Public Speaking 101: Command the Stage with These 5 Tips

Jan 28, 2021News

Many people have a visceral fear of public speaking. Very few of us do well under scrutiny, and speaking at a conference or presenting a report at a board meeting can give even the most confident professional sweaty palms and a racing heart.


So how do you address an audience with confidence and authority? Whether you’re giving a keynote presentation, making a sales pitch, or even jumping on a Zoom call, Facebook or Instagram Live, here’s how to speak with confidence and keep your audience engaged.


1. Acknowledge your emotions.

As psychologist, Dr. Susan Jeffers once said, “Feel the fear but do it anyway.” Feeling nervous is completely human: I’ve seen big personalities significantly diminish when faced with cameras or a crowd. But don’t let jitters stop you from doing what you need to do. Acknowledge the anxiety, but know that it’s just a feeling. It will pass.


2. Shift your focus.

Instead of worrying about what the audience will think of you, shift your attention to what you’re actually trying to convey. What message do you want to get across? Who is in the audience who really needs to hear what you have to say? The more important a presentation is to you, the more you’ll succeed if you shift the emphasis off of yourself and onto your message. Remind yourself what you’re there to do (educate, inform, deliver news), rather than wondering how you’ll be judged for it. The harshest critic is always yourself.


3. Tell stories.

People love a good story, and they relate best to personal narrative. You don’t have to disclose anything too intimate or inappropriate, but share an interesting anecdote or two about a learning experience you’ve had, at home or at work. Stories help your audience imagine the situation you’re in, empathize with what you’re saying, and stay interested in the content you’re sharing with them.


4. Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Finally, practice your material. Practice when you’re in the shower, while you’re driving to the grocery store, and even in front of a mirror at home. You can be spontaneous when you’re well-rehearsed which sounds counterintuitive but works. I remember being on a plane to a conference I was keynoting in California and mouthing my presentation over and over the entire ride. At one point, the guy sitting next to me turned to me and said, “I don’t know who you’re presenting to, but that’s one hell of a speech!”


5. Make sure you’re familiar with all your materials and/or technology.

The last thing you want is to be on stage with a slide deck that won’t work or the wrong cable that isn’t compatible with the a/v system! The more prepared you are in advance, the easier it is to adapt to changes or minor setbacks in the moment.


There’s no doubt that speaking in front of people can be a nerve-racking experience. But it’s also a privilege and an opportunity. Public speaking gives you the chance to share your expertise, show the world who you are, and make a meaningful connection—even from the stage.


So next time you’re asked to do an interview or an opening address, know that your words have the potential to deeply affect your audience. Make it count: be genuine, interactive when you can and don’t forget to thank your audience for listening!


Do you have a speaking engagement coming up? I can help you prepare to speak to your audience with clarity and confidence. Let’s talk!