Public Speaking Doesn’t Have to Be Scary

Public Speaking Doesn’t Have to Be Scary

 In PR Tools

As someone with public speaking experience (and who is currently working on a public speaking minor at Northeastern University), I am surprised when people say they hate or are afraid of public speaking. While I occasionally can get nervous when I address a group, I have built confidence through several styles of public speaking, such as extemporaneous, impromptu, scripted and unscripted debates—even storytelling. I still worry that I might mess up sometimes, but I have learned to enjoy and not fear public speaking. In fact, I’m passionate about it. As a co-op student currently working in the Boston office of JPA Health, I am enjoying the opportunities here to use my background in public speaking in my role, including pitching the media and talking with clients. Moving forward, I hope to teach my coworkers new skills, as they have taught me.

According to a 2017 Chapman University poll, approximately 20 percent of Americans reported they are “afraid” or “very afraid” of public speaking. This fear ranks above walking alone at night, clowns and small enclosed spaces. Since 2001, this number has decreased from 40 percent, indicating that attitudes towards public speaking have shifted even in such a short span of time.

When people think about public speaking, they often imagine themselves at a podium surrounded by thousands of people. While this may be true for politicians, public leaders or award presenters, this is most likely not applicable to the average person. Public speaking can occur in front of coworkers, clients or conference attendees, and it requires the same amount of preparation as large-scale presentations.

Whether you are a public speaking expert or a novice, here are some tips for success:

Know your audience.

  • Ask yourself: Who is your audience? How many people are in your audience? What do you have in common with your audience? To whom specifically are you trying to convey your message?
  • This can affect: How you craft your message, how comfortable you feel and how well you encourage audience interaction.

Maintain good posture.

  • Avoid slouching or leaning. Keep your shoulders back and spine straight.
  • This can affect: How your audience perceives you, how your tone comes across and how well you project your voice.

Practice, practice, practice!

  • Ask yourself: How natural is my tone? Notes can lead to overdependence, and memorized content can sound forced. There is a reason we often hear “practice makes perfect.”
  • This can affect: How the audience perceives you, how you handle making mistakes in your speech and how they remain engaged with you.

Sweat (some) of the small things.

  • Be mindful of your appearance and attire, like making sure your hair is pulled back out of your face. Limit external distractions (e.g. turning your phone off before speaking).
  • This can affect: How you remain focused and stay on message.