Mar 14 2011

Nerves and public speaking


On the weekend we attended a birthday party where there were some excellent speeches.

It is normal to be anxious before giving a talk or making a speech. Using this nervous energy is the key to being natural and engaging. At a 50th birthday party at the weekend we heard some excellent speeches.

It is a great pity that we miss out on the wisdom of many people because their anxiety prevents them from sharing it before a crowd.

The most important part of public speaking is being prepared. I’m in awe of people who can get up before a crowd and speak completely off the cuff. Some politicans I’ve seen are excellent at this (Tony Abbott is very good, and I suspect Julia Gillard is also). School teachers are also excellent at speaking without much notice. For us lesser mortals, the key to giving a good speech is preparation.

At our workshops, I’ve seen some professional speakers give wonderfully engaging, funny and informative talks – and they appear to be making it up as they go along. When we get them back at subsequent workshops, they give the same ‘impromptu’ talk – word for word, pause for pause, gesture for gesture. Preparation.

Garr Reynolds, our friend from Presentation Zen, has a post this week on ‘Dealing with Public Speaking Nerves‘. He includes five tips from Les Posen, a Melbourne based psychologist who has his own blog called ‘Presentation Magic‘. 

Les’s tip are:

1. Chunking and exposure.

Break your talk into small parts.


2. Rehearsal.

Visualise yourself wowing the crowd as you practice


3. Self-talk.

“I can do this”.


4. Arousal control via diaphragmatic breathing.

Slow, deep breaths.


5. Deliberate practice.

Practice the beginning, ending and other key parts of the talk.

You can read more about Les’s tips at Presentation Zen

I look forward to seeing and hearing your next ‘tour de force’.

PS. I suspect some of the nerves of the speakers at the birthday party we attended were quelled using a very traditional liquid remedy (or two). Moderation is the key to this particular cure.

What I Learnt On 14th March in other years

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