Making Public Speaking Easy

Public speaking is as easy as ABC… or is it?

With a little practice, we can all speak clearly, we can all make dynamic gestures, we can all talk with passion, but how many of us can do it in front of an audience?

There’s a great line in one of the Sharpe TV movies, Sean Bean who plays Sharpe is addressing a group of soldiers who are about to see action for the first time.

He looks at the raw recruits and says…

“When the French attack, they advance in lines. Whatever happens, they keep moving forward.
All you have to do is fire three rounds a minute and stand your ground.
Now we all know that you can fire three rounds a minute… but can you stand?”

It’s the same with public speaking, you have to know how to put a speech together and deliver it with style, but you have to be able to look straight at the audience… and hold your nerve.

Speech technique

The first part… putting the speech together and delivering it… is about speech technique, and this bit is farly easy. It covers things such as:

  1. Structuring your speech so that the audience can follow easily
  2. Preparing notes to help with delivering your speech
  3. Making eye contact with the audience
  4. Using vocal variety to liven up your speech
  5. Pausing at just the right moment… in order to add drama or emphasise a point
  6. Using humour to give the audience a break from a heavy message
  7. Controlling your hands and using gestures that add drama or emphasise a point

There are lots of speech techniques (and we’ll cover them one by one in future articles) and you can learn most of them by reading books, watching videos or observing other speakers. You need to be in front of an audience to polish these skills but you can learn a lot well away from the dreaded audience.

Holding your nerve

The second part… holding your nerve… is the hard bit, it requires learning a few techniques and lots of practice. For most of us, it’s the bit we focus on, unfortunately this bit gets in the way of all the other bits, so we can’t ignore it.

Techniques to help with nerves include:

  1. Positive self talk
  2. Deep breathing
  3. Practising as though you had an audience
  4. Practising in front of friends and family
  5. Practise in front of an audience

Practise both bits

Our advice is to practise both bits… learn as much technique as you can by reading books, watching videos, visiting public speaking blogs and of course… visiting this site.
At the same time start working on the nerves. Join a Speakers Club (more of that in future articles) and get some real life practice, audience and all, in a friendly and supportive environment.

It can all seem too much when you first start, but don’t worry, over the next weeks, months even years, we’ll teach you how to fire three rounds a minute, and more importantly… we’ll teach you how to stand!

Thanks to stock.xchng for allowing us to use their ABC image

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  1. Looking forward to hearing all your tips about public speaking.
    Not so sure about shooting at the French though! Vive la France – lol


    thanks -Nhoel

  3. Haha, I’ve never seen a Sharpe movie quoted before! I love it! Those are some of my favorite movies ever 😀

  4. I never had a fear of public speaking. In fact, when I took it in college I never prepared much.

    I always find it kind of fun. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Keith.

  5. hi Keith
    a great example of a blog and thanks for helping us too!

    All the best
    Sue Davies
    President Stourbridge Speakers Club

    • Hi Sue
      How are you keeping over there at Stourbridge?
      We’ve just had Dilwyn giving us a talk on speaking with minimum notes… brilliant as ever. He realy does make it look Easy Peasy!
      Remember me to everyone at your next club meeting.

  6. This is a great development, Keith. It should prove very popular.
    And I can certainly recommend a Speakers Club!

  7. Hi , these are really great tips and I love the fact the article is easy to read and clear with it’s aims (ever thought about a career in PR!?) I have my own PR company and public speaking is something I have to do all the time – as well as coach my clients in how to address the media or a room full of people. A website like this is a fantastic tool for me to refer to or to refer my clients to. I only wish I had had access to it while at Uni – giving a speech on Oscar Wilde with sweat dripping down my nose is not something I want to repeat!! THankfully I’ve come a log way since then. Looking forward to your next articles.

    • Hi Charlie
      A career in PR sounds great. I can see myself organising a big press conference for the PM… perhaps not.
      Please feel free to refer your clients to easy public speaking.
      Hope to hear from you again.

