Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

10 proven ways to nail public speaking


Public speaking ranks as one of the nations biggest phobias, according to a YouGov survey released earlier this year.

Here are 10 ways to help you embrace the critical glare of an anticipant audience:


According to psychology professor Thomas Plante from Santa Clara University, people can overcome anxiety over public speaking by thinking of a confident public speaker they admire - then pretending to be an actor playing that person.

It may seem like quite a complicated exercise in self-deception, but he says that by channelling your inner actor, your behaviour will follow your forced actions.

"Research, as well as best clinical practices, has demonstrated that if you can behave in a particular way (e.g., confident, comfortable) then your feelings will follow your behaviour," he wrote in Psychology Today. "For example, force a smile or laugh and you’ll likely feel a little better. Force a frown and you’ll likely feel a little worse. In a nutshell, if you can act like a comfortable and confident speaker (even if you don’t feel that way) you’ll find that you’ll start to feel comfortable and confident over time."


Winston Churchill was one of the greatest orators of the 20th century, but public speaking didn't come naturally to the late prime minister.

His stammer and lisp caused him much anxiety and were traits he feared would hold him back in politics.

To get round this he created what is described by leading Churchill commentator David Cannadine in his book In Churchill's Shadow, as a "personal style".

He chose "unusual words and phrases so as to avoid the treacherous rhythm of everyday speech" and studied the speeches of a range of great orators, mixing their most distinctive traits with his own delivery.


Instead of panicking before your big speech, book a meeting room, close the blinds and tell everyone you're on a 'important call'. Then tap into some much-needed inner peace with a spot of quiet meditation for half an hour. A study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore found it helps people to alleviate anxiety and depression.

“A lot of people use meditation, but it’s not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything,” said the university's Madhav Goyal. “But in our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants.”


Standing up to face people in a presentation situation makes most people restless and nervous but scientific evidence cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that aromatherapy with lavender can slow down the nervous system and reduce anxiety.

Not only that, but it's also been found to lift and stabilise mood and enhance concentration.

Rather than simply inhaling a whiff of lavender oil before stepping onto the podium, book a massage. [Studies suggest that getting a rubdown with the oil is particularly effective in combating nerves.


Don't even think about missing out on sleep to practice your speech - researchers have found that people's voice "flattens" after being awake for too long.

Research from the University of Melbourne found that the more tired we are, the less control we have over our speech muscles - slowing our voices down and and diminishing the gravity of tone.

"Individual voice patterns diminish the more tired you become, so you lose your voice personality, you become a bit flatter," acoustician Dr Adam Vogel told the Sydney Morning Herald.


You could do worse than take advice from Barack Obama.

Handily, the President's debate trainers offered some ultra professional tips in their book last year Double Down. Public Speaking Truth summarises and analyses the advice here.


You've got to do a speech - yay! That may not be your natural reaction to public speaking, but according to a study by the American Psychological Association, people who tell themselves to get excited before a speech, rather than trying to relax, can improve their performance.

“Anxiety is incredibly pervasive. People have a very strong intuition that trying to calm down is the best way to cope with their anxiety, but that can be very difficult and ineffective,” said study author Dr Alison Wood Brooks, of Harvard Business School. “When people feel anxious and try to calm down, they are thinking about all the things that could go badly. When they are excited, they are thinking about how things could go well.”


Stage fright isn't a bad thing - in fact it can be used to your advantage before a big speech, according to psychologists from the University of Rochester.

"The problem is that we think all stress is bad, " lead author Jeremy Jamieson, explained. "We see headlines about 'Killer Stress' and talk about being 'stressed out.'" Before speaking in public, people often interpret stress sensations, like butterflies in the stomach, as a warning that something bad is about to happen.

"But those feelings just mean that our body is preparing to address a demanding situation. The body is marshaling resources, pumping more blood to our major muscle groups and delivering more oxygen to our brains."

In other words, some fear is natural and helps us perform better under the glare of an audience.


In an age of bluetooth headsets, muttering to yourself as you wander down the street is perfectly acceptable - and according to experts "Self-talk" can have a positive, motivational effect.

"We all do it, whether we're aware of it or not," Dr. Elizabeth Bernstein told the Wall Street Journal. "Athletes do it all the time and we can learn from them. They talk themselves through the task."

She advises keeping it short, precise and consistent and - this sounds a little odd - says we should address ourselves by our first name, rather than "I", to add "distance".


Amanda Seyfried admitted in 2012 that she indulged in a small alcoholic sharpener before appearing on a talk-show to get her through her stage fright.

"I understand that I have a problem, maybe," she joked. "But you know what? It really gets me through."

Obviously we're not advocating using alcohol as a crutch before your next big speech though - especially if it's a work presentation.



The 10 routine changes that are proven to make you happier


The 10 routine changes that are proven to help you de-stress


10 things that are scientifically proven to make you unhappy


Stephen Sutton's incredible speech


Top 10 motivational speeches

Wedding speeches.jpg

Bad wedding speeches



At last - Britain's first gravy bar is coming

Finally, a proper way to enjoy chips

by Anna Pollitt
27 Mar 2017

“When are you going to get hitched?” How to tackle intrusive questions

Useful responses for the most annoying of questions

27 Mar 2017

Oh, happy day: a live Sister Act show is coming to London

Featuring a 35-piece gospel choir and full band

by Moya Crockett
27 Mar 2017

Westworld creators answer one of the big questions about Maeve

And star Thandie Newton addresses the show’s violence toward women

by Amy Swales
27 Mar 2017

Women link hands on Westminster Bridge to honour victims

Many wore blue as a symbol of hope and peace

by Anna Pollitt
27 Mar 2017

New report: endometriosis symptoms often “dismissed” by doctors

42% of women said they were “not treated with dignity and respect” by doctors

by Amy Swales
27 Mar 2017

Airline defends decision to ban girls from flight for wearing leggings

The incident was “sexist and sexualised young girls”, according to an observer.

by Moya Crockett
27 Mar 2017

Deliveroo is giving away free ice cream to make your Monday better

That's your lunch break sorted.

by Hayley Spencer
27 Mar 2017

Muslim witness of Westminster attack responds to Islamophobic trolls

A picture of the woman walking on Westminster Bridge has been shared widely

by Nicola Colyer
24 Mar 2017

Bright, beautiful and bold Easter cake inspiration

Stylish bake ideas to nick and claim as your own

by Amy Swales
24 Mar 2017