Speak with Confidence. If you follow the guidelines to successful speaking, you will be able to deliver a meaningful presentation that clearly informs your audience about a topic that matters to them.
© Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Corbis

What you have learned in this chapter about writing also applies to public speakingboth are processes that you can learn and master, and each results in a product. Since the fear of public speaking is a common one (it is more common, in fact, than the fear of death), you might be thinking along these lines: What if I plan, organize, prepare, and practice my speech, but my mind goes completely blank, I drop my note cards, or I say something totally embarrassing? Remember that people in your audience have been in your position and will understand your anxiety. Your audience wants you to succeed. Just be positive, rely on your wit, and keep speaking. Just as there is a process for writing a paper, there is a process for developing a good speech. The guidelines in Table 9.1 can help you improve your speaking skills greatly and lose your fear of speaking publicly.

Step 1: Clarify Your Objective Begin by identifying the goals of your presentation: What do you want your listeners to know, believe, or do when you are finished?
Step 2: Understand Your Audience

In order to understand the people you’ll be talking to, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are my listeners?

  • What do they already know about my topic?

  • What do they want or need to know?

  • What are their attitudes toward me, my ideas, and my topic?

Step 3: Organize Your Presentation Build your presentation by selecting and arranging blocks of information to help your listeners connect the ideas they already have to the new knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs you are presenting. You can actually write an outline for your speech.
Step 4: Choose Appropriate Visual Aids Use software programs, such as Prezi or PowerPoint, to prepare your presentations. When creating PowerPoint slides or using Prezi templates, you can insert images and videos to support your ideas while making your presentations animated, engaging, and interactive. You might also choose to prepare a chart, write on the board, or distribute handouts.
  • Make visuals easy to follow.

  • Use font colors to make your slides visually attractive.

  • Explain each visual clearly.

  • Give your listeners enough time to process visuals.

  • Proofread carefully.

  • Maintain eye contact with your listeners while you discuss the visuals. Don’t turn around and address the screen.

Remember that a fancy slideshow can’t make up for lack of careful research or sound ideas.

Step 5: Prepare Your Notes

Memorize the introduction and conclusion of your speech, and then use a carefully prepared outline to guide you in between.

Practice in advance. Because you are speaking mainly from an outline, your choice of words will be slightly different each time you give your presentation, with the result that you will sound prepared but natural.

Try using note cards; number them in case you accidentally drop the stack on your way to the front of the room.

Step 6: Practice Your Delivery

Practice your delivery before an audience: a friend, your dog, even the mirror. If you ask a practice audience (friends or family) to give you feedback, you’ll have some idea of what changes you might want to make.

Practice your presentation aloud several times to control your anxiety.

Consider making an audio or video recording of yourself on your cell phone or mobile device to hear or see your mistakes.

Use eye contact and smile.

Step 7: Pay Attention to Word Choice and Pronunciation

As you reread your presentation, make sure that you have used the correct words to express your ideas.

Get help ahead of time with words you aren’t sure how to pronounce.

Try your best to avoid like, um, uh, you know, and other fillers.

Step 8: Dress Appropriately Dress appropriately. Leave the baseball cap, the T-shirt, and the tennis shoes at home. Don’t overdress, but do look professional.
Step 9: Request Feedback from Someone in Your Audience

After you have completed your speech, ask a friend or your instructor to give you some honest feedback.

Pay attention to suggestions for ways you can improve.

Table 9.1: Table 9.1 > Guidelines for Successful Speaking




Do you enjoy public speaking? Are you an anxious or a confident speaker? What do you usually do to become more comfortable when speaking in front of a group? Make a list of these strategies and be prepared to discuss them with your classmates.