Public Speaking (or What do I do with my hands?)

Public speaking or giving a presentation can be a really nerve-wracking event. On one side, there’s the difficult choice of what visual aids to use for your presentation, if at all. Then there’s the fear of speaking in front of an audience. Will I look like a dumb-ass? Am I sweating? What do I do with my hands? One funny example of all this is Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby’s interview scene in Talladega Nights. This scene always cracks me up!

But of course, nobody wants to be caught in a situation like that.

My own personal experience with public speeches has been quite positive on the whole. I can’t say the same for television or radio appearances. When I look back at moments when I was filmed or recorded LIVE I always cringe. Those mediums of communication terrify the hell out of me.

However, speaking in front of an audience is something I find easier to do and something I think everyone should feel comfortable with. I feel that when it comes to an audience, you know exactly how many people are listening to you. When you’re on radio or television you’re exposed to people you cannot see. It is more comforting to see who you are talking to. And the bigger the crowd, the better. A really small room of people tends to make me panic more than a massive hall of three hundred people, as the level of intimacy can be a bit intimidating.

Some people disagree with my views and feel safer in front of a camera, more confident in an intimate setting and braver on the radio! Whatever setting you prefer, here are a few tips to improve your public speaking:-

  • Dress to Impress: Perhaps it’s the Commerce student in me or the fact that I usually don’t give a shit about wearing the same top to university twice in a week, but I think dressing up for a presentation is a real confidence booster. It’s true that wearing a suit (or something more formal than you usually sport) can take you out of your comfort zone but it can also make you feel powerful and in control. When I look smart, I feel good and I perform better. In the great words of Barney Stinson, “Suit up!” and be “Legen – wait for it – dary!”

When I start getting stage fright, I just suit up and be awesome instead. True Story.

  • Know your audience: I learned this one before I started reading about it on public speaking sites and in books on the topic. I find it really helpful to ask about the audience, learn something about them which they didn’t expect you to know and make them feel like you took the time to get to know them before meeting them. After all, you can prepare the best presentation in the world, but you’ve got to win over the audience first.
  • Rehearse: I like to wing it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Don’t leave a good presentation to chance. Make it happen. Practise it way ahead. If you have some slides or a video or other visuals to share, then make sure you’re familiar with the technology being used, and check beforehand that the room you will be using has the necessary tools for your presentation aids. Look at yourself in the mirror. Do you pace the room a little too much? Do you look like a statue? Practise your speech in front of someone you trust to give you good critique. Trust me, the mirror check always works. And so does talking out loud. I always used to come first in reading class back at secondary school because I had this weird habit of reading and studying out loud, or in front of a mirror. When I got to Intermediate English class, teachers used to encourage us to do the same when I had already been doing it for years!
  • Watch: Gala Darling, Jim Carrey, Steven Johnson, Hans Rosling – these are all great speakers whom I truly admire. Every time you listen to someone who inspires you, put them in your memory bank and pull them out whenever you want to list down the attributes of a good speaker. I’m sure that as kids your teachers would tell you that reading improved your writing. Well, guess what? They were right! Now take it a step further: watching presentations improves your public speaking. You can watch a speech anywhere but my favourite resource is TED talks. Here you can find a multitude of inspiring speeches on a wide range of topics which you can watch for FREE. Happy TED-ing!
  • Forecast: A good idea is that of forecasting any problems that might occur during your presentation and seeing how to avoid them or else tackle them if they arise. It is also useful if you prepare a list of questions you think the audience may ask you. If you’re not prepared for a particular question, then the audience may think you’re ill-prepared, not really that informed or a even a phony! And that would really put a damper on an otherwise well presented speech.

And to round off this post, which I thoroughly enjoyed writing, here’s a useful list of resources for the public speaker in training:-

Articulation is Sexy – one of the most inspiring public speaking coaches I’ve found online in the past year.

Prezi – the alternative to Powerpoint. I haven’t tried it yet but it looks so cool!

TED talks – a website full of inspiring speakers.

And finally, the queen of diction:-

Oh, I wish Julie Andrews was my fun aunt!

Good luck on your next presentation,



3 responses to “Public Speaking (or What do I do with my hands?)

  1. Thanks Biw! Are you still down-under? Bring me back a koala plushie. ^-^

  2. Pingback: Public Speaking (or What do I do with my hands?) | Tamara Chetcuti :Will Ferrell

  3. Well said Tamz!

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