How to Speak in Public… Even If You Hate Public Speaking

public speaking fear

Despite your fear, you need to figure out how to fit public speaking into your schedule. Let me tell you why.

Many entrepreneurs credit public speaking appearances as a critical piece to their business success. In fact, they treat public speaking as a machine that generates leads for their business.

A lot of them will get immediate connections from their speaking engagements, but most of those leads will take a long time to mature.

This is why many of them use some type of marketing automation tools to keep in touch with those who don’t need their business right away.

Even though public speaking is a great way to increase your exposure, many entrepreneurs hate doing it and use all kinds of excuses to avoid it.

Do you hate speaking in public? Would you like to learn how to get over your fear of public speaking and actually start taking on speaking engagements to expand your brand and message?

Then this guide will help.

How to ease into public speaking painlessly

Let’s first look at how you might enter the world of public speaking and go from speaking confidently one-on-one to commanding center stage at a huge conference.

Are you ready to launch your speaking career? Let’s go!

  • Volunteer for an interview – There is no question about it: it takes a lot of confidence to stand in front of an audience and speak clearly and convincingly. You can ease your fear of public speaking by trying something non-threatening first. For example, you can volunteer to do an interview. Find a blogger in your industry who does video interviews (Writer Views and Mixergy are two examples) and offer to speak as an expert on a topic. No guarantees that he or she will accept your offer, but give the blogger enough compelling information that will make it hard for him or her to say “no” to you. In other words, become the person everyone wants to interview. Once you get an invitation, make sure you and the blogger talk about the interview. If possible, get a list of questions before the interview so you can rehearse. The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel.
  • Create a virtual conference - You also won’t have to face an audience if you create a virtual experience like a webinar. In fact, a webinar is a good place to start organizing the possible slides you might use at a conference speech. A teleseminar, on the other hand, is more like a question-and-answer session, but it will work equally well in getting you to feel comfortable talking in front of other people. In addition, Google+ Hangout is a low-key way to speak in front of people.
  • Sit on a panel – A bit further up the chain of speaking in public is speaking at a roundtable or panel. Since you are an expert in your industry, you’ll be able to offer valuable information and answer questions. This is also a great opportunity to see what your audience is interested in. Pay attention to the questions they ask and their reactions to certain answers. Find out what they are passionate about. You can use this information down the road when you prepare your own lecture. See, public speaking is not all about getting exposure for you and your brand. It’s equally about connecting with your audience. The better you can make an emotional connection with your audience, the better your message will resonate with your listeners.
  • Go local – After you’ve created a webinar, done an interview and sat on a panel or two, you’re probably ready to go big and speak at a conference or event. You don’t have to go super big. Do something small in your local area. Pick up a copy of your local Business Journal and turn to the calendar section. You’ll find a list of groups just waiting for you to speak. Choose one in your area of expertise and send off your application. Remember to tailor your speech to that particular audience. People will see right through a cookie cutter speech. Furthermore, don’t make your speech an advertisement for your business. You must share something valuable with your audience.
  • Find a conference – Once you put a few local conferences under your belt, you’re now ready to go big time. If you don’t already know big conferences in your area, search Google for “conferences [your industry]“. What’s nice about these big events and conferences is that they’ll have their own PR and marketing machines promoting the event, and you, as a speaker, will be part of that PR and marketing. It’s free advertising. The competition to speak at these events is tough, so submit a speaker application with a compelling presentation outline. Follow up by phone a week later.

Now that you have an idea of how to ease into the public speaking world, let me share with you eight tips for creating and giving your best presentation ever.

