Five public speaking tips for people who fear public speaking

The big presentation is just a few days away. You’re expected to deliver big ideas and cover key points. The audience could be managers, co-workers, clients, or suppliers. Are you nervous? If you are, don’t worry. Over 70% of adults fear public speaking. But there are some simple things you can do to relieve that anxiety and give a presentation that captures attention and influences ideas.

  • Focus on concepts instead of content. No one wants to hear about budgets or statistics. These can be shared through a handout or by email. People want to hear ideas and stories that capture their attention and lead to a conclusion. Which for you is a good thing as it’s easier to tell a story than to memorize data. When designing your presentation, continuously ask yourself “what’s the point”. Then create content that helps you get to it.
  • Have a conversation. Many speakers go into auto pilot, sounding like a pre-recorded message, never changing pace or acknowledging the audience. Instead, think of it as having a conversation with friends. If you say something funny and people laugh, stop talking and let them. If someone has a question, welcome it. You can then answer right away or let them know you’ll come back to it shortly.
  • Be slow. When people are nervous, they tend to speak fast. Speaking too quickly makes the audience feel rushed. Try to talk slower than you would in a normal conversation. It might sound weird to you on stage, but to your audience you’ll sound relaxed and confident. If you find yourself getting flustered or feeling overwhelmed, just pause and take a deep breath. They will not mind waiting.
  • Make PowerPoint your assistant, not your boss. It’s not the number of slides you have that matter. It’s what’s on them. Avoid lots of text, and never ever read a slide to the audience. A simple picture that supports your point will be much more influential and visually interesting. Using photos instead of text will also give you the freedom to go off script or adlib without being out of sync with your slides.
  • Lower your standards (for yourself). Everyone in the audience knows it’s not a Broadway show. They’re not expecting to be entertained or for an award winning performance. In most cases they’ll be happy if they’re not bored to tears. So relax, have some fun, and know that everyone in the room wants you to succeed.

Marc Gordon is a recognized marketing expert. He regularly appears on TV and radio. His articles appear in over 200 publications worldwide. Visit or his online show at for more business tips.