Public Speaking has always been my greatest fear and least favorite thing.

I’ve always hated and feared it with a passion ever since I was a kid.

All those eyes looking at me, just staring at me – no thanks.

Oprah says she feels more comfortable in front of a large group than she does in a one-on-one situation.

Me, I’m the exact opposite.

I don’t like ANY form of public speaking:

  • Giving a presentation or speech
  • Having to ‘go around the room’ and introduce myself to the group
  • Having to do a ‘role play’ in front of the group
  • I won’t even ask a burning question to a speaker on stage if it means I’m going to have a large crowd of people looking at me and listening to what I have to say

I didn’t like it at school, I don’t like it at work, and I don’t like it now!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not shy. I’m actually very confident. Most people who meet me mistake me for being an extrovert. I’ve always been cheeky and a bit of a smart ass. But even though I may be confident, I’m also a very private person and I don’t like being forced to open up to a group of strangers before I feel comfortable “let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves!” and there is nothing worse than being put on the spot and volunteered by someone else “Michael should speak!” (I feel like punching that person in the face)

What I hate the most about public speaking

You know what I hate MOST about public speaking?

It’s…

The…

ANTICIPATION.

The anticipation has always been the worse thing. It’s worse than the actual speaking itself. That’s why if I’m ever forced to ‘go around the room’ or to give a presentation/speech or anything else where I have to stand up in front of a group of strangers, I prefer to go first and get it over and done with. Until that moment it’s impossible for me to chill. I can’t relax. The anticipation kills me.

The anticipation has always killed me. At school I remember feeling anxious the moment the teacher told us that we had to give a speech in 6 weeks time. I would immediately start counting down the days from the moment the teacher told us the ‘bad news’ until the ‘big day’ arrived, and I would try to come up with a plan to be ‘sick’ that day or to somehow bribe the teacher to get out of it.

Even as an adult in my 20s when I knew I had to give a speech that day, I would think about it as soon as I woke up, as I had my shower, ate my breakfast, brushed my teeth, got dressed, went to work and as I arrived at the place I would be speaking at. I couldn’t relax until I was done. All I could think about was my speech.

How nervous do I get?

Have you seen the movie “The Kings Speech?”

Yeah, not that nervous. I’m not a complete wreck. I’ve never fainted or peed my pants or anything. But I still get pretty damn nervous and I’ve had many an unwanted anxiety/panic attack. I definitely give way too many fucks. Not just a few. Way too many. Lots in fact. I give more fucks than I should and more than anyone should.

How it all started

Where did this intense fear of public speaking come from?

I’m not sure exactly. I don’t know how it started or what first triggered it.

I think it was when I heard some kids sitting next to me in class mocking a kid who was speaking on stage and feeling afraid that they would mock me too when I had to give my speech. I think that was one of the first times I started to become overly fearful of the judgments of other people.

The first time I remember feeling nervous about having to give a speech was when I was 11 years old at junior high school. (They call it ‘intermediate’ in New Zealand). I was counting down the days anxiously and feeling that it was a really big deal. Walking to the front of the class felt like walking to my own execution. I remember s-h-a-k-i-n-g like crazy as I gave my speech in front of the class and the teacher feeling sorry for me but also being somewhat frustrated and saying “don’t be so nervous!”

I couldn’t help it though. I didn’t want to be nervous. Who wants to be nervous?

Not me. Not anyone.

My parents weren’t any help either. When I complained to them about having to give speeches at school they both offered their sympathies: “I hate it too!” said my Mother. “I’ve never liked it either!” said my Father. Both with a telling look of fear on their faces. But that was it. No advice, no recommendations, no coaching and no help of any kind.

My Mother is afraid of life and everything in it and she taught me to be afraid of life and everything in it too. “BE CAREFUL!” “BE SAFE!” “WATCH OUT!” I heard that a million times growing up. I learnt to be afraid of almost everything: dogs, fights, heights, deep water, strangers and MOST OF ALL: The judgments and opinions of other people.

My Nana (my Mother’s Mother) on the other hand is an extrovert, a loud mouth and a show off. She loves being the centre of attention. When I told her about my fear of public speaking she said “You just remember that no one else is better than you are!”

But that advice didn’t help me. Because I don’t see the audience as better than I am. Nor do I see them as hostile. In fact, 99% of the time every audience I’ve ever been in has been nothing but friendly, warm and supportive – if not completely indifferent.

Here’s the thing: I know the audience wants me to succeed. No one wants to listen to a nervous speaker giving a crappy speech. But that doesn’t stop me from being nervous.

It seems that I’m not alone either:

PUBLIC SPEAKING IS THE NUMBER ONE FEAR IN THE WORLD!

