Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us and it’s safe to say that it takes effort to give an effective, crowd-pleasing presentation. Whether you’re giving a presentation to your classmates or you’re speaking at a conference or you’re just hoping to improve, these tips from top experts in public speaking can help you boost your public speaking confidence.

Get there early

“Nothing skyrockets your blood pressure like running late and the unknown. Get to the venue early to scope out the room (check it out a few days earlier if possible) and make sure you’re not rushing at the last minute. This extra time gives you time to settle down, get something to drink, and to meet some audience members to have friendly faces in the crowd.” — Erica Olson, Founder & President of Speak Simple

Prepare, prepare, prepare

“Remember the biggest tip of all.  Practice makes perfect.  The more you prepare, the easier it is.  Say the speech in your car, to your family or friends, in front of a mirror, sitting, standing, walking around… the more you prepare, the easier it is to get out of your head and into the fun experience of sharing your thoughts.” — Erik Brown, a sought after Speaker, successful Real Estate Executive and Author

Nail your introduction

“Know the first few moments of your talk by heart.  These are the moments most likely to trip you up.  Whether you read the speech (not preferred) or not, the first few moments tell your audience whether they should listen or let their minds wander.  You need to begin with material that engages and exudes confidence that your remarks are worth hearing.” — Joe Rothstein, author

Avoid ice-cold water

“Don’t drink ice-cold water before you speak because it can constrict your vocal cords. (Warm tea with lemon is the preferred drink among professional speakers.)” — Lee Silber, Best-selling author, award-winning speaker

Create two sets of slides

“If presentation slides are required, create two sets. One set for the screen with minimal slides, an emphasis on images and main discussion points, the second set (to be handed out) could include more detailed informational slides.” — Dan Carmody, public speaker on corporate finance and career excellence

Don’t memorize

“Never memorize a presentation.  Brain freeze is a real phenomenon. Your brain will actually need to go back to the beginning to deliver your speech from the start, and you will start to panic. The thinking brain (pre-frontal cortex) literally shuts down as cortisol (stress hormone) floods the body. So, be an expert of your material — do your homework — so that the order of your material can be juggled with ease. Just have handy a few buzz words in the right order, to help kick-off your next subject.  Keep your ‘cheat sheet’ nearby.  The key is to practice practice practice – not memorize.” — Jackie, Public Speaking Coach, PointMaker Communications

Be human

“One thing to know if you’re afraid of speaking in front of a crowd is that the audience is rooting for you. They WANT you to succeed, especially if you give them great information in an entertaining way, you interact with them, prove that you understand them, and throw in some humor. That’s it. They don’t expect you to be perfect, and it’s almost better if you’re not. Show that you’re human.”— Julie Austin, award-winning author, innovation speaker, and member of the World Future Society

Know your venue

“If you don’t have the chance to scope out your speaking venue ahead of time, get to the venue early (an hour ahead is good) and check out the stage, where you like to stand, the lighting, mic/electronics and other features to ensure that everything works to your liking. Don’t forget to keep a glass or bottle of water handy. If you’re using your computer, put a copy of your talk on your desktop for easy access and put another on a flash drive (or two).” — Matilde Parente, author of Healing Ways: An Integrative Health Source

Use stories

“It is easier for a speaker to re-tell an experience they have actually had than to try to give a memorized speech.  It also creates a bond with the audience – we all love to hear stories. Your audience may not remember everything you said, but they’ll remember your stories.” – Christine Goldfuss, President of Bethpage Toastmasters

Look for friendly faces in the crowd

“Find two friendly faces in the crowd – one to the left and one to the right of the group and make eye contact. Give your presentation as though they are the only two people in the room. The focus back and forth will give the impression that you are including everyone and make you seem comfortable and inclusive.” — Erica McCurdy, life coach for business and life strategies

Own your mistakes

“If you goof up, own it. Audiences love it when we act human. Plus self-effacing humor is a show-stealer.  They’ll love you for acknowledging your trip, or slip, or messed up words.” — Bobbe White, Speaker-Author-Certified Laughter Leader

Remember why you’re there

“You must re-orient your relationship with the audience, from one of perceived antagonism and judgment, to one where you are a welcoming host and an altruistic friend.  You’re there to help your audience by sharing with them information that will redound to their benefit.  You’re there to make their lives better, and you can revel in that opportunity.  And they’re there for precisely the same reason:  to benefit from what you have to say.  So, they want you to do well—they’re on your side!” — Dylan Chalfy, Founder and CEO Stage Presence Communications

Use visualization

“In the visualization process, you picture yourself in front of an audience. You are composed, confident and in control. By picturing yourself in a successful situation, you are able to give yourself the confidence you need to achieve your goal.” — Miryam S. Roddy, executive coach

Create a story board

“A story board tells the story of your speech in drawings. The drawings link the content to the right hemisphere of your brain. Take out a blank, unlined sheet of paper or a large piece of newsprint. Divide it into squares, any number from 6 to 12.  Now in each square in the order of your speech, draw a picture or symbol that represents a part of your content. For example, your first point may be that your product saves the client money. You would draw in the first square a big bag of money and a small bag of money. You could even write “Saves You Money” under the picture. In each of the squares, draw something for each point you want to remember. The drawing process links the content to your kinesthetic memory, and the symbols themselves to your symbolic memory.” — Patti Wood, MA, top expert in Nonverbal Communication

Invest in coaching

“Even the best athletes on the planet have a coach. Work with a mentor who can help you minimize your weaknesses and elevate your strengths. A professional speaking coach can help anyone conquer their fears in front of a group.” – Joe Williams, internationally recognized speaker, strategist, entrepreneur and consultant

Plan a dress rehearsal

“Run through your speech or presentation as if it were the actual day of delivery. Use everything you possibly can to simulate the experience – wear the clothes and shoes you’ll wear, use any technology you may need. If you can, get in the actual space in which you’ll speak. Bonus points if you can get some friends or colleagues to show up and be your audience.  You’ll get used to the feeling of eyes on you as you work through things.” — Kerri, President of Ovation Communication

Analyze comedians

“Watch videos of comedians. Study how they use storytelling, pauses, and anticipation to captivate audiences.” — Mike Veny, mental health speaker

Don’t give; participate

“When you see yourself as ‘giving’ a speech your brain sees the situation as antagonistic. Meaning, that in order for one to “give” that means others must ‘receive.’ This creates the mental image of a standoff between you and the audience. Choose to see it another way. Choose to see yourself participating in a conversation with an audience rather than as a showcase for others to judge.” — Jim Spencer, Relations Officer Chaos Advantage

Take notes for future speaking 

“Pay attention to how your audience is responding to you. Are they smiling at you, laughing when they should laugh, and intently interested at the key points of your presentation? If their interest begins to wane, that’s a sure sign to start wrapping it up. And if people seem disinterested, before your next presentation study your presentation and see how you can improve it.” — Don Allison, Senior Editor, The Bryan Times

Leave some time for a Q&A

“I prefer an interactive crowd so I always implore the audience to raise their hand and get involved. If you have a 50 minute time slot have 40 minutes of content you plan to deliver with an extra 5 minutes of “bonus material”, if you don’t get any extra questions people are always happy to have a few extra minutes for to get a drink.” — Aaron Brehovekeynote presenter, author, and media personality.

Want tools for becoming your best self?

Get access to our 40 favorite personal growth recommendations (books, documentaries, and more) that inspire us.

Powered by ConvertKit