Public Speaking

with 2 comments

This weekend I attended a public speaking course at YMCA central, and delivered by a very enthusiastic ex-drama tutor Janet from an organisation called Random Acts.   

Now, I work in communications so you would think that I would be a fab public speaker, well its not true.  It’s not that I lack confidence, but I have some bad habits.  I use too many ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ and for some reason become very aware of my hands (as in ‘what do I do with them?’).

So…after 2 days, have I become an oratory goddess with the range of an opera singer and the power of a town crier? 

Well…no.  The course was excellent value for money, and the fact that the group was quite small meant that feedback was really personal and useful.

So what did I learn?



If you are one of those people who feel very anxious speaking in front of a group of people there are a few important things you should bear in mind when speaking publicly:

  • Nobody wants you to look silly.  Everyone in the audience is rooting for you to do well – you know what its like being in the audience at an event / meeting, you never want someone to cock up their presentation – you are interested in the subject matter!
  • You can’t fail.  You can only do your best, and your best is always good enough!  You only fail if you don’t try


Exercise / De-stress

If you are feeling stressed before speaking publicly you can de-stress yourself in the following ways:

  • Breathe in to the count of 4 (slowly) then breathe out to the count of 5 (slowly).  This calms you down!
  • Release shoulder / back tension.  Lift shoulders to your ears, then let them drop.  Repeat this.
  • If you have the chance, reach up in the air and stretch your sides / back.  This helps release tension


Body Language

Remember, that we say a lot about ourselves to others before we even open our mouths.  Key body language tips from the course included:

  • Don’t fold / cross your arms.  This makes you look closed
  • Don’t cross your legs (when standing – I’m guilty of this one!).  This gives the impression that you are nervous and trying to make yourself look smaller
  • Do gesture with your arms if you wish.  This makes you look enthusiastic!  But obviously don’t do this in a neurotic way – that would make you look like a nutter
  • Do stand with your legs slightly apart and feel flat on the floor – this makes you look confident and grounded.
  • Do lean forward slightly if you are sitting down presenting.  This makes you look engaged and enthusiastic


Speaking Tips

  • Project!  You can project without shouting.  Fix to a point on the far wall and try and send your voice to it
  • Before your speak, practice some tongue twisters – Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers and the like.  It helps limber up your vocal chords
  • Practice your presentation before hand.  Pretty obvious, but its mostly in the preparation! 
  • Put some notes on small cards to jog your memory if you need it


Other things covered by the course was how to structure a good presentation, breathing techniques and role playing exercises (including improvisation).  A lot of this information was new to me, and some I was already aware of, (but I found it useful to revisit some of these things anyway).

Anyway, these are just some of the areas covered in the course.  For more information on public speaking, tips and advice visit the Random Acts website


2 Responses

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  1. That is a great post! I just finished winning a toastmasters state wide competition and I picked up a couple of tips I can include into my preparation for the next level.

    Thanks for sharing!


    April 27, 2009 at 9:07 pm

  2. […] this is what my Public Speaking tutor meant by […]

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