Public Speaking


#1

I can be very shy indeed. One to one I’m fine, in a group of people in the pub I’m okay but the moment I’m faced with a work meeting, or a talk or even going to a Q&A where you have the opportunity to ask a question in front of a group of people… I freeze, turn red, my mind blanks and I worry everyone is going to think I’m an idiot. I think this is my main problem, I always worry that what I’m saying isn’t valid/I’m not explaining it very well or it’s just plain dumb, so I say nothing, which isn’t good. That, or I worry so much about being asked a question that I don’t listen to anything that’s going on.

It’s very likely that in the near future I’m going to have to do more of this kind of thing and I’ve noticed that a lot of you seem really good at it! I would love some advice and tips, or just reassurance that a lot of people feel the same way. Argh, help.


#2

Just imagine you are naked and everyone else is dressed.

Wait… no…


#3

Awful at public speaking. Nothing else fills me with as much anxiety. However with me, it manifests as being overly hyperbolic and eager to please - making promises I could not reasonably keep when I have to speak up in meetings etc.


#4

I’ve done a lot, my previous jobs involved doing several seminars a week to Drs so I have pretty much no fear now and actually quite like it. I’ve been filmed and critiqued to death. Happy to send you some advice later. The key to remember is you never appear as bad/nervous as you think to the audience.
Eye contact and open body language are hugely important. Practice as much as you can, and say the words out loud, not just in your head, it will make a huge difference.

What scenario are you presenting in and to who?


#5

^This helped me hugely. Did so much practice in friendly settings with filming and the like at my first job and have gone from being incredibly nervous to quite competent.


#6

This is going to sound sarcastic because it’s me and I’m, y’know, a prick, but my best piece of advice is to act/pretend like you’re a confident speaker, and that’s how you’ll come across. And speak more slowly and loudly than you think you need to.


#7

I do a lot of public speaking, despite being a man of few words (ie a bit shy) in real life. In my early career it terrified me, but now it’s just part and parcel of the job. It really does get easier with practice.


#8

A relaxed mind makes things a lot easier, but it’s easier said than done. The more relaxed your brain is, the easier it is to adapt if something goes wrong. There’s lots of advice like imagining yourself in the successful situation and deep breathing and stuff like that, but that sort of thing has never worked for me. I don’t think it applies to every situation but I find if I can speak to a close friend before it helps me a lot because then I remember what it’s like to have a relaxed conversation and that it can flow really easily. Literally will phone someone I know beforehand to have a chat (though that’s not always convenient).

Try not to rush your words too much either. Pauses are good for effect and give you an opportunity to get your thoughts clear as you’re talking. People who do the whole pausy thing tend to come across like they know what they’re talking about too. Doesn’t matter if you or don’t, perception helps a lot.

The more prepared you can be, the easier it will be to do on the night, so you don’t have that stress on top.

I wish I could give more advice, but I’m a bit weird and perversely enjoy public speaking which is not a common thing for people to say. With stand up though, one of the best things is bombing a few times to realise it really isn’t that bad so it doesn’t become something you fear. All ties in with the relaxed mind.

Anyway, I’m no use but wish you the best of luck and I’m sure you’ll be great.


#9

I’ve done bits and pieces. The last one was earlier this year giving a talk about Brighton pub architecture. I know nothing about architecture, so just found lots of facts and anecdotes online in advance, mixed them up with bits of my own knowledge then ordered it so it felt like it had some kind of thread to it.

Visual cues are good. Everybody loves to hate on powerpoint, but some kind of presentation to back you up is a good fallback to keep you on track, and makes it about more than just you standing there talking. I had a slideshow of the pubs I was talking about for mine.


#10

^Also this

“I only prepared these slides at the last minute” / “These are someone else’s slides sorry” / “I’m not great at public speaking sorry” / “I’m quite nervous” is going to lead to folks looking out for all those things.


#11

And, if in doubt, chin the hardest looking person in the room before you start and the rest will fall in line.


#12

See, I’m pretty good if I’m confident with the subject matter and have it all planned out. I can speak loud enough, appear relaxed and get through it and have been told I seem good and fine. It’s freestyling that I CANNOT do, at all. Like the questions at the end of a talk or as I said, during a meeting where they’re all like “Witches, do you have anything to add to this?” Maybe Public speaking wasn’t the best title for this thread… Hmm…


#13

I find it helpful to think that when I’m in a meeting/whatever and someone else is speaking I rarely give that much of a shit about what they’re saying/how they say it, so I try to remember no-one’s really that bothered about what I say.

Like, if someone says something good/interesting and/or they come across well, I just think “Yeah, that was good”. If someone talks bollocks and/or seems nervous or stumbles over what they’re saying, I don’t really give it a second thought.

This probs sounds a bit negative, I guess I just mean don’t sweat it too much.


#14

You’ve got longer to think than you think you do. Plan out what you’re going to say, give it a quick run-through in your head, and off you go. It makes you look like you’re really considering the question, which is respectful.

If you need to, give it a “Hmm, interesting question” to give you that breathing space. Literally - deep breath, little bit of thinking time, then away you go.


#15

Haha, no no, this is good! This is how I feel too! I don’t care if someone else says something silly or appears worried, well, I feel bad for them only because I know how they feel :blush:


#16

Yeah, but what if I have nothing to add. What if I mind blank! Which I do, a lot. I’ve ran out of a room crying before because I’ve panicked so much. Haha!! It was … embarrassing.

TO BE FAIR, that was a circumstance where someone was “trying” to help me get over my fear of talking in front of people. He kept on pressuring me and wouldn’t leave me alone. Afterwards he said that he used to be the same as me and this technique helped him in the past.


#17

So the key is to anticipate and prepare answers to possible questions. Also remember it’s ok to pause and say ‘that’s a great queation, let me think about that’ or if they are knowledgeable in the field, turn it back on them and ask them for their opinion (or other people in the audience) get a discussion going which takes the heat off you. If you really don’t know the answer you can offer to take their email and get back to them once you’ve found out.


#18

Ask them if they could clarify a part of the question. It buys you time, and the way they rephrase something might jog your mind a bit.

And the big dirty secret that I wish someone had told me years ago: it’s fine to say “I don’t know.”


#19

Maybe not if you’re being asked to enter a plea in a court case tbf, but most other times.


#20

Or being asked your name. That’s a no-no.