Jerry Seinfeld makes a funny observation about it:

“There are only two types of speakers in the world:

1. The Nervous 

2. Liars.” 

– Mark Twain

Seinfeld’s bit is funny and it goes to show just how much the fear of public speaking is been blown completely out of proportion and made a much bigger deal than it really is.

Public speaking shouldn’t even be a thing!

It’s just speaking! What the hell is so scary about speaking? We do it every day!

What I’m really afraid of

I think that my fear of public speaking is really a fear of something else.

Here’s what I think I’m REALLY afraid of:

  • I’m afraid of being judged, mocked and ridiculed
  • I’m afraid other people won’t like me/won’t accept me
  • I’m afraid of being rejected by the group
  • I’m afraid of what other people might be thinking about me
  • I’m afraid of forgetting what I was ‘supposed to say’ and embarrassing myself
  • I’m afraid of making a mistake and looking like an idiot

Let’s be honest too: There is a reason not many people like public speaking. You are putting yourself out there to a group of strangers with no guarantee of how you or your message will be received. The audience could approve/disapprove, love/hate, accept/reject you and your message. Or they could be completely indifferent. You just don’t know.

On top of that, I’ve found most public speaking advice to be unhelpful and useless too.

“Just imagine the audience naked!”

“Imagine the audience in their underwear!”

“Practice in front of a mirror!”

Yeah, that stuff doesn’t really work for me.

But you know what?

Amongst all the crappy generic advice I’ve found some AWESOME Public Speaking tips that have helped me tremendously in my speaking and presenting, and have enabled me to win many awards for ‘best speaker’ in various Toastmasters competitions.

However, before we get into them, I want to give you 5 good reasons why despite everything I’ve just said you SHOULD learn public speaking…

Why you should learn public speaking (even if you hate it like me)

There are lots of benefits to public speaking. Even I have to admit that.

  • Increased Confidence and Self-Esteem. Public speaking makes you more confident. It’s empowering. Immediately after I’ve given a speech I feel great. Powerful. Unstoppable even. I faced my fear and survived and there is nothing left to worry about. It wasn’t even that bad. Sometimes it was actually good. Great in fact.
  • Improved Communication Skills. Public Speaking will improve your communication and presentation skills like nothing else. If you can speak to a group, one on one communication will be easy.
  • Career/Job Prospects. If you want to earn more, climb the corporate ladder, or get into any kind of leadership and management roles, you need to be able to stand up and speak before a group and you need to be able to influence and persuade people. 99% of the most sought after high paying jobs worldwide in every industry require some form of public speaking and presentation skills (leadership and management roles especially).
  • Connection. Public Speaking is one of the quickest ways to win friends and influence people. When you stand up on stage and share something about yourself people feel a connection with you. That’s when strangers become friends and relationships are formed. Also after you’ve finished speaking you’ll find that lots of people will want to speak to you afterwards to compliment you to tell you how much your speech affected them.
  • RESPECTThe most admired and respected people in the world are almost all public speakers: celebrities, actors, comedians, entertainers, pastors, performers, presenters, politicians, presidents, prime ministers, rappers, singers etc. Public speakers are perceived as confident and powerful. They’re also perceived as leaders. So if you want more respect start public speaking. Not only will others admire and respect you for being able to stand up and speak to a group (it takes balls) but most importantly you will gain SELF-RESPECT – which is by far the most important kind of respect!

So how do you actually improve your public speaking skills and get better, especially if you hate public speaking like me?

Here are 29 AWESOME TIPS to turn you into a pro…

29 AWESOME PUBLIC SPEAKING TIPS

Before we begin let me be the first one to break the bad news to you…

THE ONLY WAY TO GET GOOD AT PUBLIC SPEAKING IS TO ACTUALLY DO IT!

I know that’s probably not what you want to hear, but it’s the truth!

Unfortunately, there is NO OTHER WAY around it! (Believe me I’ve tried)

If you want to get good at driving – drive.

If you want to get good at swimming – swim.

If you want to get good at speaking – speak.

The question is: How do you learn Public Speaking?

The answer: Toastmasters!

1. Toastmasters

If you HATE public speaking like I do, but consider it a necessary evil, I highly recommend Toastmasters.

What is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters is the world’s largest not-for-profit public speaking club. It’s a place where you can learn and practice the art of public speaking along with other like minded people in a friendly and supportive environment.

Toastmasters teaches you everything you need to know to become a great public speaker including:

  • How to write a speech
  • How to structure a speech
  • How to present a speech
  • How to give an impromptu speech
  • How to evaluate someone else’s speech
  • How to give honest and constructive feedback
  • How to entertain
  • How to inform
  • How to tell a story
  • How to use the stage
  • How to involve the audience
  • How to use props
  • How to use visual aids
  • …and much more!

