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Public Speaking - 7 Nexus

Public Speaking

Public Speaking

Public Speaking

Public Speaking

Public speaking. Just the thought of having to get on stage inspires anxiety-fueled questions such as :-

What if the audience doesn’t like my speech?

What do I do if I get on stage and my mind completely blanks because I’m so nervous?

What if I look super awkward on stage?

Nearly 30 percent of Indians report that they’re “afraid or very afraid” of public speaking. In fact, this fear is so widely accepted that many scientists researching stress actually will induce anxiety by asking study participants to give a speech.

Most fears about public speaking stem from our fear of being judged. We are so scared of being criticized that we forget we have the power to share a message. I want to teach you how to captivate an audience so you can conquer your public speaking fears and get your message across. Let’s dive into the research-backed public speaking tips, so you have the confidence to get on stage and master your stage presence.




All people feel some physiological reactions like pounding hearts and trembling hands. Do not associate these feelings with the sense that you will perform poorly or make a fool of yourself. Some nerves are good. The adrenaline rush that makes you sweat also makes you more alert and ready to give your best performance.

The best way to overcome anxiety is to prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. Take the time to go over your notes several times. Once you have become comfortable with the material, practice—a lot. Videotape yourself, or get a friend to critique your performance.

Nonverbal communication carries most of the message. Good delivery does not call attention to itself, but instead conveys the speaker’s ideas clearly and without distraction.

How often have you listened to or watched a speaker who really messed up? Chances are, the answer is “not very often.”

When we have to speak in front of others, we can envision terrible things happening. We imagine forgetting every point we want to make, passing out from our nervousness, or doing so horribly that we’ll lose our job. But those things almost never come to pass! We build them up in our minds and end up more nervous than we need to be.

Many people cite speaking to an audience as their biggest fear, and a fear of failure  is often at the root of this. Public speaking can lead your “fight or flight” response to kick in: adrenaline courses through your bloodstream, your heart rate increases, you sweat, and your breath becomes fast and shallow.

Although these symptoms can be annoying or even debilitating, the Inverted-U Model  shows that a certain amount of pressure enhances performance. By changing your mindset, you can use nervous energy to your advantage.

First, make an effort to stop thinking about yourself, your nervousness, and your fear. Instead, focus on your audience: what you’re saying is “about them.” Remember that you’re trying to help or educate them in some way, and your message is more important than your fear. Concentrate on the audience’s wants and needs, instead of your own.

If time allows, use deep breathing exercises  to slow your heart rate and give your body the oxygen it needs to perform. This is especially important right before you speak. Take deep breaths from your belly, hold each one for several seconds, and let it out slowly.

Crowds are more intimidating than individuals, so think of your speech as a conversation that you’re having with one person. Although your audience may be 100 people, focus on one friendly face at a time, and talk to that person as if he or she is the only one in the room.


Good communication is never perfect, and nobody expects you to be perfect. However, putting in the requisite time to prepare will help you deliver a better speech. You may not be able to shake your nerves entirely, but you can learn to minimize them.

Nothing becomes muscle memory unless you practice relentlessly. If you have a big speech coming up, make time every day to practice. Prepare your goals and the content well ahead of time. This can be done while driving, exercising, in the car, on a plane…anywhere.

Practicing in front of a mirror is a good way to learn the proper amount of body motion, hand usage and facial expressions.

Remember, communication is much more about tone and body language than the words we say. The words of course matter, but emphasis comes with movement and body language.


Before you begin to craft your message, consider who the message is intended for. Learn as much about your listeners as you can. This will help you determine your choice of words, level of information, organization pattern, and motivational statement.

Scientists often have to give presentations to a variety of people; from school children to the public, undergraduates and other experts in their field. Ensure that the content, language, tone, body language is appropriate for the audience.

Furthermore, try to understand why the audience is listening. Ask: “what will I gain from listening to this talk?” as if you were in the audience yourself. Be clear about your goal and what the audience should obtain by attending. Additionally, establish your credibility. Tell your audience why they should listen to you.

If you are speaking in front of an audience, there is usually a reason. Know who you are speaking to and what they want or need to take away. If it’s friends and family, entertain them. If it’s a corporate event, teach and inspire them. Knowing the demographic of the audience is imperative.


First, make sure that you plan  your communication appropriately. Use tools like the Rhetorical Triangle , Monroe’s Motivated Sequence , and the 7Cs of Communication  to think about how you’ll structure what you’re going to say.

When you do this, think about how important a book’s first paragraph is; if it doesn’t grab you, you’re likely going to put it down. The same principle goes for your speech: from the beginning, you need to intrigue your audience.