8 tips for surviving your first public speaking gig

  1. Know your audience - Rule number one when speaking in public is to understand your audience inside out. Nothing is more embarrassing…and could ruin your reputation faster…than giving an irrelevant speech. Make sure you research the audience’s background, needs, level of sophistication and expectations. Most annual conferences will have videos of previous speakers. View the most popular ones and try to incorporate their choice of language, humor and visuals aids.
  2. Test equipment – This is especially true if you are the first person to speak for the day. If you have a person or two who went before you, all you might have to do is a simple mic check. But anything can happen with electrical equipment in the blink of an eye, so test to make sure that all equipment is working properly. Plus, if something goes wrong, e.g., your PowerPoint is not working, people will be disappointed.
  3. Excite your audience immediately– A great speech will open and close with a bang. This is important to remember since most people will only remember what you said at the start and finish of your speech. You can grab your audience’s attention with a great quote, question or statistic. And then, like in a good blog post, you want to close with a compelling call to action. Encouraging people to do something will imprint your message on people’s memory.
  4. Avoid speaking in monotone – Practice varying your pitch, rate and volume when speaking. This will keep people from falling asleep during your presentation. In addition, avoid speaking too fast or too slow. I know a lot of people who speak super fast when they are nervous. Try to gain control and calm yourself down.
  5. Avoid jargon – One reason you don’t want to use jargon is that not everyone in your audience may know what you are talking about. This can create an unnecessary barrier between you and your audience. Another reason to avoid using jargon is that it is just boring and overused. It might also make you look like you are trying hard to be smart.
  6. Focus on your audience – Make sure you never lose eye contact with your audience for long. Your staring up at your slides or down at your notes on the lectern will turn people off. Besides, if you are not looking at the audience, you can’t tell if they are getting restless or bored. If you see signs of boredom, adjust your speech and delivery until you get people’s attention back.
  7. Look confident – Good posture will communicate to your audience that you are a competent authority. Keep your feet six inches apart from each other and your hips squared with your shoulders. Your chin should be parallel to the ground. Feel free to move around as it will help you connect with the audience.
  8. Relax and be yourself - Easier said than done, right? One technique you can use to calm yourself and relax is to take deep breaths occasionally. You can also focus on one or two people who look friendly. And don’t forget to just have fun and be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. The audience can tell if you are faking it.

Conclusion

Don’t be afraid to jump into public speaking. In fact, I encourage you to call or email someone right now and ask about an opportunity to speak. Unless you reach out, you’ll never know what opportunities are out there.

Keep in mind that the financial benefits of public speaking may not become a reality overnight. It takes time for the lead-generation ball to get rolling.

Besides, you’ll reap huge personal benefits from speaking in public. It’s a great way to learn and grow…why miss out on those lessons?

Can you share any of your public speaking tips that might help an entrepreneur get over his or her fear?

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Comments

  1. Public Speaking.. stage fear.. OMG!

    I have never spoken in a conference before, but love see your client Ben Huh speaking at TedX seattle in this video.

    I think this video may help an entrepreneur to learn about public speaking.

  2. Having had a ton of experience in public speaking & seminars I just had to jump in on this one, Neil, and see if I could offer a tip or 2 that might help.

    First, I would say forget about so-called “conventional wisdom” for dealing with stage fright – worn-out crap like “picture your audience naked” rarely works and can be quite distracting as well.

    Some quick tips that do work: one is focus on something larger than yourself, like something you believe in very deeply. Another is focus on delivering tremendous value to the group. Bonus: realize everyone there is really just like you at the core – wants a good life for themselves, their family, and so on. In other words, take the focus off of yourself – that’s the common denominator here. I also have some videos on this topic here: http://www.seminaracademy.com/videos/.

    Finally, speaking and seminars should be viewed as lead generation and lead conversion tools (you touched on this, Neil) and you should be aware that while “just speaking” will get you exposure, you need to learn how to get people interested in what you’re offering and you should never assume that they will be interested “just because” – speaking is a skill that can be learned and learning how to generate and convert leads via speaking can be learned too.

    Hope that helps.
    David

    • Awesome, thanks for your added input.

      I do agree that it is possible to learn how to “generate and convert leads via speaking.” It just takes training and practice to do so.

    • “Bonus: realize everyone there is really just like you at the core – wants a good life for themselves, their family, and so on.”

      David,

      Well said!

      There’s a reason the audience is there to see you. They are searching for something. The better speakers do not necessarily have the greatest word power. The better speakers package information their audience desires. The same goes for blog posts, journalism, etc.

  3. Hello Neil,

    This is a great post, I am still working on getting more speaking engagements as well as my monotone as I find it does happen. But I am sure I will get better.
    One thing I have found that relaxes you is having a ‘mild/gentle joke’ earlier on in the presentation as once the audience smiles or laughs they relax and so do you.
    Though it also helps to smile a little as the audience would respond to your facial expressions.
    Thanks alot for sharing this, as always it is very useful.

  4. I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks because I tried a couple of times to speak persons in public, to get them to grasp to concept of my business and sometimes what might connect with one audience might not connect with another audience even though the listeners have the same interest. I get nervous a lot before I speak which sometimes cause my statements not to come out right which takes a toll on my confidence.

    The pointers here are really good and I will be implementing them my approach next time

    Thanks Neil and all commentators.

  5. All great points! Something I’d add to the list: find opportunities to speak regularly! It’s like anything else—the more you do it, the better you become. I used to be afraid of speaking publicly, so I joined a Toastmasters Club so I would be forced to speak on a regular basis. In addition, it gave me a friendly environment to practice in where everybody there wants you to succeed and they offer gentle criticism on how to improve.