The bottom line is this: There is NO better place to learn public speaking than Toastmasters!

What happens at a Toastmasters meeting?

I was initially afraid to join Toastmasters or even to go to a meeting, but I’m glad I did because it was nothing like I expected.

The people are friendly, warm and welcoming, the environment is relaxed not tense, and everyone is on your side supporting you. Everyone wants to see you succeed!

In each meeting you are given the opportunity to give an impromptu talk, a prepared speech, to lead a meeting, or to evaluate someone else’s speech – a skill in itself.

In each speech you are focusing on something different according to the Toastmasters manual. For example: one speech you might focus on vocal variety and in another speech you might focus on body language or storytelling.

There is no need to be scared or intimidated about going to a meeting like I was either because you don’t have to speak if you don’t want to. You can speak or not speak. Watch or participate. No pressure. It’s totally up to you…

How long is a Toastmasters meeting?

Typically 1 hour.

How many people go to Toastmasters?  

Toastmasters is in 142 countries and there are over 16, 000 clubs worldwide.

Most clubs however are small and only have between 12 – 20 members so when you speak you’re not standing in front of a large group of strangers.

Who goes to Toastmasters?

Toastmasters isn’t a place where professional speakers go to show off their public speaking skills. Instead it’s a place where regular people like you and me go to learn and practice our public speaking skills in a friendly and supportive environment.

In a typical meeting you will see students, mothers, office workers, retirees, people with English as their second language, and even people with extreme anxiety about public speaking.

Where/When/How often are Toastmasters meetings held?

Meetings are held in offices, schools, churches, anywhere and everywhere.

Each club is different and works to a different timetable, but generally speaking meetings are held every 1-2 weeks on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and there are morning, lunchtime and evening clubs, so you can find one that suits your timetable.

You can find a club near you here: http://www.toastmasters.org

How much does Toastmasters cost?

Toastmasters is cheap: membership typically costs less than $150 USD per year and if you work in a corporate office job you can probably get your work to pay for it.

2. It’s not about you

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in public speaking is a shift in focus from ME – TO YOU.

Like most beginners, one of my rookie mistakes was focusing on myself instead of on my message and my audience.

When you focus on your message and your audience you’re able to get out of your head and get over yourself.

You’re nervous? Who cares. It’s not about you. It’s about your audience.

3. Shift your focus

Another shift I’ve made in my mindset is from surviving to THRIVING.

I don’t just try to get through it – I try to give the best speech I can.

I try to WOW my audience. I try to give the best speech of all time.

When I’m preparing and presenting my speech I ask myself:

“What would make this speech awesome?”

“What would make this speech incredible?”

“What would make this the best speech ever?”

The bottom line is this:

GREAT SPEAKERS FOCUS ON GIVING GREAT SPEECHES.

Poor speakers focus on not screwing up.

4. Believe in yourself

As a speaker you need to believe in yourself.

Be confident and know that you have something valuable to share with the audience.

Tony Robbins (one of the world’s greatest speakers) says he has the following beliefs as a speaker:

“I LIKE PEOPLE AND THEY LIKE ME!”

“I AM POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE AND PEOPLE ENJOY LISTENING TO ME!”

“I CARE ABOUT PEOPLE SO THEY’RE GOING TO CARE ABOUT ME!”

I think these are great beliefs that all speakers should adopt.

Even if you are not confident – act as if you were! Fake it till you make it!

What do you have to lose?

5. My best public speaking advice 

The best public speaking advice I ever got came to me when I was 22 years old working as a radio DJ in my home country of New Zealand.

I met one weekend with one of the top DJ’s in the country and I asked him to critique my show because I wanted tips on how to improve it and make it better.

He listened to my show for a few minutes and then he paused the tape, pointed at the speakers and said to me:

“If YOU were listening to this show, what would YOU want to hear come out of those speakers?”

WOW.

That question changed EVERYTHING for me.

To this day that’s the number one bit of communication advice I’ve ever received and it doesn’t matter if you have a blog, podcast, vlog, radio or TV show, or if you’re writing, practicing or presenting your speech.

The lesson is this: Do EVERYTHING from the perspective of your audience when you’re writing/practicing/presenting your next speech.

Give the speech YOU would like to see.

Share the knowledge YOU would like to learn.

Tell the story YOU would like to hear.

Too many speakers are lazy and selfish in their preparation and do the absolute bare minimum. They write articles they wouldn’t want to read. They tell stories they wouldn’t want to hear. They give speeches they wouldn’t want to see.

But if you wouldn’t want to see/hear/read/watch/listen to it – why would anyone else?!

Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and ask yourself: “What would I like to see/hear/read/watch/listen to?”

Would you like to be entertained?

Would you like to be informed?

Would you like to hear some stories?

Would you like to hear some comedy?

Would you like to see some images and pictures?

Would you like some audio or video?

Write that!

Say that!

Do that!

6. Be Creative

The best speakers are creative and unpredictable and so should you be.

There are a MILLION different ways to present your information:

  • Audio
  • Cartoons/Comics/Diagrams/Images/Pictures/Photographs
  • Comedy/Jokes/Celebrity impressions/Foreign accents
  • Metaphors/Parables/Proverbs/Riddles/Questions
  • Music/Poetry/Rapping/Singing
  • Stories

Instead of spelling it out and making it obvious you can:

  • Ask questions without giving the answers
  • Drop clues
  • Hint at it
  • Show a picture, image, or newspaper headline
  • Tell a parable or a story

Be Creative. Be Different. Be Original. Be Unique.

7. The number one criteria your audience is judging you on – and won’t forgive you for!

Guess what: Your audience doesn’t really care if you’re nervous.

Yes they might feel sorry for you, but they don’t really care.

They also don’t care how many mistakes you make or how badly you might screw up.

Seriously 99.99% of people don’t care:

  • If you’re nervous
  • If you make a mistake
  • If you forget what you were talking about
  • If you lose your place in the speech
  • If you mispronounce a word

The ONLY thing your audience will NOT forgive you for is being boring!

DON’T BE BORING!!!

Listening to a boring speech is just as painful for the audience as listening to a boring story or watching an unfunny comedian.

Even if you are giving a talk where you are presenting or teaching dry material: Accounting, Finance, Maths etc. do your best to try to make it fun and relatable. Use examples and metaphors your audience can identify with and relate to.

Always try your best to entertain and educate your audience (be an “entertaining educator”) so that they will have fun and learn something valuable in the process.

8. Advice from the pros

One of the smartest things I did during my time at Toastmasters was to take out 2 of the best speakers I’d ever seen for coffee to ask for their best public speaking tips.

Here’s the best advice that they gave me:

Speaker 1: “It’s not a big deal”

I asked the first speaker how he became so confident public speaking and he told me his attitude was: “It’s not a big deal!”

Huh?

NOT a big deal?

Ever since I could remember public speaking was the BIGGEST DEAL to me.

It was practically a matter of life and death!

I’d never even considered the possibility that it wasn’t a big deal. That thought had never once crossed my mind.

But what I’ve come to learn now after giving hundreds of speeches is that it really ISN’T a big deal. No matter how good, bad, boring or sucky your speech is, whether you faint, pee your pants or win the world championships of public speaking, it’ll soon be forgotten by you and everyone else and life will go on regardless.

9. Speaker 2: Watch competitions and championships and steal their ideas  

The second speaker told me to start watching public speaking competitions and world championships, both in person and on YouTube, and to start stealing the best ideas, strategies and techniques and to make them my own.

This is a brilliant idea and it’s strange that it had never occurred to me before because this is true of anything in life: If you want to get good at anything the first thing you should do is to copy the habits, strategies and techniques of the best in the world at it. I talked about this in my article last week “The Top 10 Teachings of Tony Robbins” http://lifelessons.co/personal-development/top10teachingsoftonyrobbins/

Start watching the best speakers on TV and YouTube and ask yourself:

  • What makes them so good?
  • What makes them so entertaining/enjoyable/fun to watch and listen to?
  • Is it their comedy/foreign accents/celebrity impressions?
  • Is it their charisma?
  • Is it their tonality?
  • Is it their storytelling?
  • Is it their body language?
  • Is it their facial expressions?
  • Is it their unpredictability?
  • What could you learn from them?

When I was learning Public Speaking at Toastmasters I modeled Tony Robbins because he was the best public speaker I’d ever seen.

Tony’s speeches are a great example of what a speech should be:

  • Entertaining
  • Interesting
  • Informative
  • Motivating
  • Passionate
  • Persuasive
  • Full of lots of great examples, metaphors and stories

Now in addition to watching Tony I’d watch Gary Vaynerchuk because I like his style.

10. The number one thing all the best speakers have in common

If you want to become a great speaker – you must become a great storyteller.

Stories are an absolute MUST for your speeches because they give the audience what they want and they allow you to create pictures and movies in the minds of your listeners which makes it easy for you to entertain and educate them.

What makes a great story?

Great stories are:

  • Entertaining as hell
  • Funny
  • Informative
  • Interesting
  • Keep you in suspense and on the edge of your seat. You can’t stop reading, watching or listening and you HAVE to know what’s coming next.
  • Personal
  • Relatable

Start looking back to the most interesting and entertaining stories from your life – especially from your childhood and teenage years, and think of ways to share these stories in your speeches.

