T Nation

Public Speaking Tips?


I have a public speaking event coming up. Crowd of 200 people.

I know my subject, which helps to keep stress levels in control. The biggest group I spoke to was 30.

Starting to feel the stress, but it will really kick in during the preceeding 3 days.

Any tips? Thanks in advance!


beta blockers. i have a friend who was very nervous in the run up before his phd colloquia. after a couple of days of beta blockers he went to win the prize for best colloquia out of about 50 post-graduate students.

There’s the usual tips like look at the corners of the room so it looks like your looking at people when you’re not actually doing it.

I find what helps me the most is knowing this one detail:

In a room with 1-5 people, everyone there is paying attention to you. Everyone is staring at you, because if they don’t they feel guilty for not paying attention since they’ll be noticed.

In a room of 200 people, there’s few people actually paying attention. Everyone else doesn’t feel guilty for not paying attention because it’ll be covered up by the mass of people there. So then giving a speech to 200 people is like giving a speech to stuffed animals…you get the same blank stares and they don’t give a shit what you have to say :). Keeps me pretty relaxed hahahah.

I’ve been trained as a public speaker as a child, and it’s really not that bad. I prefer to look people in the eye, but that can be terrifying for most. So don’t…just keep your head up so you don’t mumble.

Hope that helps.

The best thing to help with stress is actually knowing the material very well. So rehearse what you have and by knowing what you need to say you’ll be more confident with giving the presentation.

Excellent replies so far.
I’d just like to add that you MUST start with the following classis:

“If I could just say a few words…I’d be a better public speaker”

–Sorry, I am watching the simpsons and Homer just said that.

Hey Dan, I speak at least once a month, and often to between 350-500 people at a shot. Supposedly I’m pretty entertaining too (!). I’ve got a few tips that have helped me quite a bit:

  1. If possible, mingle a bit with audience members before the talk. This way, you feel you know them, and often, you’ll get some positive feedback from them before you start which will put you at ease

  2. Find the source of your nervousness, and then take action. Is it that you’re unprepared? Maybe you’re not sure if you’ve got enough material? Or maybe you’re not sure if you’re taking the right approach with this specific audience? You’re concerned with your appearance? Whataver it is, identify and address it

  3. Rehearse your first 3-5 minutes until you’ve got it down cold, and make it a good intro. A smooth first few minutes will do wonders for your confidence

  4. Get them laughing early on if you can…this is huge. if you can crack them up, you’ll feel like you own them and that they’re on your side…the rest of the talk is cake after that

  5. Pu things into perspective? I.e., if you think about it, there’s probably no real reason to be nervous… remember that 5 minutes after you’re done, you’ll think “Why was I so worried?” Have this in your mind as you speak.

Hope that helped…

I spent the past two years traveling and giving presentations every night to people I just met that day. While my biggest group was probably only about 120, I don’t think it changes what I have to say.

I always found that the biggest key to being a popular speaker is to be entertaining. You may have the greatest material, but if its dry, it’s terrible. I used to always spend the first few minutes joking around and having a good time with things to lighten myself up and to make sure I have everyone’s attention. Then I would start with the material.

The other thing to keep in mind is to keep shifting gears. Keep it moving and don’t dwell on any one topic. This makes the crowd restless and gives you more time to think about the fact that you are speaking to a number of people. If you’re moving the material along, that is less time to think about things.

Finally, I would say that it’s important to know how you’re going to start and know how you’re going to end. People remember what they heard first and last the most. If you have these brackets down cold, then that will be two areas that will stick in their minds. Also, that will help get over initial nervousness and will be able to help you make an easy exit if things aren’t going well.

Just a couple of things that I found have helped me anyway.

Two words

Intro Music…

Bust out from from behind the curtain to a song like Black Sabbaths “Wizard” and doing your best Ray Lewis pregame imitation and everyone will think “holy shit this dude’s got something to say!”

But seriously, being prepared is the best thing you can do when you’re presenting to 5 or 500 people.

Know your materiel backward and front and life will be a lot easier. Make sure you’re canvasing the crowd and not looking only in one direction and if at all possible, ask a friend of a colleague to sit in on your class. He or she would be a familiar face you can reference if things get a little clammy. Having someone like that in the crowd kind of helps “bring you back to center.”

I’m sure there is better advice out there, but I hope this helps.

Good Luck


All of the advice so far is good. I’ll give you a tip on how to get rid of the butterflies in your stomach right before you go on.

Take a deep breath. Hold it. Ball your two fists together and press them into your diaphram. Bend over. When you are as far as you can bend exhale sharply. Butterflies will be gone.

Do that and practice, practice, practice. The best public speakers are those that do it the most often.

UPDATE: Everything went A-OK.

Thanks for all the advice!

I usually spend a few moments thinking, “I am the greatest man in the world.” That usually puts thing in perspective.

Oh, hell, who am I fooling? I think that all the time.

Give it a try.

put an anti-persperant on your face. i sweat like a freaken pig on clen when i speak in front of people.

Yes. Don’t look at anyone directly in the eyes. try and look at everyone in the room don’t just focus on one thing. Lastly keep your head up and look confident or smile.

Of course, knowing your material cold is the biggest key.

That said, one of the biggest confidence boosters I ever had was giving a speech where there was nothing holding my pants up except pure luck. I was sweating bullets up there, but I after I got done, I realized that nothing would ever be as bad as that.

I’m glad to hear everything went off alright Dan. Here’s something to think about if you or anybody else has this problem again. It’s pretty simple. Just be arrogant. Try to think to yourself of how many times a day you are convinced that more than half the people on this planet are fucking retarded. If you need some help just turn the TV on and channel surf for a few minutes. Or better yet hop in your car and go for a drive during rush hour. Hope I don’t sound too synical, but it works for me.

WIDEGUY: About that arrogant thing, you`re on the money.

Even Toastmasters, in their 10 tips for successful public speaking document, has something one could say similar in essence, although more PC, that resembles your advice:

6. Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They don`t want you to fail.

Thinking of the audience as people just like you, or buddies, helps alot. In anticipation of that presentation, I visited the site the night before. After that, when in doubt, I kept visualizing that room being full of people, with a big Buddies banner stamped on top of it. It helped.

You`re better off feeling too confident than not enough. People will always prefer a Don King to a Caspar Milquetoast on stage.

On a more physiological tangent, find somewhere private a little while before you give your presentation.

Then (this may be odd) jump up and down and yell as loud as you can!

I have done presentations for a few years now, and this tip did wonders for me, regardless of how well or how poorly I knew the material that I was presenting.

Just yell!

1mg Alprazolam and some Powerdrive.