    I’ve been able to use my Toastmasters chapter as a test audience before giving presentations at work, and to try out a pitch to potential investors and partners. When you’re able to “test-drive” a speech ahead of time, you’re able to find flaws in your presentation and correct them. Practice, practice, practice!

  6. I especially appreciate your advice on getting out there and being proactive. We all start somewhere and until you face your fear of public speaking, you will not overcome it. Here are two additional resources for overcoming your fear and preparing for a speech http://www.thesykesgrp.com/PresentationSkillsPublicSpeakingArticle02.htm and http://www.thesykesgrp.com/Presentation10Tips01.htm

  7. Thanks Neil for this motivational post, I will agree with Ron on using Toasmaster to improve ourselve and test our message !

  8. I read somewhere that more people fear public speaking than death.

    Thanks for the tips.

  9. Hi!

    I believe that speaking in public is something that can be done if only your are successful and you know your business! You need to know everything about your work in order to help other people! There are many entrepreneurs who cannot speak in public but I think that it is all about the perception…!!

    Best Regards,
    Zouras

  10. Hi Neil:

    Nice post. Like your ideas about building up. I’ve been in the group toastmasters for 6+ years. It’s a group that trains people in public speaking and leadership skills. A lot of people learn to speak publicly there and others improve on their skills. It’s inexpensive and fun after you get to know people in the group.

    Rob

  11. Timing couldn’t be better! Speaking at SES Conference over at New Delhi and this little piece of info acted as a checklist! Thanks Neil!

  12. Depending on the situation, one good technique for better public speaking is to call someone out in the audience. Sort of like comedians do (but obviously without insulting them). It has an impact of the audience increasing their attention spans because they are more on their toes and slightly anxious that at any time they may have to directly respond to you.

  13. Hi Neil,

    This article reminds me of my past. I always had a problem of speaking in front of a large crowd. I always had a fear of facing people in a seminar hall, a congress or a get to gather. I tried to overcome this fear in many ways. Few best things I did was to go google hangouts with other blogger friends and talk to them with a webcam. I choose who are of my same level. This improved my confidence of speaking to large number of people gradually. Now exactly after 8months, I gave 35 seminars in 30 different colleges of Hyderabad. Its all about practice, never give up attitude and determination :)

    Loved your post neil..
    With love
    Satish

  14. Check out your local chapter of “Toast Masters” — I’ve heard great reviews from business people who’ve joined them and I am also attending later this month.

  15. Great tips Neil. I’ll be sitting on a panel at my first conference next year. Nervous but excited at the same time.

    I’ll be following many of your tips for sure! Thanks

  16. I can’t agree more Neil,
    I’ also as terrified as anything else when it comes to speaking in public. I’ve equally read so many different books on this subject before but this post is really amazing.

    I’ve started becoming used to it though as i spoke in a seminar last month, standing in front on a crowd speaking while they are all looking at you is something that use to worry me before not withstanding that i was a senior prefect when i was in collage, yet i still finds it hard not until last month.

    I’ve learnt some new strategies from this post though, thanks for sharing.

  17. Great post. When I first started my consulting business I came to you and I remember you saying speaking gigs were the best and it’s true. One good local speaking gig and I got tons of leads and new businesses compared to me cold calling and the likes.

    Love the tips but the best way is just go out and do it. Like you said, start small and go bigger from interviews to local conferences to bigger ones. The more you do it, the better you become. I don’t know anyone who was a great speaker from Day 1.

    -Amir

  18. THANKS for another terrific article, Neil!

    Here are my additions:

    1) This is something that frankly did not cross my mind despite a lot of public speaking – until I saw someone teach and coach a group of people who were getting ready to speak in front of circa 150 people. Ever since I have been doing this myself, too, and find it immensely helpful. So here it is: WRITE A WORD BY WORD SCRIPT OF THE ENTIRE PRESENTATION/SPEECH. Then practice. Now, of course, do NOT read the script. But having the script accomplishes two things: (a) as you are writing it, you will become crystal clear yourself on what you are going to say, i.e., you will be prepared, and (b) in case you get nervous while presenting and stuck, you can simply go back to the script and read it – just knowing that the script is there as your backup in case you get nervous will immediately pretty much eliminate the nervousness. Btw, if you have slides, then in the script write down NEXT SLIDE between the sections, and also underline words you want to stress.