When you tell the story you want to set it up as quickly as possible, and share only the most entertaining and interesting parts and cut out all of the boring parts.

Your goal is to have the listener on the edge of their seat listening to your story the entire time without ever getting bored always wanting to know what’s going to come next…

11. The number #1 mistake most speakers make 

The number one mistake I see most speakers making is…

Picking the wrong subject to begin with!

Trust me it’s hard to be entertaining and interesting if you’re speaking about accounting, insurance, 14th century hygiene standards or the African dung beetle.

Do yourself a favor and pick a subject you LOVE. Something you’re absolutely obsessed with and can’t shut up about.

If you don’t love the subject matter, if you’re not obsessed with it, if you don’t want to marry it, have sex with it and make babies with it – choose another topic.

I’ve heard speeches on subjects I had NO interest in whatsoever, that were made AWESOME because the speaker was so damn enthusiastic about the subject.

I’ve also listened to speeches on subjects I loved that sucked because the speaker had no real enthusiasm and passion for the subject matter.

So it doesn’t really matter what you talk about.

You just have to LOVE IT and be obsessed with it.

The MORE you care – the MORE everyone else will care.

The LESS you care – the LESS everyone else will care.

The audience CANNOT and WILL NOT care more than you do.

12. The number #2 mistake most speakers make 

Gary Vaynerchuk is one of my favorite speakers.

What I love most about Gary is that he isn’t trying to look, act or sound like anyone else, nor is he trying to come across in any particular way. He is just being himself. Fully authentic and completely real.

Gary gives zero fucks about the public speaking ‘rules’ too: He mocks himself and other people, drops f-bombs whenever he feels like it, and will happily interrupt himself mid sentence to point out something funny happening in the audience or to go on a hilarious rant about nothing.

The thing I love most about watching Gary speak is that I learn something new from him every time I listen to him. He is a great storyteller, extremely informative and is happy to share what’s going on in his business and personal life which makes you feel connected to him as an audience member.

Check him out:

One of the biggest mistakes I see most speakers make is that they’re trying to the opposite of what Gary does. They want to say and do things in the ‘right’ way. Stand here. Look there. Pause. Now this sentence. Now that sentence.

Forget that crap. Don’t try to be someone you’re not and don’t try to say/do it ‘right’. If you try to do it ‘right’ you’ll just put too much pressure on yourself and you’ll probably screw it up.

My whole game changed overnight when I stopped trying to say and do the ‘right’ things and just focused on being myself and getting my message across.

Now let’s look at how to plan and prepare your speech…

Planning and preparing your speech

13. Know your outcome

Why are you giving this speech?

Because you have to?

Even if that’s the case: KNOW YOUR OUTCOME.

What is it that you want the audience to:

  • Think
  • Believe
  • Accept
  • Change
  • Do

What is the action you want them to take?

What is the result you wish to produce?

What is it that you want your audience to do?

I like this quote from Tony Robbins:

“Most people’s outcome is to look good or sound good or to come across well. Or to say what they’re ‘supposed’ to say. That’s never my outcome. If I try to do it perfectly and say it the way it’s ‘supposed to be said’ I create stress for myself. I see myself as a persuader not as a presenter. If I was a presenter I’d be trying to make all the words sound really good and put them in all the right order and all that crap. That’s not what I’m doing. I want to move people to action. To get them to do something. To get them to change their beliefs. To get them to make some kind of shift. That’s my outcome.” – Tony Robbins

14. How to structure your speech

When writing, practicing and presenting your speech, it needs to be structured in such a way that it will be easy for the audience to absorb and understand.

Every speech should have three parts:

1) Intro

2) Body

3) Conclusion

The Intro – Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em 

The introduction is where you tell your audience what you’re going to tell them in your speech. It’s when you mentally prepare your audience for what’s about to come.

Your opening line should hook your audience immediately by asking them an attention grabbing question:

“What would you do if this was your last day on earth?”

“What is your number one regret in life?”

“What is your favorite childhood memory?”

“If you could change ONE thing about yourself what would it be?”

“What is your favorite holiday destination?”

You can then build upon your opening line: “Today I’m going to be sharing with you my top 5 favorite travel destinations and I’m going to give you my 5 best travel tips that you can use when planning your next overseas holiday!”.

The introduction should be around 2% of your speaking time.

The Body – Tell ‘em what you came to tell ‘em 

The body is the main part of your speech. It’s the speech itself.

It should be around 95% of your speaking time.

