Tips to Hack Your Way to Public Speaking Success

BY Jessica Helinski
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There are a lot of common worries when it comes to public speaking: What if I stumble over words? People will judge my appearance. How do I handle a question that I can’t answer?

In a recent article, A List Apart shared an excerpt from Lara Hogan’s book, Demystifying Public Speaking. In it, she discusses the fear of public speaking, and how this fear can be overwhelming for many. But, despite the potential pitfalls, giving a speech can provide the speaker with numerous benefits. “…professional benefits are huge [networking, experience, etc.] — but in my experience, the personal benefits are even more substantial,” she explains. “Giving a talk grows so many skill sets: crafting a succinct way to share information, reading an audience, and eloquently handling an adrenaline-​heavy moment.”

Because she understands both the difficulties and rewards of public speaking, Hogan seeks to help others overcome their jitters, and the excerpt introduces her tips and techniques. First, allow yourself to feel nervous. Speaking in front of others IS stressful, and it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious. Re-​frame your thinking and accept that your nerves actually reveal that you care about what you’re going to say and how you will say it.

Then, she stresses the importance of understanding oneself. She shares questions to ask yourself to learn more about your fear:

  • What makes you most excited when you think about public speaking? What do you want to get out of it?
  • What makes you most nervous when you think about public speaking?
  • What scenarios do you want to avoid?
  • What size audience do you think you might be most comfortable speaking to? Why?
  • Whose feedback matters most to you on your talk or presentation style?
  • What would you want people to take away from your talk?
  • What do you want to happen for you or your career after your talk? (Examples: someone offers you your dream project, someone you admire asks for your advice, people shower you with praise, you get right back to work, etc.)

Take some time to go over these questions to dig a bit deeper into your fear. Then, check out the entire excerpt to learn how your individual answers can help you overcome that fear and steer you to successful (and comfortable!) public speaking.