    2) If you are using Powerpoint slides, DO NOT LOOK AT THE LARGE SCREEN. This is totally silly but most people do it. They have their laptop in front of them. The slides on the laptop are exactly the same as on the projected large screen. And yet most people will speak looking at that large screen to check whether it is indeed showing the slides and keep looking at it while talking – of course it will show the slides. Don’t look there unless you are using a pointer and pointing out something. Look at the audience instead.

    • Thank you Olga,

      A script could be helpful. You just have to be careful not to panic and glue yourself to it.

      I have also noticed that some presenters will read from the large screen rather than look into the audience. Good point.

    • Hi Olga thank you for your nice comment. I agree with your version, many presentator do not look at audience while presenting their Power Point Slide show. It is not a good habit. If you want to speak in public then your heart should should be open, there should be eyes contact between audiences and speaker. I have participated many national and international conference and what i learned that speaker should be commandable, fluenency, able to FAQ etc. Thank you again.

  19. Hi Neil, it’s well said than done. The tips are actually very helpful and a perfect guideline for public speaking. But the fear as you have mentioned is a very big monster and is the main the obstacle for this achievement. A good try indeed would be a fair play for a first public speech.

  20. Hi Neil!

    Thanks for all the good advice!
    I do have one question: You suggest that we research our audience and address their needs. What about a radio or TV interview? There is no specific audience to really focus on…. Should we focus on the interviewer or try to appeal to that part of the audience that is closer to us?

    All the best,

    Alex

  21. Nice post Neil as always. Any one who fears for public speaking can learn a lot from this post and also gain confidence. I like all your 8 tips but the best and should be taken care about is volume which really effects more on audience.

    Thanks Neil for sharing.

    • Thank you Govind,

      Volume is definitely a big one along with articulation. If people can’t hear or understand what you are saying then it won’t matter how good your presentation is.

  22. Paweł Neubauer :

    Very relevant tips! In my opinion, we could also add “getting feedback after speaking” for better preparation in future speeches and for better relations with the audience. In fact, we’ve got an app for this if someone is interested.

  23. Excellent article! Yes, prepare for your technology not to work! When my Team did a series of workshops last summer, we prepared to 1) cover someone else’s presentations, in case a Team Member had an emergency, 2) speak without computers if the system went down (whiteboards also work), 3) deal with discussion from the audience.
    We prepared for the workshops by putting on a free set of workshops for our local clients. That helped us see where the workshops were too technical for the average small business owner, the audience we were trying to reach. Several of my Team had little public speaking experience, and they all did an excellent job.

  24. The thought of public speaking scares me. I’m a shy person, of the kind that gets petrified by a big audience in front of her. I got shaky even when I tried to sing on the stage at volunteering and dedication events, go figure how terrible I would be in front of a business audience! :)

    But I’ll have to get over it, someday. Skype interviews may be a first tiny step to win over my phobia. I hate it.

    ~ Luana S.

  25. Oops public speaking ? I can’t think of it even I have expertise in many different topics people are eager to listen again and again.

    Thanks for such motivational guide for public speaking because it is really encouraging me to mail someone from the list I have had created once to contact for taking my interview but that time I was thinking of an email interview.

  26. Great tips Neil. The biggest thing for me is just practicing. People think they are either just good or bad at public speaking, but if you know your material, anyone can appear to be a natural.

  27. I suffer from stage fright as well. These ideas make public speaking a little less never wracking. Thanks, Neil.

  28. Very useful tips. I may add that you need to check the facility that you are having the public speaking in aspect of accessability of electrical power, options – if any:-), and the equipment condition -this is mentioned….
    Connecting with the audience and the personal statements always work.

  29. I was usually a victim of stage fright or speaking in public but I have learned to overcome it. I really Agree about the 8 tips you have been given about on how to survive your first public speaking gig and it really helps us a lot.

  30. Hey Neil,
    Excellent information , I think if you have enough confidence and courage then you can speak in front of big public as well. It is not a big deal that you are going to speak on a difficult topic, it all about how much do you know about that topic.
    Thank you

    Matt

  31. Wow speak in public….

    I could not even eat dinner at my own wedding because I was so nervous at the thought making an after dinner speech!!

    Have to say all went fine…and dinner tasted great afterwards as the staff understood how sick I felt and why.

    But some great advice there Neil, I like number 3 good idea.

