How to Confidently Speak in Public

Posted By: Megan Lord-Harvey XCEL,

How do you usually feel when you are about to speak in front of a crowd? Does your heart start to race or palms start to sweat? Do you find a way to back out of the speech altogether? These are all common signs of anxiety caused by public speaking. Many of us fear being judged by our peers, or more specifically, being looked at differently following a presentation. I personally have suffered from social anxiety in the past and public speaking was always one of the worst triggers for me. Through the methods that I follow, I will show you how to put your anxiety at ease and speak publicly like you were born with this skill.     

To truly be able to connect with your audience confidently, the first step is to be prepared. The more you know about the topic, the easier it will be to talk about it. Research the material and write down notes to help you retain the information better. More importantly, take the time to practice your speech repeatedly. Speak in front of family or friends to become familiar with the feeling of presenting to an audience. You can even record yourself and listen to moments you stumbled over words, or consider edits you want to make. By practicing ahead of time, you will be confident in your presentation and are less likely to feel the pressure of speaking publicly. 

Forbes claims, “The audience only hears about 20% of the speaker’s message, and the other 80% they internalize visually.” So, if you make a mistake while speaking, there is a good chance you are the only person who will know. By understanding that most of our anxiety towards public speaking stems from us being self-critical, we can turn that anxiety into excitement. Visualize yourself presenting, and grow excited to show off your new-found confidence. When it is time to speak, remember to take a deep breath, pause, and then speak slowly. Simon Sinek once said, “They want you to succeed up there, if you just go quiet for a moment and take a long, deep breath, they’ll wait for you.” It may feel strange at first, but by carefully enunciating your words, the audience will better understand the message, and you will feel in-control of your stage fright. 


“The audience only hears about 20% of the speaker’s message...”


Look at each speaking engagement as an opportunity to enlighten your audience with a new perspective. Sinek told Entrepreneur magazine, “…people are most likely to trust a giver - a speaker that gives them value, that teaches them something new, that inspires them…” This is where being excited about your topic can go a long way with your audience. The more you portray conviction, the more engaged your audience will be. Remember, they are there to learn something they didn’t already know, and they see you as the expert on the subject. While you are speaking, be sure to make eye contact with one audience member at a time. By doing this, people in the audience will feel more connected, as it will seem as though you are talking with them instead of at them.  

Personalize your message with triumphs or humorous moments that make you more relatable. This helps lighten weight the topic may bring to your speech. The crowd will appreciate your ability to humanize your approach, so that it doesn’t feel like you are selling them a product. Lastly, show appreciation towards your viewers. When they applaud, thank them. This is a simple way to show them you are grateful for them giving their time to listen.

   Personalize your message with some triumphs or humorous moments that make you more relatable.”


This article was written by Megan Lord-Harvey with Greystar, as a part of the XCEL Committee's goal to provide regular, educational, posts for TAA's blog.