Conclusion – Tell ‘em what you told ‘em

The conclusion is where you wrap it all up and summarize your message, and remind your audience of what you just told them. It should be around 2% of your speaking time.

As a rough guide: In a 7 minute Toastmasters speech, the introduction and conclusion are generally around 30 seconds each, and the body is around 6 minutes.

15. How long should your speech be?

“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” ― Winston Churchill

Question: How long should your speech be?

Answer: As long as it’s good for!

Whilst there is no exact perfect length for a speech, if you’re not restricted to a time (for example it’s 5-7 minutes for a speech in Toastmasters), then just speak for as long as your speech is good for I.e entertaining and interesting. No shorter. No longer. Tell the audience everything that they need to know but not more. Don’t drag on and keep on talking unnecessarily.

16. Record your talk on Video Camera

Don’t practice your speech in front of a mirror.

Instead, record yourself on video camera so you can see:

  • How you come across to others
  • What you’re doing right/wrong
  • If anything should be changed/improved
  • If anything in the speech is lacking/missing/doesn’t make sense/is hard to follow
  • If you are speaking too fast/too slow/too quiet/in a monotone
  • How easy the information is to absorb for the listener
  • Your body language
  • If you move around a lot when you speak
  • Any distracting mannerisms you might have
  • How many times you say “um”, “ah”, and other space fillers

Continue to practice your speech on video camera until you like what you see, and at that point it’s time to practice your speech in front of friends/family.

17. Practice in front of friends and family  

Practice your speech in front of friends and family and ask them to take notes and to give you honest feedback about:

  • What they liked most/least
  • What they found most interesting/boring
  • What was lacking/missing/confusing/hard to follow
  • What should be changed/improved/removed
  • What would improve your speech and make it better

This is a critical part of the process in addition to recording yourself on video camera because other people will see and think of things that you won’t.

PS: You will often need to press your family and friends hard for feedback because often they will just say it was ‘good’. But that doesn’t help you. You want them to give you constructive criticism and feedback that you can actually use, not just compliments and praise that make you feel good.

When you get the feedback don’t argue, disagree or try to explain yourself.

Just listen.

You don’t necessarily need to take their advice or agree with everything they say, but hear them out because it will at least give you some new ideas and perspectives to consider.

How much preparation should you do?

As a rule of thumb: If you’re not over-prepared – you’re under prepared!

You should know your speech so well come speech day that you should be almost bored with it. That’s how well you should know it. You definitely shouldn’t need notes.

You should have practiced your speech at least 5-10X solo on video camera/in front of friends and family before you even think about presenting it to anyone else.

18. Try Acting and improv

In addition to joining Toastmasters you could also try:

  • Acting
  • Debating
  • Improv

Each of these styles has something different and unique to teach you and will make you a more well-rounded speaker.

I’ve done acting and improv and they both helped me immensely as a speaker. Acting taught me a lot about communication and presentation and improv taught me to think on my feet.

19. Hypnosis

Something that really helped my confidence with public speaking in my early twenties was listening to hypnosis tapes.

Hypnosis reprograms your subconscious mind with positive empowering beliefs and it’s incredibly relaxing and enjoyable to listen to.

One of the best speeches I ever gave was to a junior high school assembly of 500+ children, teachers, and guests. I’d been listening to public speaking hypnosis tapes every day for a week in preparation for the talk, and it really seemed to work.

I remember feeling a little nervous walking on to the school grounds knowing that I was going to be speaking soon, but as soon as I started making my way up to the stage I felt surprisingly centered, confident and in charge.

I recommend hypnosis for this reason. It has worked for me many times in many different areas of my life.

You don’t need to see a professional hypnotist either – you can simply buy and download MP3’s.

20. Meditation

If you want to give a great speech you need to be centred and grounded, not stressed and freaking out. Mediation allows you to do just that.

Whilst hypnosis programs your mind with positive thoughts and affirmations, meditation clears your mind of all thoughts and stops it from racing out of control and coming up with a million worst case scenarios to frighten and scare you.

21. Dress for success

Dress in a way that is going to make you feel good.

If you look good, you will feel good.

The better you feel, the more confident you will be.

The more confident you feel, the more likely you are to give a great speech.

Presenting your speech

22. Get to the venue early

Get to the venue early and walk around in the space you will be speaking in. Make yourself comfortable in it. You want it to feel like your home away from home.

How early should you be?

Maybe 20-30 minutes early depending on the size of the audience and the speech.

While you are there you can introduce yourself to people and make yourself some new friends and isn’t it easier to speak to a group of friends than it is to a bunch of strangers?

Whatever you do: Don’t be late. If you are late you are likely to get stressed out.

23. You are talking to ONE person not to a group

One of the first and best lessons I learnt working as a radio DJ in New Zealand, was that I was only speaking to ONE person at a time – not to an audience of people ‘out there’.