For example, you could start with an interesting statistic, headline, or fact that pertains to what you’re talking about and resonates with your audience. You can also use story telling  as a powerful opener; our Expert Interviews with Annette Simmons  and Paul Smith  offer some useful tips on doing this.

Planning also helps you to think on your feet . This is especially important for unpredictable question and answer sessions or last-minute communications.

Create the framework for your speech. Write down the topic, general purpose, specific purpose, central idea, and main points. Make sure to grab the audience’s attention in the first 30 seconds.


Be yourself, don’t become a talking head—in any type of communication. You will establish better credibility if your personality shines through, and your audience will trust what you have to say if they can see you as a real person.

If you’re unaware of your body language it will give your audience constant, subtle clues about your inner state. If you’re nervous, or if you don’t believe in what you’re saying, the audience can soon know.

Pay attention to your body language: stand up straight, take deep breaths, look people in the eye, and smile. Don’t lean on one leg or use gestures that feel unnatural.

Many people prefer to speak behind a podium when giving presentations. While podiums can be useful for holding notes, they put a barrier between you and the audience. They can also become a “crutch,” giving you a hiding place from the dozens or hundreds of eyes that are on you.

Instead of standing behind a podium, walk around and use gestures to engage the audience. This movement and energy will also come through in your voice, making it more active and passionate.


Inject a funny anecdote in your presentation, and you will certainly grab your audience’s attention. Audiences generally like a personal touch in a speech. A story can provide that.

When you speak, try to engage your audience. This makes you feel less isolated as a speaker and keeps everyone involved with your message. If appropriate, ask leading questions  targeted to individuals or groups, and encourage people to participate and ask questions.

Keep in mind that some words reduce your power as a speaker. For instance, think about how these sentences sound: “I just want to add that I think we can meet these goals” or “I just think this plan is a good one.” The words “just” and “I think” limit your authority and conviction. Don’t use them.

A similar word is “actually,” as in, “Actually, I’d like to add that we were under budget last quarter.” When you use “actually,” it conveys a sense of submissiveness or even surprise. Instead, say what things are. “We were under budget last quarter” is clear and direct.

Also, pay attention to how you’re speaking. If you’re nervous, you might talk quickly. This increases the chances that you’ll trip over your words, or say something you don’t mean. Force yourself to slow down by breathing deeply. Don’t be afraid to gather your thoughts; pauses are an important part of conversation, and they make you sound confident, natural, and authentic.

Finally, avoid reading word-for-word from your notes. Instead, make a list of important points on cue cards, or, as you get better at public speaking, try to memorize what you’re going to say – you can still refer back to your cue cards when you need them.

Another finding from Quantified Communication was around the audience. They discovered that the most confident speakers use 46.9 percent more inclusive language than nervous speakers, meaning they’re using collaborative words and personal pronouns to help the audience feel more involved in the message. This finding could indicate that the most confident speakers are community-oriented, and suggests that camaraderie-driven language can help nervous speakers build confidence by overcoming that evolutionary fear of ostracism.

Don’t speak at the audience, speak to the audience.

Can you create activities, facilitate Q/A sessions or do call-outs to the audience? I gave the most nerve-wracking speech of my life and decided to include the audience constantly. This calmed down my nerves and helped me connect to the crowd. See how I included them here:


Positive thinking  can make a huge difference to the success of your communication, because it helps you feel more confident.

Fear makes it all too easy to slip into a cycle of negative self-talk, especially right before you speak, while self-sabotaging  thoughts such as “I’ll never be good at this!” or “I’m going to fall flat on my face!” lower your confidence and increase the chances that you won’t achieve what you’re truly capable of.

Use affirmations and visualization  to raise your confidence. This is especially important right before your speech or presentation. Visualize giving a successful presentation, and imagine how you’ll feel once it’s over and when you’ve made a positive difference for others. Use positive affirmations such as “I’m grateful I have the opportunity to help my audience” or “I’m going to do well!”


A big mistake nervous speakers make is apologizing or couching their ideas. When we are feeling nervous, we say things such as ‘It’s just my opinion,’ or ‘I’m not really sure,’ or ‘I could be wrong, but.’ This is detrimental to your message!

First, be sure to research all of your points so you feel confident about the information you are sharing. Second, once you are sure of your content, practice your speech in front of friends. Every time a qualifier or caveat is added, friends should gently point it out and have you start over. The best speakers also know that not everyone is going to like them. In fact, some of the best speakers are controversial, and that’s a good thing! You want people to get riled up, get thinking and feel emotion. That means you are striking a chord!