      By the way, love your website.

  8. As easy as ABC?
    When I first went along to Speakers Club, I was told to remember ABC and XYZ.
    ABC Always Be Confident
    XYZ Examine Your Zip 🙂
    I wish the first part was as easy as the second. But the confidence did come after lots of practice and helpful and evaluations from club colleagues.

    • Hi Tony
      Perhaps I should have called this post XYZ and not ABC… perhaps not.
      Don’t worry the confidence comes, but it takes time.
      Hope you’ll be a regular visitor.

  9. Hi Keith,
    Your blog is about a very hot topic nowadays:)

    Great to have a chance to read your tips and tricks how to effortlessly speak publicly.
    I know it is all about practice and practice… and overcoming all the obstacles on the way!

    I’m looking forward to increasing my ps skills by spending some time on your blog:)

    .-= Justyna Bizdra´s last blog ..8 Powerful Time Management Techniques for Internet Marketers =-.

    • Hi Justyna
      Thanks for visiting and thanks for your kind comments.
      Look forward to you being a regular visitor… and commentor.

  10. Keith, I read seaveral of your comments over at; I was looking into enhancing my blog, and in fact was inspired to backup my own after reading about several disasters other folks had.

    Anyway, I read on of your comments and followed your link here, and just want to say this… good job! Your blog is simple and clean and easy to get around.

    A bonus for me is, I appreciate your info about public speaking. Some of what you teach will help me put together slide-shows for my own site.

    Thanks again, I’m glad I found your site. Very nice.

    • Hi Dr
      Yes Heather at OMSH was very helpful in getting me started, there are lots of great bloggers out there who will help you out.

      Glad you like the site. I fell in love with this theme the moment I saw it. Credit has to go to Nick at Elegant Themes. Great themes and great help forum. Link to Elegant Themes at top right of this page.

      Please take a look at my other articles and use whatever you like.
      Stay in touch… Keith

  11. I have really started to focus on reading communication/speaking books within the past few months. Which have helped me with my technique.(one of the books I am reading is “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell) Its a great book.

    I also have the privilege to speak in front of an audience often so this helps me polish my style. I believe that practicing and knowing your material are keys to being successful when giving a speech.

    As you get out their and start speaking in front of an audience, I have found that the fear and nerves slowly go away.
    .-= Dan Black´s last blog ..Leading With Encouragement =-.

    • Hi Dan
      Good to hear that you are taking your Public Speaking seriously and having great success.
      “Practising and knowing your material” is so important.
      Thanks for a great comment.

  12. For me the most effective way to improve your public speaking is PRACTICE. After 50 public presentation u will feel better (as say

    Still practicing 🙂

  13. Excellent piece especially for the newer members, thanks for posting, will link to this from our club site.
    Cardiff Mixed Speakers Club´s last great post ..Cardiff Mixed Speaking ClubMy Profile

  14. It may not come across as much of a confidence builder to others, Keith, but when I’m about to present to an audience, there’s a certain mindset that works for me.

    I say to myself:

    “What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? They’ll hate me. They won’t applaud. They’ll fall asleep. They’ll walk out in the middle of my presentation. They won’t appreciate or understand my humor. They’ll look back at me with blank stares. They’ll give me a bad review. So what?! I’ll do the best I can with what I’ve got and give it my best shot. If my speech flops, the sun will still rise in the east and set in the west. And the world will keep spinning on its axis. I won’t lose my balance.”

    “Worst case scenario” thinking always helps to remind me nothing is ever as bad as it seems and you can’t please all of the people all of the time … no matter how confident you are. 🙂
    Melanie Kissell @SoloMompreneur´s last great post ..I Have That FaceMy Profile

  15. Some really good tips here Kieth so thank you! I really agree with maintaining eye contact – it really helps deliver an important speech.
    Fear of Public Speaking´s last great post ..Confident Body Language Whilst Speaking in PublicMy Profile