Tips for Effective Public Speaking

Glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking, is a very common phobia and one that is believed to affect up to 75% of the population. Some individuals may feel a slight nervousness at the very thought of public speaking, while others experience full-on panic and fear.

“The fear of public speaking is more common in younger patients as compared to older ones and may be more prevalent in females as compared to males,” says Jeffrey R. Strawn, MD, FAACAP, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics and director of the Anxiety Disorders Research Program in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati. “We know that some individuals tend to have more anxiety related to certain circumstances in which there may be a fear of evaluation and embarrassment.”

The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights.[1]

However, I am a strange creature – I love public speaking!

Was that always the case? No way!

I have spoken well over 4,500 times in ten countries, six states of Australia, and 43 states of the USA. I have presented to groups ranging in size from 2 to over 2,000, meeting in garages, storefronts, auditoriums, and convention centres. I’ve been around the block!

What have I learned about public speaking that could help you on your oratorical journey?

Here are eight tips effective public speaking:

1. Nervousness is normal

╸ Everyone endures some nervousness

╸ Nerves do not imply failure

╸ Prepare

╸ Practice

Most often, your nerves will dissipate once you get into your talk.

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

1. The nervous, and 2. Liars.”

– Mark Twain

2. Know your audience

╸ Learn as much as you can about them before you begin preparing

╸ This will heavily influence your material and approach

╸ Ask questions ahead of time

Remember: Your talk is about them, not you.

3. Be crystal clear on your purpose

╸ What is the WHY of your talk?

╸ Never speak for the sake of speaking

╸ Confirm the purpose, not just the subject, before preparation

╸ Keep the purpose before you during preparation, practice and delivery

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

-Winston Churchill

4. Be yourself

╸ Do not compare yourself to others

╸ Be real and authentic – you have something amazing to offer!

╸ You establish credibility when your personality shines through

╸ Your audience will trust what you have to say if they see you as a real person.

5. Grab their attention at the onset

╸ People decide in the first few minutes if they want to listen to you.

╸ Make your purpose very clear and sell it to them.

╸ Sometimes a good story can be the best way to grab their attention.

6. Be organised, yet flexible

╸ Once you know your purpose and your audience, create a framework for your talk.

╸ This should capture the big idea of your talk and the main points.

╸ Your visuals will reflect this outline.

However, while speaking, be flexible and agile – adapt your content and style as the situation and audience require.

7. Do not read unless you have to

╸Looking down at your notes and reading them verbatim is a good way to lose your audience.

╸ Only read when you must do so.

╸ Work from your outline – your slides and visuals should facilitate this.

8. End strongly

╸ Do not let your talk fizzle out.

╸Your ending depends upon your purpose

╸ There must be clear takeaways that align with the purpose of your talk.

╸ Some talks require the agreement on next steps. Be sure to capture these!

** Conclude with a summary and a statement that your audience is sure to remember

“A wise man speaks because he has something to say, a fool speaks because he has to say something.” – Plato


Fear is paralysing – it holds you back from the best that life has to offer you! You have a great deal to offer the world, so just go ahead and share it.

Let’s recap:

  1. Nervousness is normal
  2. Know your audience
  3. Be crystal clear on your purpose
  4. Be yourself
  5. Grab their attention at the onset
  6. Be organised, yet flexible
  7. Do not read unless you have to
  8. End strongly


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