Thursday, July 12, 2012

Public speaking: Love it or hate it?

For someone who tends to talk quite a bit you would think that talking to a group of people would be pretty easy for me.

But presenting information to large meetings, standing up next to a lectern or even worse, having to use a microphone is one of those things that terrifies me.

The more people the worse I am.

Then I go and agree to be on a speaking panel for a blogging seminar in a few weeks. It is being promoted as a casual affair, but with over 50 people attending I am already stressing about it.

No idea what I should wear - casual, not business, so suits are out, but it's at night so it needs to be warm - least of my worries really though. Mainly I stress that because I get so nervous I can either just talk and talk and talk or I forget the question.

Or what if I am asked a question and I don't know the answer?

What if I am so nervous that I stutter and stumble over the words?

So the question you might be wondering is why would I say yes to such a thing? Because, just like I keep telling Popps when she laces up her roller skates, you never get better at something if you don't practice.  I need to get better at public speaking. I need to be able to stand up and explain concepts to people without falling apart for 24 hours beforehand so I am going to have to force myself to do it.

What are your tips for speaking to a crowd? (Please don't say imagine them all in their underwear!)

Image from Pinterest

P.S.  If you are at the event please only ask me super easy questions.


  1. My tip is to have confidence in the fact that you know more than the audience. And you will. So problem solvered ;)

    Make a list of every question you think you might get asked and write out the answer. It's like doing an exam, knowing you've done the preparation should give you all the confidence you need.

  2. I hear you - I used to be really nervous about public speaking but I had to do it a lot in my previous job so I got much better at it and now I am a fairly confident public speaker (as much as anyone can be!)Here are a few things that helped me -

    Be super prepared. Write out your speech (as best you can) and print it out in at least a 16pt font. That way you won't lose your place or squint at your paper.

    Practice it out loud in front of your family, that way you can hear which parts flow well and which parts might need a bit of editing.

    Look at your audience as often as you can. Their interest in you will affirm what you are saying and will build your confidence as you continue your speech.

    If you are supported by a screen behind, include some basic contact details at the end of your speech. Some people may be too shy to ask you a question publicly and they might contact you in the following days.

    If you are really nervous about questions, just say "I will be here for a little while longer, if you have any questions I'd love you to come over and chat with me."

    Good luck, I hope it goes well! I might even be there!

  3. I HATE public speaking - but when I spoke at the blog conference last year I loved it! Maybe something to do with the vibe of bloggers? Don't know.

    What to wear: layers. You don't want to be up there burning up, nor do you want to be shivering, so cater for both possibilities - that way it's another worry out of your mind.

    Other than that - just remember that you know this topic, and the people there will be friendly and happy to hear your opinion.

    Good luck!

  4. Look for a 'nodder'... If there's one person you can see that appears to be paying attention and nodding in all the right places, it makes you feel as though you're talking to someone rather than a room full of people. Also, if they're quiet and all looking at you, that's a good thing (they're not playing words with friends for a start!)Talking reasonably quietly and conversationally can be good as well, as they have to pay attention.

    I delivered a paper at a conference last year - I was so sick that all I was concentrating on was getting through a 15 minute talk and questions without losing my voice...

    The last presentation I delivered was to a group of internationals who talked loudly through the entire presentation - totally off-putting, but apparently meant they were really really interested! The next one (actually, two) will be at another conference which - if the programme is anything to go by - will see me delivering two papers for two different people ONE AFTER THE OTHER! Eek!

  5. Rescue Remedy. Works a treat to calm those nerves.

    1. I am going to buy a bucket full and wash in it before I go on.

  6. I do public speaking for work on a regular occassion and yes it is with practice you get better. My key to gettting through the presentation is lots of practice in front of the mirror. I practice the presentation to the kids, dog, husband and anyone who will listern. As this is an evening event maybe a glass of wine :-)

    1. Thank Jose, I will use that for the work pressies I have started doing, this next one is a panel/moderator, I am mainly shaking about the possible questions from the audience.

  7. Hey Claire,

    If it is any consolation I am not a big (even a little) fan of public speaking and I shall be up on stage with you! But you'll be fabulous - you really do know your stuff and it'll be a friendly crowd :)

    1. Hi Melissa, wont we be a great team, shaking up there together. Though you know, one thing I do to cover my nerves is talk LOTS. Just give me a shove to get me to take a breath.

  8. Ah yes... I used to talk in front of cameras. Then I had a baby, gained weight and a bit of skin pigmentation, lol. So I became shy in front of crowds. Now I've been attending Toastmasters since November and have regain 40% of my confidence. Fair way to go.

    My tips on top of what others have said:

    CONNECT: Before, during and after your speech. Before your slot in the schedule, have a chat with the people you're presenting to during the coffee break. You can use some of what they tell you in your presentation/speech. During your speech, make reference and then after if you can chat to others. They will remember you more if you do that :)

    LOOK and ACKNOWLEDGE: Do not focus on one person when you scan the audience. The best trick is to pick 5 people to start with. Two on your left, two on your right and one in the middle. Next time that you scan the room, pick 5 others to acknowledge.

    ASK QUESTIONS: As transition when moving to a new section, ask questions. Get them engaged.

    PAUSE to avoid the Ums and Ahhs: If you need to think, pause. Talk at a comfy pace... think of how a priest talks! That! (even our JuliaG) It sinks in. No matter what the topic, slow gentle pace makes it sink in.

    Good luck with it all...

  9. I have no tips for you - I used to be 'sick' on speech day at school, but I wanted to pop in and say I'll be thinking of you!! I am sure you will be amazing, especially with all the tips others are providing!

  10. I love all of this advice. I actually have butterflies just reading this that's how sick I get about public speaking! My last gig was videod and the company had planned to put it in their website. I'm praying they had a change of heart lol

    You'll be fantastic. We're all just there to learn from you. I'll be your nodder in the crowd. Look out for me

  11. I'm with Kelly - you've been asked because you know more than the audience does. So take note! I also love the idea of practicing the Q & A. I don't mind public speaking. Deep breathe. Speak slowly. Look up at the audience occasionally. Go!

  12. Oh yes! You are on the panel for DPUnplugged..want to know how it was in Sydney's version? Ask me!
    I was an audience member. It was a relaxed and not too formal evening. Brenda makes sure of it! Where it was held in Sydney, 6 people were on a v small stage with mics. It was cool. The people were a mix of PR & agency people & Nic Avery, Liss From Frills in the Hills & Caz Makepeace. All in All it was a good evening with networking a lot for bloggers to meet withbPRs. It was no where near the bigger conference set up. Ask Nic!


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