Public speaking in our workplace is something many of us just can’t avoid. This is good news for those born with a talent for confident speech, but less so for those who dread having to step up to give a talk.

Thankfully, some simple steps can help make a big difference to your confidence and delivery.

Our complete guide explains all you need to know.

Public Speaking: Eight Essential Tips

Let’s say you’re planning a speech to give to a large group of people, you need to be able to stand before them with no stuttering and no hesitation and leave them with your intended message.

Here’s an eight step plan to help you achieve this:

Public speaking featured image

Always Plan First

By writing out your introduction, main points or even your entire speech, you’ll gain on-stage confidence and the ability to answer any questions that come your way.

In preparing your speech, you should always begin with the ending in mind.

Know the purpose of your speech, identify your intended end result and work your way backwards. This can be essential in convincing yourself and your audience that you’re a pro at public speaking.

Don’t Forget to Practice

They don’t say practice makes perfect for no reason.

Focus on improving your public speaking skills through practice. Take every chance you can to talk in front of people and make it count! Instead of relying on ‘winging it’ on the day, make use of the days leading up to your important speech.

Practice in front of the friends and family or even your bathroom mirror. This commits your thoughts and words to muscle memory. That way, on your special day, you can guarantee success.

Remember, the purpose of practicing is not so that you can memorize your speech but so that it becomes natural for you to perform it.

Avoid PowerPoint Presentations

Visuals can add a lot of your presentation, but old school PowerPoint presentations have a tendency to be tedious and repetitive. The last thing your audience wants to see is a slide crammed with charts and bullet points.

The attention should be on you, the speaker. If you insist on using visuals make sure they are completely relevant as well as original. Try Slides Carnival’s selection of PowerPoint templates when creating your presentation.

Engage As Much As You Can

This has a lot to do with planning out your speech as well as performing it. Eye contact can go a long way in terms of engaging with your audience.

Make references to your personal life while making sure your audience understands that your speech is about them more than it is about you. Knowing how to speak is also about simplifying your messages for you listeners, this will keep them informed as well as engaged.

Get Personal

In your attempt to win the interest of your audience, don’t be afraid to get personal and share a few intimate stories. Storytelling humanises you as a speaker and adds an element of pathos to your cause.

In addition, your listeners are more likely to remember your speech when it’s tied to a real life event or story.

Body Language is Just as Important

Your presence on stage is exceptionally amplified through your body language. Simple hand gestures and facial expressions will add character to your speech and will make it more entertaining for your viewers and keep them engaged just like you want them to be.

Body Language statistics
A large proportion of how your audience perceives you stems from your body language. Image credit: Open University

Be Positive

We all get nervous, it’s only a matter of showing it. Yes, the thought of speaking in front of a crowd can be terrifying, but you can make it matter less. Understand that the art of public speaking has more to do with what goes on in your head than what you’re saying.

Fill your mind with positive thoughts and focus on the bigger picture rather than your nerves and other distractions.

Reflect and Repeat

Once your performance is over, look back at it and see where you can improve your public speaking techniques. Watching recordings of your speeches will help you figure out exactly where your weaknesses are and once you’re aware of them.

Then you’ll know where to start in order to get better.

Public Speaking: Things to Keep in Mind

Learning how to speak is a process. While preparing yourself mentally, there are a few theories you should keep in mind. These concepts will help you structure your speech in a way that benefits you, your audience and your cause.

The Rhetorical Triangle

To understand The Rhetorical Triangle, you should understand the art of rhetoric itself.

Rhetoric is any means of using language to persuade or convince, adequate use of rhetoric employs language to make sure that your message is clearly sent to your audience, which is where The Rhetorical Triangle comes into play.

The concept of the rhetorical triangle basically is what connects the writer, the audience and the content of the speech or writing to each other.

Understanding this will help you improve your writing and familiarity with public speaking as it visually connects the three most important factors of any speech or piece of writing.

7 Cs of Communication

There are certain similarities between all means of communication, whether it’s during your talk in a meeting, at a public speech, or in your emails. Always keep in mind the 7 Cs of Communication:

  1. Clear,
  2. Concise,
  3. Concrete,
  4. Correct,
  5. Coherent,
  6. Complete,
  7. Courteous.

To learn more about the 7 Cs of Communication and how to employ them in your speeches and writing, check out MindTools‘ article on the process.

