A Beginner’s Guide to Public Speaking


public_speakingI just finished giving a presentation at our state’s annual music educator convention, followed by very short speaking engagements in a few other places.  I have spoken to large groups of people for many years, and each time I speak it gets easier.

I wasn’t always this comfortable speaking in public; in fact, I used to get horribly nervous.  After all, the fear of public speaking is said to be the second most popular fear, probably after the fear of death.  But I believe that any determined person can learn the art of public speaking.

I hope this post will show beginners how to venture into public speaking.

How to Prepare for Public Speaking

Preparation is key to feel comfortable speaking in public.  Here are some things you can do:

Read and Study Other Speakers

I constantly watch other speakers and learn from them; both live and on YouTube. You can also google “free online speaking courses” and some cool stuff will come up.  The more you stare at who you want to become, the better chance you have at success.

Know Your Subject Matter Inside Out

If you are speaking in public, most likely you are in the position to help people.  A few days ago I helped teachers learn how to teach the trombone to kids.  Although I will never “arrive” as a master teacher, I know my stuff.  I also spoke to groups of people about giving money to certain causes that I find important.  I needed to able to answer any questions about the organizations asking for money (and there were many).

The only way for people to take you serious when you speak is to know your subject inside out, so study it like mad. If you’ve chosen to talk about finances, read just about any book and blog you can find on the subject. Become an “expert” and people will take you seriously.

Practice Performing

As a beginning public speaker, visualization can really help you. Visualization is a really powerful concept if done right. Just sit still and begin playing images of you speaking before thousands of people. Visualize yourself being applauded, visualize yourself speaking confidently and powerfully. Build these mental images and over time, you’ll realize you can speak any where, before anybody, without fear or stage fright.

Practice Using Visual Aids

Nothing is worse than watching someone speak awkwardly with a PowerPoint presentation. Learn how to use a flip chart, PowerPoint presentation, projectors, etc. Learn to use a microphone and index card.

Practice Your Speech Before Delivery

Run your presentation to friends and family; record yourself, both audio and visual; talk to yourself in the shower or the car.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Engage Your Audience

No matter how large the crowd, maintaining eye contact, speaking energetically, speaking passionately and speaking from the heart is key. I try to use humor when possible (although I have bombed a bunch with jokes as well).  When you see someone nodding their head while you speak, look at them and recognize them with a smile!

I still get butterflies before speaking in public. However, you can turn the butterflies from fear into healthy anxiousness.  Prepare yourself to the max, do some breathing exercises before you speak, and understand that every speech gets easier and easier over time.  Good luck!





  1. I enjoy speaking to groups. I think the largest engagement I ever did was to about 150 people in Spain on a technical topic. I am fluent in Spanish but English is my first language and that was probably the “sweatiest’ talk I ever did. If I had to pick out two things that you should never forget they would be; personalize your talk, relate stories to the points you are making and “Engage your Audience”. I like to make a few seconds of eye contact and then go on to somebody else, left to right, right to left. Don’t pick a single set of eyes and stare at them the entire time!
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  2. Hi Tony,

    I like to think that I’m fairly good at public speaking. However, it seems the hardest part for me is maintaining eye contact with different individuals instead of focusing on the same exact “sectors” of my audience. I seem to have a preference of certain sides and focus in on individuals while ignoring others. Any advice on how to even out the balance on eye contact?
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    • Vincent, I always say that being mindful of yourself is the first step. You are there! Maybe a couple of notes to yourself so that while you are talking you remember.

  3. I love doing this – and I do a lot of it (including I teach at all university levels). Usually, I joke that I love it so much because I am a frustrated actress. But seriously, I remember when I knew I have 13 and a half minutes and practiced, and cut words till every word counted – bang on 13 minutes. Glorious feeling….
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  4. I used to be terrified with speaking in public too. True, preparation is the key. I practice at home speaking to imaginary crowd and I also watched other speakers just to learn some techniques. And yes, visual aids and videos do help a lot.
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  5. Great post, Tony. I love public speaking as well, and would totally agree about knowing your subject matter. When you are passionate about a subject and know it well, speaking about it can be fun!
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  6. I’ve only ever done one huge lecture at an optometry conference. I am a terrible public speaker, but it was a requirement for my residency. I got over my fear by taking your tip of knowing my material inside and out. I could have done that lecture standing on my head. I know I can do it if I have to. It didn’t make me love speaking any better, though. I was recently asked to speak at another conference about insurance billing, and I declined. I guess I’m a chicken, but I really hate doing it.
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    • I am sure that when it comes to optometry you can talk up a storm. Doing it in public just takes some practice, so keep it up!

  7. I read somewhere that fear of speaking in public is the number one fear among people and though it was the same for me a few years back, I no longer worry about giving a speech or speaking in public. In fact I love it now a days. Practising is the key I guess.
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