    Brian

  32. Great post Neil! I still remember the day when I was to give a speech in front of a vast crowd of people. My hands were trembling when I hold the mike and my voice was shaking. I forgot everything that I wanted to say. I was feeling so embarrassed at the moment that I can’t describe in words. I discussed the whole situation with my best friend, Ella. She helped me out the situation. She suggested me to read some inspirational blogs and practice to give speech in front of a mirror. She also recommended me to read Sandra Zimmer’s “It’s Your Time to Shine”. This book is really good I must say that gave me encouragement to build confidence. And loads of thanks to my friend Ella…

  33. Hi Niel Patel ! Thank you for sharing nice tricks. I really love Public speaking, it help to build up public relation and confidentiality. Many people hesitage to share their knowing ideas in public desk, it is the negetive part to become a uccessful entrepreuer. In Marketing sector, public speaking play the major to pursue thier clients. Neil, i agree with your given ideads. These tricks will be fruitful those person who want to improve thir public speaking. Thank yoy again.

  34. Thank you Neil for the great tips. your article really encouraged to me take up public speaking more often. I realised that I was very shy and that is the real reason I hated it so much.

  35. I don’t take anyone seriously that doesn’t have a foreign accent. Lol.
    Thanks.

  36. Even if you love public speaking this is a good article to read. It will help you hone your skills as a speaker. It’s good advice for anyone who might be thrown into a speaking gig.

  37. My biggest fear when initially presented with a project that involves public speaking is that I’ll forget what I have to say in front of everybody.

    Practice helps with this, of course, but I find that being intimately familiar with what I am going to say gives me the confidence to stand up and say it. Practice builds that familiarity, but an acquaintance with and fondness of the ideas I’m trying to convey really help put me at ease.

  38. I find public speaking a big pain. But hope this post will make me more confident and help me overcome the phobia of interacting with large audience.

  39. Excellent post, I think that we should have confidence to speak infront of public!

  40. Stage fear is very common. I liked the part, in which u gradually start to appear in front of large audience. And also the idea of walking into a interview was nice.

  41. Great Tips..I am not so much confident to speak in front of big public..but i think this article surely helps me..thanks for sharing.

  42. In front of me public speaking is one of the most dangerous thing,for public speaking we should build confidence first.

    I really thankful to you neil for such a nice article.

  43. This is good advice Neil.. it’s all about throwing yourself into a speaking situation. An interview would be the best first option for sure.

  44. Excellent post. I have seen there are some big experts who can speak well in public and we should see how they have grown to such extent !
    Thank you

  45. Thanks Neil for this motivational post, its is really helpful for me..public speaking and stage fear is the main problem in me i m very afraid to speak in public-ally and your article help me a lot in future i really need this..public speaking is one of the most dangerous thing,for public speaking we should build confidence first.
    I really thankful to neil thanx a lot.

  46. I hate speaking in front of people.

  47. Hi Neil
    I still have the fear of facing the large crowd and speaking :-(
    I read all the above steps clearly, after reading this article I have got motivated and I hope I will speak in a good manner in my upcoming events :-)
    Thanks for sucha cool article :-)

  48. Quite long but nice article.

  49. Your headlines are so effective and are pretty good :)
    Saif

  50. Hey Neil !
    This is most important topic that you have shared with us. I know many entrepreneurs who don’t have confidence to speak in front of public. Your tips sound very helpful for all the entrepreneurs.”Know your audience” is very important aspect. If you know your audience you can convince them easily.
    Thanks for the great solutions.
    Brian

  51. Hello Neil !
    Nice topic. For some people, speaking in front of people is like speaking in front of dragon. lols. But I really like this post. This is quite motivational article. When I was reading this post and read about avoiding monotone then I remembered my teacher who used to speak in monotone. and I really did not like that tone. Well Thanks for the tips.
    Keene

  52. Hello Neil, as always this post is also great worth reading.

    You said right, most of the people have problem in speaking in public. But many time they have to face this situation. And this help of yours will definitely going to help me.

  53. My tip to surviving public speaking is to use questions. Most people claim that they already know the importance of asking questions but I think only few ever understood how HUGE its value is.

    For one… Questions can be used to make your audience reflect, remind them of their problem, you can even use it as a filler, as a way to humor your audience (among many others).

    Simply put, asking questions will help you connect with your audience better.

    • I think that is a great point! I like to create a dialogue so my target audience gets a better understanding of what I do and how I can help them (and vice versa). I think having a solid strategy in place goes a long way towards achieving multiple aims. Would love to hear if you have any questions :)

  54. Great stuff, Neil. I’ve found webinars to be a great starting place for public speaking. It allows you to get over the fear of addressing a large audience by only focusing on the audio. Once you’ve mastered webinars, you can move into the realm of public speaking with a little more confidence.

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