Why and How to Master the Terror That is Public Speaking

public speaking

Guest post by Mary Powell, Marketing and Sales Executive 

As an emerging designer, there will be more and more reasons for you to partake in public speaking; whether presenting your company to investors, speaking on panels, pitching to a group of buyers, or inspiring students from you alma mater, as your brand grows, so does your likelihood of speaking in front of groups.

The thing is…research shows that more people are afraid of public speaking than are afraid of spiders, snakes, or even dying.


As scary as it is the first time (and often the second, third, and tenth times), it is definitely something that most of us can and should get used to. It simply takes practice.  I have become what many people consider a good speaker.  The first time I spoke in public, however, I was petrified. My palms were sweaty, my hands were shaking, and my voice quivered.

Here are a few tricks I have learned so that even if you are nervous while public speaking, you won’t look it.

First and foremost, you must know what you are talking about.  Knowledge of the topic will significantly increase your comfort level.  It will also allow you to ad lib, which is invaluable in public speaking.  A speaker who knows what he/she is talking about, and believes in what they are saying, is quite convincing.

Of course, you need to practice.  Say your speech out loud so you know exactly how long it will take.  The more you practice, the better you will feel about presenting.

This brings me to the next tactic for getting yourself ready to speak.  Be enthusiastic.  This is frequently considered “the icing on the cake” in public speaking.  The more you believe in what you are saying, the easier it is for the audience to believe you.  Enthusiasm is an emotion, and emotions are contagious.  You want your audience to catch it. The same way a child’s laughter makes you smile; your enthusiasm will be felt by the audience. To generate enthusiasm, pump yourself up and help relieve some tension, many speakers do some exercises.  Deep breathing, and stretching will do it for some people, but others prefer to do some jumping jacks or running in place.

Finally, when it is almost time to speak, make sure you are ready early. Visit the room where you will speak and stand on the stage or behind the podium.  The aim is to become comfortable with your surroundings. Try out the lights, and the microphone.  Make sure all the AV equipment you need is there and working.  Put out any handouts so they are ready before the audience enters the room.

To help you look like a pro during your delivery, keep the following in mind:

  • Focus on what you have to say, not the fact that you have to say it.
  • When speaking, stand tall; maintain a presence and a look of control (even if you don’t feel it).
  • If you are worried about what to do with your hands, grip the podium.  It will look natural and no one will ever see your white knuckles.  If you don’t have a podium you can put your hands in your pockets as long you do not have anything in them. Don’t jingle change or keys.
  • Just be as natural as you can, and don’t fidget.
  • Speak slowly, clearly and loudly.
  • Watch your audience, and smile.
  • Look for familiar or friendly faces for support.

Remember, most people would rather be the one in the casket than the one giving the eulogy, so you are not alone.

My favorite piece of advice is to focus on what you have to say, not the fact that you have to say it. The best way to overcome a fear of speaking is to speak.  Start with small groups and keep practicing.


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