This is a really great piece of advice for any form of communication: Public speaking, podcasting, radio, TV, vlogging etc. and it really takes the pressure off.

The best speakers, writers and presenters, always make you feel that they are speaking to YOU personally. Not to ‘everyone out there’.

24. Weird trick!

Yeah I know I just click baited you with that title but stay with me.

Are you a loud talker or a quiet talker?

I’m a quiet talker.

Loud people often annoy me and I absolutely hate yelling. I find it disgusting.

But something I read on a blog once not only turned out to be true, but also a HUGE confidence booster…

As soon as you begin to give you speech, right from the very beginning, start speaking LOUDER than you normally do and LOUDER than you are comfortable with.

It will seem strange at first but for some reason whenever you speak LOUDLY and really P-R-O-J-E-C-T your voice, it actually makes you feel more confident and it has the effect of grounding you!

This sounded absolutely ridiculous to me when I first read it, but I decided to try it out anyway instead of prejudging it with a closed mind and just assuming that it wouldn’t work.

I’m glad I did try it because for some strange reason it DOES work. Actually, it works every time. I don’t even know why. Maybe it’s because I’m focussing on the volume of my voice, and that’s taking energy and focus away from my nerves. I don’t know.

Now you might be thinking like I was: WHEN I feel more confident – THEN I’ll talk louder!” But take it from someone with a 20+ year lifelong fear/phobia of public speaking: If you project your voice IMMEDIATELY as soon as you start your speech it will REALLY help your confidence tremendously as you speak.

Again, I don’t know why this works – but I can tell you that it does!

Try it out for yourself!

25. Speak slower than you feel comfortable with

Whenever we feel nervous during a speech, it’s common to want to talk faster in order to hurry up and get the speech over and done with as quickly as possible.

But this doesn’t make you feel any more confident, nor does it make the speech any better. It just makes you even more nervous and stressed out and it makes your talk harder for the audience to listen to.

If you want your speech to be good: Speak S-L-O-W-E-R than you feel comfortable with.

When I first began speaking in radio, I was told constantly:

“Slow down”

“Speak slower”

“Slow it down a bit”

It really annoyed me because I’ve always been a fast talker and I like talking quickly.

But when I started listening back to recordings of my on-air tapes, the feedback I was getting from my station manager was right.

I was speaking too fast. It was difficult to keep up with me.

It turns out that this is very common and is much needed advice for most speakers. Especially most younger speakers.

Speak LOUDER and S-L-O-W-E-R than you’re comfortable with.

This might feel weird at first, especially if you’re a fast talker like me, but for the listener though, the person that your speech is actually for, slowing down makes your talk much more enjoyable and easy to listen to. It will also force you to be present in the moment with your audience.

Your audience shouldn’t have to race to keep up with you. They should be able to relax and take it easy while you do everything you can to present the information in a way that they can easily absorb and understand.

If you’re speaking too fast and people are losing you, they don’t get to interrupt your speech to ask you to slow down and repeat yourself, so make it easy on them by speaking in such a way that it makes you easy to understand the first time.

Remember:

Speaking LOUDER makes you feel more CONFIDENT.

Speaking S-L-O-W-E-R makes you EASIER TO LISTEN TO.

PS: If you’re unsure as to whether or not you are speaking too fast, record yourself speaking for a minute on video at your normal pace and then listen back to the recording.

Be honest with yourself, are you going too fast?

Probably.

26. Pause

Whenever you ask the audience a question and you want them to actually reflect upon what you have said and let it sink in…

Pause.

When you pause… it gives the audience a chance to reflect upon what you’ve just said.

27. Read the audience in real-time

Always read your audience in real-time and pay attention to people’s reactions as you give your speech.

Don’t just go into your own world, look at your notes (you shouldn’t need notes), get stuck in your head and ignore your audience.

Look at the audience in the eyes when you speak to them, one by one, and pay attention to how engaged they are.

  • Do you need to speak louder? Or quieter?
  • Do you need to move closer? Or further back?
  • Does your audience really seem to be ‘getting it’?
  • How engaged is your audience?
  • Do you need to clarify anything?
  • Do you need to do something right now in order to grab them and get them to listen in and really focus?

28. Don’t drink coffee or energy drinks  

If you get nervous before giving a speech like I do, and especially if you are sensitive to coffee and stimulants like me, I highly recommend that you DON’T drink any coffee or energy drinks on the day of the speech, at least until after you have given your speech.

You are often battling enough nerves and stress as it is, without adding any extra unnecessary stimulants to your nervous system.

