10 PROVEN WAYS TO NAIL PUBLIC SPEAKING
Don’t pull a Gwynnie…
Public speaking ranks as one of the nations biggest
phobias, according to a YouGov survey released earlier
Here are 10 ways to help you embrace the critical glare of
an anticipant audience:
PRETEND YOU’RE SOMEONE ELSE
According to psychology professor Thomas Plante from
Santa Clara University, people can overcome anxiety over
public speaking by thinking of a confident public speaker
they admire – then pretending to be an actor playing that
It may seem like quite a complicated exercise in self-
deception, but he says that by channelling your inner
actor, your behaviour will follow your forced actions.
“Research, as well as best clinical practices, has
demonstrated that if you can behave in a particular way
(e.g., confident, comfortable) then your feelings will
follow your behaviour,” he wrote in Psychology Today .
“For example, force a smile or laugh and you’ll likely feel
a little better. Force a frown and you’ll likely feel a little
worse. In a nutshell, if you can act like a comfortable and
confident speaker (even if you don’t feel that way) you’ll
find that you’ll start to feel comfortable and confident
CREATE A ‘PERSONAL STYLE’
Winston Churchill was one of the greatest orators of the
20th century, but public speaking didn’t come naturally to
the late prime minister.
His stammer and lisp caused him much anxiety and were
traits he feared would hold him back in politics.
To get round this he created what is described by leading
Churchill commentator David Cannadine in his book In
Churchill’s Shadow , as a “personal style”.
He chose “unusual words and phrases so as to avoid the
treacherous rhythm of everyday speech” and studied the
speeches of a range of great orators, mixing their most
distinctive traits with his own delivery.
MEDITATE TO REDUCE NERVES
Instead of panicking before your big speech, book a
meeting room, close the blinds and tell everyone you’re on
a ‘important call’. Then tap into some much-needed inner
peace with a spot of quiet meditation for half an hour. A
study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine in Baltimore found it helps people to
alleviate anxiety and depression.
“A lot of people use meditation, but it’s not a practice
considered part of mainstream medical therapy for
anything,” said the university’s Madhav Goyal. “But in our
study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from
some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other
studies have found from antidepressants.”
GET A LAVENDER MASSAGE
Standing up to face people in a presentation situation
makes most people restless and nervous but scientific
evidence cited by the University of Maryland Medical
Center suggests that aromatherapy with lavender can slow
down the nervous system and reduce anxiety.
Not only that, but it’s also been found to lift and stabilise
mood and enhance concentration.
Rather than simply inhaling a whiff of lavender oil before
stepping onto the podium, book a massage. [ Studies
suggest that getting a rubdown with the oil is particularly
effective in combating nerves.
HAVE A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP…FOR A LIVELY
Don’t even think about missing out on sleep to practice
your speech – researchers have found that people’s voice
“flattens” after being awake for too long.
Research from the University of Melbourne found that the
more tired we are, the less control we have over our
speech muscles – slowing our voices down and and
diminishing the gravity of tone.
“Individual voice patterns diminish the more tired you
become, so you lose your voice personality, you become a
bit flatter,” acoustician Dr Adam Vogel told the Sydney
Morning Herald .
TAKE TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
You could do worse than take advice from Barack Obama.
Handily, the President’s debate trainers offered some ultra
professional tips in their book last year Double Down.
Public Speaking Truth summarises and analyses the
You’ve got to do a speech – yay! That may not be your
natural reaction to public speaking, but according to a
study by the American Psychological Association, people
who tell themselves to get excited before a speech, rather
than trying to relax, can improve their performance.
“Anxiety is incredibly pervasive. People have a very
strong intuition that trying to calm down is the best way
to cope with their anxiety, but that can be very difficult
and ineffective,” said study author Dr Alison Wood Brooks,
of Harvard Business School. “When people feel anxious
and try to calm down, they are thinking about all the
things that could go badly. When they are excited, they are
thinking about how things could go well.”
CHANNEL YOUR FEAR
Stage fright isn’t a bad thing – in fact it can be used to
your advantage before a big speech, according to
psychologists from the University of Rochester .
“The problem is that we think all stress is bad, ” lead
author Jeremy Jamieson, explained. “We see headlines
about ‘Killer Stress’ and talk about being ‘stressed out.'”
Before speaking in public, people often interpret stress
sensations, like butterflies in the stomach, as a warning
that something bad is about to happen.
“But those feelings just mean that our body is preparing to
address a demanding situation. The body is marshaling
resources, pumping more blood to our major muscle
groups and delivering more oxygen to our brains.”
In other words, some fear is natural and helps us perform
better under the glare of an audience.
TALK TO YOURSELF
In an age of bluetooth headsets, muttering to yourself as
you wander down the street is perfectly acceptable – and
according to experts “Self-talk” can have a positive,
“We all do it, whether we’re aware of it or not,” Dr.
Elizabeth Bernstein told the Wall Street Journal . “Athletes
do it all the time and we can learn from them. They talk
themselves through the task.”
She advises keeping it short, precise and consistent and –
this sounds a little odd – says we should address ourselves
by our first name, rather than “I”, to add “distance”.
A TIPPLE’S NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION
Amanda Seyfried admitted in 2012 that she indulged in a
small alcoholic sharpener before appearing on a talk-show
to get her through her stage fright.
“I understand that I have a problem, maybe,” she joked.
“But you know what? It really gets me through.”
Obviously we’re not advocating using alcohol as a crutch
before your next big speech though – especially if it’s a
10 PROVEN WAYS TO NAIL PUBLIC SPEAKING