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How to Speak Confidently in Public (Like a Pro)

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This post is part of a series called Fundamentals of Public Speaking (101) Introduction Guide.
What Are the Life-Changing Benefits of Public Speaking?
How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

It's normal to be afraid of public speaking. In one study conducted among business school students, three out of four admitted to being afraid of public speaking. So, if speaking in public makes you nervous, you're not alone.

Knowing how to speak with confidence in public is an important skill. Whether you're a business professional who needs to give a presentation, a student in school, or someone who's been asked to give a talk for a social occasion--you want your speech to go well. But if you've never given a speech before you may be worried about how to talk to an audience.

How to speak in public
You can learn how to speak with confidence in public. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

With the right preparation, you can learn how to speak in public with confidence. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to deliver a speech with confidence. We'll provide steps that will help you prepare for and give your speech confidently. Plus, we'll share some additional resources that will show you how to stay confident when speaking.

1. How to Pick the Right Speech Topic for You

Not every topic is right for everybody. If you're asked to speak about something that you've got no knowledge of or no experience with, you'll have a harder time speaking confidently.  If given a choice, choose to speak on a topic you know well and/or are passionate about.

But don't worry, even if you've been asked to speak on a topic that's less than ideal for you the tips in this tutorial can still teach you how to speak with confidence in public.

In addition, the type of speech you choose affects how confident you are. There are several types of speeches:

  • Informative speech. The purpose of an informative speech is to make your audience aware of new information. An example would be a speech that instructs the listener on how to do something.
  • Persuasive speech. A persuasive speech attempts to motivate the listener to perform an action or make a purchase. An example would be a sales presentation.
  • Speech given for entertainment. Speeches are often given to entertain the audience. For example, you may be asked to give a toast celebrating the accomplishments of a colleague who has been promoted.

Of course, some speeches serve more than one purpose. So, you could have a speech that's meant to be somewhat entertaining, but that's also intended to persuade the audience.

Some people are uncomfortable with certain types of speeches. For example, many people struggle with persuasive speeches because they're uncomfortable selling. Others have trouble with speeches that are meant to be humorous.

Whatever type of speech you've been asked to give, you'll do better (and be more confident) if you're adequately prepared--starting with the research and writing step.

2. How to Create a Well-Researched, Well-Written Speech

Once you've chosen a speech topic that fits your need, you're ready to create a speech you can be confident to give. Here are three steps to help you research and write your speech:

Step 1. Study Your Subject

To feel confident in your material, be sure to research your topic well. If you're not as familiar with the topic as you would like to be, you'll have to find out more information. Here are just some possible sources of information:

  • Internet. There's a wealth of information available online. Unfortunately, there's also some inaccurate data out there. Make sure that you know how to recognize credible information when you see it.
  • Libraries. Libraries are a great resource for printed materials and many have Internet access as well. An added bonus to using a library is that many libraries have a reference librarian who can guide you to the materials you need.
  • Your company records. If you're giving a speech for your company, be sure to ask for any records and other materials that are relevant to your topic.
  • Other people. In some instances, you'll need to interview other people to gather information. Before meeting with your sources, be sure to prepare by having a list of specific questions ready to ask them.

Once you've collected the information you need, it's time to organize it.

Step 2. Organize Your Information

Once you've gathered your data, it's time to start organizing it. Put it in order from the most important to the least important and eliminate any information that's not really related to your topic.

You may find it helpful to create an outline at this point. Your outline doesn't have to be complex. For example, your outline could like something like this:

  • Title. Make it catchy to get your audience's attention.
  • Introduction. This just needs to be a few sentences explaining what your speech is about.
  • A list of main ideas. For shorter speeches, three points may be enough.
  • Conclusion. This is a few sentences that explain what your speech is about.

Now, you're ready to start writing your speech. Follow your outline. Start with the introduction, add your main points, and then write your conclusion. Remember that your introduction needs to grab your audience's attention. Your conclusion should include a call to action--especially if you're giving a persuasive speech.

Also, if you'll be using slides to give your presentation, remember that slides are most effective if there's not a lot of text on them. So, write your material using short phrases.

For even more detailed information on how to write an effective presentation, you can grab our free ebook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations, which details the presentation-writing process from start to finish.

Presentation ebook download

Now that you've written your speech, you'll want to give some thought to how you'll present it.

