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Start-Ups

A Guide to Fear-Free Public Speaking

By Townes Haas   |    July 14, 2015   |    11:18 AM

Improve Your Public Speaking Skills and Grow Your Business

Speaking in public can be a frightening proposition, even for the most extroverted entrepreneurs. Whether you need to give a presentation to potential investors, or make a keynote speech at a conference for industry leaders, public speaking is a necessary skill to have if you want to grow your business.

Spending some time learning how to be a better public speaker is a task that’s well-worth the time investment, and here’s how to get over your nerves to speak confidently in front of a crowd.

Join a public speaking group

Be proactive and join a public speaking group before you ever need to draw on your public speaking skills. Organizations like Toastmasters are perfect for this. Toastmasters is a “world leader in communication and leadership development,” and members from around the world have honed their speaking skills in these helpful groups.

See if there’s a club near you, and don’t be afraid to try out several clubs to find the best fit.

Begin by researching and learning

When it comes to public speaking being fully prepared can help you feel more confident when delivering your message. Learn more about who you will be speaking to and what the setting will be like, and go from there.

Once you know who you’ll be speaking to think about why they’re listening to you. What do they hope to learn, what are their interests, and what problems do they have that need solving? Try to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and let that guide the rest of your preparation.

Begin building your presentation

Once you’ve done preliminary research about your audience, and you know where you’ll be speaking, it’s time to start building your presentation. As you prepare keep the following in mind:

  • Make it personal. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools that a speaker has, so use relevant stories from your life when speaking publically. The audience is far more likely to remember a funny story than a chart full of facts and figures, so use your experiences to illustrate your points.
  • Don’t try to “prove” your expertise. If you’re speaking publically, whether to a small group or a large group, your audience is likely familiar with your level of expertise. Some background information about your career can be helpful, but don’t make it your key focus.
  • Avoid excessive use of PowerPoint. You want the audience to be paying attention to you, not a screen. Use any multimedia tools sparingly and don’t load any of your slides up with too much text. Plus, if there are any technical difficulties, you won’t be worried about depending on your slides.
  • Keep it simple. When you want to get a message across, it’s easy to succumb to wordiness. Don’t let your presentation become bogged down by too many details, and if there’s a more succinct way of phrasing something, then that’s how it should be delivered.

As you prepare, write everything down or type it up. When you’re finished, you’ll want a carbon-copy of your presentation. If you forget your next line you’ll always have a backup, and that level of preparedness can help ease your fears of public speaking.

Prepare, practice… and then practice some more

The key to a perfectly delivered speech or presentation is practice. Most of us aren’t skilled improv artists and you don’t want to leave an important public speaking engagement up to chance. Better yet, have several people listen to your presentation. Not only is this great practice for the Real Deal, but you’ll be able to get helpful feedback. You can even prompt your review group to ask you questions after your presentation so that you can get some practice fielding inquiries. This can be especially crucial for business meetings where you’re pitching new ideas.

Once you’ve practiced your entire presentation, go back and do it all over again.

Take a deep breath

Finally, before you’re about to speak publically, remember to breathe deeply. This seemingly silly piece of advice can help you focus your thoughts and channel your fear before a public speaking event. Feeling nervous or scared is completely normal, just don’t let those feelings stop you from taking on this exciting business challenge.


Do you have any tips or tricks for combatting a fear of public speaking, or are you still working on becoming more comfortable with speaking in front of a group? Share your stories in the comments!