Public Speaking – is there anything more frightening?

by Sue Taggart

I have to admit, public speaking has never been one of my favorite things to do. It’s estimated that 75% of people fear public speaking, and while I may not be as fearful as the 18% of people who say they would rather die than speak in public, I still would prefer to avoid it if at all possible.

So when I was invited to be part of an intensive three-day public speaking training event I really had to be pushed into doing it. Now, I am very glad I did.

Own the Room™, which is the signature communication training program of Blue Planet Training, organized action-packed days that left very little time to think about being nervous. From the minute you arrived you were put in front of a video camera in a very non- threatening way so that you didn’t really think about being filmed, then, or throughout the three days. All the exercises and team participation challenges were designed to get you ready for two minutes speaking in front of a friendly audience and leave with a video of your efforts.

While I don’t think I will ever list public speaking as one of my favorite things to do, I did learn some techniques that make it less intimidating and hopefully make me a better speaker. Here are some tips I picked up that I have found really helpful:

The Pause

I always speak very fast and even more so when I’m in front of an audience….the pause is not just perfectly acceptable, it’s a technique that can help you slow down and think about what you want to say next. The pause can be used to emphasize a point and add dramatic effect. Plus it gives you time to take a breath.

Eliminate Weak Language

This was a tough one, but once you can eliminate words that mean nothing, it’s amazing how much better you sound. A pause is better than “um”, “ah” and “basically”. Silence is better than weak words.

It’s Not What You Say

I have always struggled with trying to say something meaningful or delivering information the audience may not know. Surprise, it’s not WHAT you SAY but HOW you SAY it that makes someone a good speaker! Only 7% of the total communication is from words-38% is from tone and 55% body language- what a revelation that was.


Unless you have to be at a podium, make sure you move around. this way you can engage the audience, have some personal exchanges, ask a question and create a more dynamic environment.

Change up your opening

The opening minutes of a presentation are often the most important. Many times people make the mistake of starting speeches by thanking the introducer or expressing their happiness at being there. Ditch the thank you and jump right in with something that grabs the audience’s attention, something compelling, humorous, shocking, or imaginative.

It’s Not About You

At the end of the day, you really have to get over yourself and make it about the audience. They are not there to make you feel better about yourself, so start out with a personal story or anecdote, or a poll or show of hands…. something to get the audience involved at the beginning. Engage them from the get go and you will be a more engaging speaker.

While there were any more tips and useful exercises, these were the ones that stuck with me and I try to implement even in small business meetings. Practice certainly does make a difference even if not perfect!

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