Step 3. Copy Your Speech Into a Professional Presentation Tool

While there may be some instances when a professional presentation tool isn't available or appropriate, for most situations a presentation tool can help make your public speaking process easier. Many presentation tools, such as Google Slides or PowerPoint, even include tools like speaker notes and the ability to add audio or video that will help make your speech more interesting.

If you'll be using a presentation tool to give your speech, consider using a professional template to ensure that the appearance of your presentation makes a good impression on your audience.

How your presentation material looks is important. If your presentation design is unprofessional or sloppy, it may affect how your audience perceives your speech. Plus, you'll feel better and be more confident if you know that your presentation looks good.

You can find some great-looking presentation templates at Envato Elements or GraphicRiver. For a closer look at some top professional presentation templates, look at these articles:

Once you find a template you like, you're ready to download it and start using it to make the speech you've written more visually attractive. These tutorials can help you learn more about using templates to create your speech:

Also, don't forget to add images to your presentation to illustrate your points. Graphs, charts, and photographs are all effective ways to hold your audience's attention. Plus, a good image can actually help your listener understand your points better.

3. How to Improve Your Speaking Skills Through Practice

Now that you've researched your topic, written your speech, and incorporated it into a professional tool you're ready to give your speech--right? Wrong!

You won't really be able to speak confidently in public unless you're familiar with your material. One of the most important factors in how to speak with confidence is delivery. And the best way to deliver a speech with confidence is through practice.

So, practice giving your speech. The better you know your speech, the more confident you'll be. So, say your speech over and over.

Memorize your speech if you can, but if you can't remember that your presentation tool likely has speaker notes. If you won't be using a professional presentation tool, it's okay to create some note cards that you can glance it from time to time. But don't plan on reading your speech verbatim from a piece of paper.

As you practice, pay attention to factors such as:

  • How fast you talk. Inexperience speakers often speak too quickly, making it difficult for their listeners to understand. Practice speaking slowly (but not too slowly) and clearly.
  • Your breathing. Some speakers hold their breath if they get nervous. If you struggle with this problem, plan breathing breaks that seem natural. Experiment with this during your practice sessions.
  • Eliminate unneeded fillers. Get rid of unnecessary words such as um, uh, like, and similar phrases. While it's common to add these phrases into your speech as you talk, they make you look nervous and less confident. 
  • Your posture. Your posture is another factor that can affect whether you're perceived as being confident. Stand up straight, in a way that feels relaxed and natural for you.
  • Body language. It's okay to move a little as you speak. Make hand gestures if that's natural for you--just don't overdo it. However, be careful not to pace unnaturally or make too many uncontrolled gestures.

It's good to practice your speech several times in front of a mirror if you can. That way you can see any bad habits you might have.  If you can find a friend who will watch you practice, that's even better. They can alert to any bad speaking habits you might not be aware of. Another option is to make a video of one of your practice speeches so that you can see any mistakes you're making and correct them.

You'll find that the more you practice your speech, the better you'll get. You'll be more comfortable with it because you practiced--gaining confidence in public speaking.

4. How to Speak in Public Confidently

Now that you've learned how to speak with confidence through adequate preparation, it's time to actually give your speech.

There are some steps you can take on the day of your speech to help it go more smoothly.

On the day of your speech:

  • Imagine your speech is over and that it was a great success.
  • Dress professionally in an outfit that makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Arrive at the location where you're going to give your speech early.
  • Make sure your equipment is in good working order.

During your speech:

  • Remember, you've practiced. You've got this. You can do it.
  • Give your speech just the way you practiced it.
  • Engage the audience by asking them questions.
  • If your speech is particularly long, give the audience a break halfway through it.
  • Keep going, even if you make a mistake. Odds are your audience didn't even notice.

Our free ebook on making presentations, The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations, , has even more tips on how to be confident in speaking publicly.

5. Learn More About How to Speak in Public

If public speaking is something you do often or just something you're interested in learning more about, study one or more of the following tutorials to learn even more:

Make Great Presentations (Free PDF eBook Download)

We also have the perfect complement to this tutorial, which will walk you through the complete presentation process. Learn how to write your presentation, design it like a pro, and prepare it to present powerfully. 

 Free eBook PDF Download Make a Great Presentation

Download our new eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It's available for free with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter.

Conclusion

Although you may fear giving a speech, you can learn how to speak with confidence by following the advice above. Now that you you've learned how to talk confidently in public, you're ready to give a successful presentation. Good luck!

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