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence is a series of five steps developed by the Purdue professor, Alan H. Monroe. Monroe used the psychology of persuasion to create a template for making speeches that achieve the intended results.

  1. Get Attention,
  2. Establish the Need,
  3. Satisfy the Need,
  4. Visualise the Future,
  5. Action/Actualisation.

Using this process to structure your speech will help you grab your audience’s attention, structure a convincing argument, provide a solution and paint a mental picture of the success of it.

Beyond that, asking for your audience’s support will come naturally.

Utilising these ideas and structures can be difficult if your speech is unplanned. However, through your knowledge of them and consistent practise in the way you write and speak, the process of doing so will come naturally.

Take every chance to implement your understanding of these concepts. This way, you’ll be able to put them to work on the spot whenever you need to.

Traits of a Good Speaker

Grasping the concept of what a good speaker looks and sounds like can be beneficial in your quest to become one. Aspire to become as confident as any public figure you see on TV, and here are some characteristics to keep in mind as proposed by Magnetic Speaking.

  • Confidence: show it in your stage presence and your means of communication.
  • Excitement: you want your audience to be excited about your words as you are, so show it!
  • Authenticity: be original and creative, people always want to see and hear something new.
  • Passion: truly believe in your cause, since you want your audience to feel the same way. In that sense, lead by example.
  • Be Yourself: add a sense of humanity and humour to your speech, what better way to do that than to be your human and humorous self?

I Still Get Nervous While Public Speaking. What Should I Do?

The truth is, it’s all in your head! Before you’re about to start your speech you can’t help but think about all the things that could go wrong. You can almost envision yourself forgetting your lines, tripping on stage or even passing out from nervousness.

The more you think about those things, the more you get and the less successful your performance will be.

You need to learn how to speak with confidence and without showing all the thoughts going through your mind.

Fear of public speaking statistics
Almost everyone has some degree of fear of public speaking. Image credit:

Just like most fears, the fear of failing in front of a group of people can wholly take over your mind and disturb your thought process. So all you have to do is learn how to turn it down a little bit.

Even though stage fright can be annoying and sometimes immensely distracting, you can use those feelings to your advantage. Some experts claim that a certain amount of pressure and keeping your nerves at a certain level, will enhance your performance.

Knowing how to speak is a mental process, and you can elevate it through things like:

You’re Not That Important

Firstly, and arguably most importantly, stop thinking about yourself. Think about your message and the impact you want to have on the audience and think of yourself as simply a means of transporting that message.

Understanding this will help detach you from your fears and direct your focus towards making your speech all the more memorable and effective.

They’re Just People

Instead of focusing on the thought that you’re speaking to a large group of people, think of it as a conversation.

Try finding a familiar, friendly and engaged face and direct your attention to them every now and then. That way, not only are you easing the stress for yourself, but your talk will seem more natural and fluent.


If you have the time, deep breathing exercises have proven to help remove the tension in your upper body and ultimately relieve your stress.

The Institute of Public Speaking article on Public Speaking Breathing Exercises has set out some exercise to help you be acquainted with knowing how to speak. Don’t worry, if your speech is unprepared for, a couple of deep breaths right before you start should do the trick!

Stay Hydrated

Have a sip of water or a cup of green tea.

Sometimes, nerves tend to clog up your throat and you’ll find it difficult to articulate your words or maybe even put together words at all. Having a warm relaxing drink will help you unclog this uneasiness and make it easier to speak and articulate.

However, try not to over-caffeinate yourself before your show so that you are in an entirely soothed state of mind.

Warm Up

Listen to your favourite song, lightly jog on the spot or take part in anything that energizes your body and mind.

Loosening yourself up before a speech or presentation is extremely important for projecting confidence. It will help you develop your body language on stage and reduce the mental pressure.

Summary: Don’t Forget to LISTEN

Last, but certainly not least, listening is just as important as speaking. Whether it’s in a natural conversation or in answering questions from your audience, knowing how to listen is just as important as knowing how to speak.

Showing good listening skills and genuine interest in what your audience is proposing or asking, you’ve immediately developed a personal relationship between you and them.
Your audience wants to feel included, so make them feel like you are one of them.

Steer away from trying to prove that you’re smarter and better than they are, because you need them as much as they need you.

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