How to Enjoy Public Speaking

May 30, 2023

Your presentation is just moments away. You clutch your prompt cards in your hand, and maybe feel your heart quicken. You’re nervous, and of course you are. You’re about to do what most people fear more than death. Public speaking.

It may seem ridiculous, but it’s true. Fear of public speaking has and continues to be one of humanity’s number one fears. Yet most of us have to do it, at least once or quite frequently, especially in the workplace. So how do you overcome it? We’re tackling this today. And also, how you can enjoy public speaking.

Know Your Topic (and why you’re interested in it!)

Now sometimes you may have to give a presentation on a topic you don’t like (or, at least, did not choose). However, even then be sure to look at the subject matter from a vantage point that interests you. And, if you can choose what you’re speaking on, be sure it’s something you enjoy, something about which you have curiosity and passion! Excitement is contagious, and people definitely feel whether you have it or not when you present.

Know Your Audience

As the old saying goes, it’s important to “read the room” before and during your presentation. Knowing your audience beforehand will not only help in understanding how best to communicate to them but also give you insight into what sort of information they will want to hear and/or benefit from hearing.

Adding to this, approach your time as an opportunity to give. After all, that is what public speaking is: an opportunity to give. Fear usually stems from a place where we feel we may potentially lose something as individuals–respect, credibility, etc. By shifting your perspective from that to you giving them something, it not only distracts you from that fear but also makes for a much more compelling listen.

Know Your Script (but not too well)

I remember a class presentation I had when I was in college. I had practiced my script to death beforehand, and had it memorized verbatim. The day of presenting came, and I was ready (or so I thought). But then only a couple of paragraphs in to my presentation, another classmate interrupted to tell me how impressed she was by how I was doing (this was music school, so highly non-traditional, haha). Even though she meant well by her interruption, it completely threw me, and I stumbled and fumbled to get back to my “script”, eliciting criticism afterwards for being too “stiff”.

Being prepared is essential, yes. But being married to a “rigid” plan is not. Good communication is always well-thought out but it’s also natural, and flexible to what is needed in the moment, depending on its effectiveness. Hopefully your audience (unlike mine back in college, haha) won’t be interrupting your speech, but do stay aware of how they’re responding (or not) to what you have to say, and adjust accordingly. Allow for space, if need be, as it can be just as powerful as words. Or perhaps include a personal anecdote, if you feel it could lend more warmth and relatability. Again, read the room.

Public speaking is like any muscle that can be strengthened with diligent practice and attentiveness. So keep on practicing, whether it be in communicating to a friend or to a stadium of hundreds. Own whichever platform you’ve been given to occupy, and be sure you have something to give in return. The rest will fall in place.