Instead have something that is going to relax you and still your nerves instead, something that will ground and center you, like a lemon/ginger/honey tea.

29. Learn from your public speaking mistakes

In every speech you give, no matter how good it is, there is always something you could have done better. A different introduction you could have used, a different example you could have shared, a different story you could have told etc.

It’s OK to make mistakes, it’s an unavoidable and very necessary part of the learning process. The key is to learn from them.

If you belong to a Toastmasters group (which you should if you want to improve your public speaking skills), your speeches will get evaluated by someone else and they will give you tips of something to improve upon in your next speech.

Make sure you are always learning, improving and evolving from your mistakes.

Recap

Lets do a quick recap of the top 29 Public Speaking Tips:

  1. Join Toastmasters
  2. It’s not about you – focus on your message and your audience
  3. Shift your focus from surviving to thriving. Don’t just try to get through it, try to give the best speech you’ve ever given.
  4. Believe in yourself. If you’re not confident yet – fake it until you make it and act as if you were.
  5. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and ask yourself: “What would I like to see/hear/read/watch/listen to?” Do EVERYTHING from the perspective of your audience when you are writing/practicing/presenting your speech. Give the speech you would like to hear. Share the knowledge you would like to learn. Tell the story you would like to listen to.
  6. Be Creative
  7. It’s OK to make a mistake or to be nervous – but DON’T be boring!
  8. Have the attitude “It’s not a big deal” because it isn’t
  9. Watch competitions and championships on YouTube and steal the ideas and techniques of the best speakers and make them your own
  10. Tell stories in your speeches and learn the art of storytelling
  11. Pick the right subject to begin with. It’s hard to be entertaining and interesting if you’re speaking about a boring subject or something you have absolutely no interest in.
  12. Don’t try to do it ‘right’. Be authentic and be yourself.
  13. Know your outcome. What is it that you want the audience to think, believe, accept, change or do?
  14. Structure your speech into an intro, body and conclusion
  15. How long should a speech be? As long as it’s good for!
  16. Record your talk on video camera and watch it to see how you come across to others and to learn what you are doing right/wrong
  17. Practice in front of friends and family
  18. Try acting and improv (in addition to Toastmasters)
  19. Download Hypnosis MP3s on confidence and public speaking and listen to them
  20. Meditate
  21. Dress for success. When you look good you feel good.
  22. Get to the venue 20-30 minutes early
  23. You are talking to one person at a time not a group of people ‘out there’
  24. Speak LOUDER than you feel comfortable with
  25. Speak S-L-O-W-E-R than you feel comfortable with
  26. Pause
  27. Read the audience in real-time and pay attention to how you are being received
  28. Don’t drink coffee or energy drinks
  29. Learn from your public speaking mistakes

Conclusion

Public speaking is one of those things like dancing, swimming, yoga or martial arts, you can only get good at it by actually doing it and getting a feel for it. You cannot get good by reading a book or blog post about it, nor by watching a YouTube video about it. You need to put in the hours of practice and actually do it.

Even if you’re afraid of standing up in front of an audience, you’ve just got to say screw it, I’m still gonna do it anyway. If I can’t do it confidently – I’ll just do it scared. That’s what I did. If I had waited until I felt confident I would never have started.

How quickly do you want to get good?

There is a reason 95% of public speakers suck: They don’t do it enough!

If everyone did public speaking every day we would be great. The problem is that most people do it almost never.

We speak once, and then not again for several months – or several years. If it was something we did every day like brushing our teeth or driving our cars it wouldn’t be such a ‘big deal’.

But how are you going to get good at anything by doing it once every 6 months? Or once every few years? You won’t.

I was never as confident as a speaker as when I had my own radio show. Why? Because I kept warm speaking every single day. I never had any down time or time to get nervous. Whenever I went somewhere and gave a speech, it just felt like an extension of my show.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book ‘Outliers’ that it takes on average 10, 000 hours to master anything.

According to Robert Greene in his book ‘Mastery’ it takes around 20, 000 hours.

Regardless of how long it takes, the real question is:

How quickly do you want to get good at public speaking?

How quickly do you want to gain mastery?

I became an excellent public speaker because, rather than once a week, I booked myself to speak three times a day to anyone who would listen. While others in my organization had forty-eight speaking engagements a year, I would have a similar number within two weeks. Within a month, I’d have two years of experience. And within a year, I’d have a decade’s worth of growth. My associates talked about how “lucky” I was to have been born with such an “innate” talent. I tried to tell them what I’m telling you now: Mastery takes as long as you want it to take.” – Tony Robbins

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Recommended Viewing

I highly recommend you watch the following seminar from Tony Robbins on effective communication and presentation skills. It’s one of the best videos I’ve ever seen on public speaking!