area to another in a meaningless way will take away from what you’re trying to say.  Your audience will focus on you meandering about instead of on your message.
  9. Have fun! I mean, at the end of the day, even if you absolutely botch your presentation, will you even think about it 5 years from now? I doubt it! There’s some comfort in that, so have fun while you’re on stage!
  10. Put yourself out there…my old boss used to say this to us all of the time.  And what he meant by it was “put your heart and joy into it. Be vulnerable and let people see you.” He taught me a lot about connecting with others during presentations and he is one of the best at it.  He never left anything on the table and put his whole heart into everything he did.  I encourage you to do the same.
Public speaking can be terrifying, but it can also be fun, believe it or not! If you give yourself the right amount of time to prepare and don’t take yourself too seriously, you can watch yourself improve with each time that you do it.  Do you have any tips or rituals you do before speaking to your team or presenting to an audience? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below! 

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