One of the most fascinating things about public speaking is that our nonverbal behavior communicates more than the words we say. When we studied hundreds of hours of TED talks, we were shocked to find that speakers got the same ratings whether viewers watched the talks on mute or with sound. Even more surprising was that people accurately could predict in the first seven seconds whether the talk would be successful. Crazy, right? Our research also found that public speaking tactics, such as hand gestures, smiling and vocal variety are essential for captivating audiences. Some other important nonverbal speaking.

Don’t self-block. When we get nervous, we tend to try minimizing the amount of space our body takes up. We also subconsciously try to barricade our body from the audience with crossed arms or a podium. I recommend holding a clicker or microphone. This might seem counter intuitive, but it forces you to uncross your arms and makes putting your hands in your pockets more difficult.self-blocking

Carry one bag. Nonverbal communication goes beyond the body into colors we wear, clothes and accessories. One set of research has found that people who carry more than one thing–such as a purse and a briefcase or a briefcase and a coat are perceived to be less organized and more forgetful. Before going into a meeting or event, be sure to consolidate your bags, leave coats and extra things in the car or give your coat to the receptionist to hang up so you do not have to carry it in with you.

Avoid self-touch. You want to avoid a few nervous body language cues when speaking. The most common nervous body language cues are self-touch gestures. Specifically, you want to avoid wringing your hands, cracking your knuckles, touching your face or hair or biting your lips. If you need to hold a clicker, that can anchor your hands.


Academic researchers hypothesize that this intense fear of public speaking comes from evolution. In the past, when humans were threatened by large predators, living as a group was a basic survival skill, and ostracism or separation of any kind certainly would mean death. This may have evolved into the fear of public speaking — and it makes sense. What situation embodies that kind of separation more than standing all alone in front of a room full of people? On a deep level, people are afraid their audience will reject them.

Another theory states that when we enter a state of social anxiety, which is common in public speaking, our ability to pick up on angry faces is heightened. In a 2009 study, psychologist Matthias Wieser measured participants’ brain responses to angry, happy and neutral images. In order to elicit anxiety, Wieser told some of the participants they would have to give a speech. The anxious participants were significantly more sensitive to the angry images than to happy or neutral ones, but the rest of the participants did not exhibit the same bias. It’s easy to see how this phenomenon becomes something of a vicious cycle in the context of public speaking. When we start out nervous, no matter how many people are smiling or nodding along, we’re apt to lock onto the one person who looks angry, which makes us even more nervous.

Our friends at Quantified Communications used their software analyzer to compare patterns of the best speakers. They found that the most confident speakers demonstrate 22.6 percent more passion than nervous speakers, meaning their delivery exhibits the kind of energy and engagement that indicates they’re really invested in their topic.

If you’re nervous about an upcoming speech, channel that nervous energy into demonstrating your passion for the topic at hand as you share your best insights with your audience. Nervousness and excitement are two sister emotions. When you feel your heart race, reframe that as excitement.


Know the venue where you will be speaking. Get there well ahead of time. Walk the room. Walk the stage. Get a feel for the vibe of the environment so you are more comfortable when its “go time.”

Nothing sucks more that last-minute technical difficulties. Avoid adding even more stress by testing any and all equipment and audio visual functions ahead of time. And have backups.


Most of us don’t like to ask for feedback, especially when we know the response may include some constructive criticism.

Speaking is a great way to connect with people and a skill we all should master.

It’s a must for leaders and managers. It’s a must for sales. It’s basically a requirement for all entrepreneurs and business leaders.

So get on it.

Keep the focus on the audience. Gauge their reactions, adjust your message, and stay flexible. Delivering a canned speech will guarantee that you lose the attention of or confuse even the most devoted listeners.


Every time you give a presentation, take some time afterwards to think about what worked and what failed. If it went well, consider what made it go well. If it went badly, analyse where and how it went wrong so that next time you can change your strategy and ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Embrace the challenge

Public speaking is part of the life of a research scientist, and you should take every possible opportunity to advocate your work. What is the point of making scientific discoveries (big or small) if no one knows about them?

The best way to deal with the (sometimes unfortunate) need to speak publicly is to embrace it, realise how it will help you and your audience, and enjoy the conversation that it sparks.


Do you enjoy hearing a speech start with “Today I’m going to talk to you about X”? Most people don’t. Instead, use a startling statistic, an interesting anecdote, or concise quotation. Conclude your speech with a summary and a strong statement that your audience is sure to remember.

The best way to deal with the (sometimes unfortunate) need to speak publicly is to embrace it, realise how it will help you and your audience, and enjoy the conversation that it sparks.

These are some tips to keep in mind before getting prepared for Public Speaking.


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