Public Speaking Hacks: From Heart-Pounding Terror to Owning the Stage

The 9 Commandments of Public Speaking

Posted by: Nicky Verd Comments: 0
Public Speaking Hacks

Ah, public speaking. The very thought of it can send shivers down your spine and turn your knees into jelly. It’s a fear that plagues millions and it can be paralyzing.

Yes, the fear of public speaking is as common as forgetting your grocery bags in the car (again!). So, don’t resign yourself to a life of whispering brilliant ideas only to your pet goldfish and family members.

Most people are not aware of this but studies have shown that the fear of public speaking ranks higher than death! 

That’s right, it sounds crazy but most people would rather shuffle off this mortal coil than deliver a presentation about the history of staplers (fascinating topic, by the way).

But fear not, fellow trembler! The truth is that most of us experience at least some anxiety when it comes to speaking in front of a crowd.

Psychologists believe the fear of public speaking boils down to two main anxieties — fear of being judged and fear of failure.

We imagine the audience members as a panel of Simon Cowells, ready to buzz us off the stage at the first hint of um-ing or ah-ing.

And let’s face it, public speaking can feel like a high-wire act without a net. But here’s the secret: most audiences are there to see you succeed not fail.

People are not bloodthirsty tigers waiting to pounce on your every mispronounced word.

Public speaking isn’t about perfection but about connection. With a little preparation and a dash of unconventional thinking, you can turn those pre-speech jitters into your greatest asset. Words that Wow!

In fact, being good at public speaking can be a powerful tool. It can launch your career and improve your social skills significantly.

So, how do we conquer this fear and morph from a quivering puddle to a public speaking powerhouse?

Well, I won’t lie, it takes work. But with the right approach, you can transform your fear of fainting mid-sentence to owning the stage.

As a Keynote Speaker who understands the heart-pounding terror of public speaking, here are 9 commandments of public speaking to unlock the power of your voice, engage the audience and command the room:

1. Rewrite Your Story

Our inner critic loves to tell a story of potential disaster. We tell ourselves stories about what could go wrong. Things like… “I’ll forget everything!” “They’ll all hate it!”

Instead, craft a new story. Imagine yourself captivating the audience, their faces lit with interest.

Hold these positive thoughts and visualise them vividly. This rewires your brain for success not disaster.

2. Befriend Your Pre-speech Butterflies.

As a keynote speaker, I know this too well. We all have that pre-speech flutter. Instead of fearing it, I call it my “excitement engine.”

It’s the same nervous energy a cheetah feels before a chase — it fuels your focus and delivery.

So, before a speech, I do jumping jacks, literally jumping up and down while saying, “Thank you, excitement engine!” I know it sounds silly but it acknowledges the nerves and redirects them into positive energy.

3. Embrace the Spotlight

Most people dread being the center of attention. But what if the spotlight wasn’t scary, but a magical circle that empowers you?

Before a speech, take a deep breath, step into an imaginary spotlight and project confidence. This “power pose” will flood you with a sense of control, authority and charisma.

4. The Audience is Your Co-Pilot

We often forget the audience is there to hear something valuable. Instead of seeing them as judges, see them as co-pilots on a journey of discovery.

Before you speak, picture yourself having a conversation with a friendly face in the audience, calming your nerves and fostering authority, human connection and emotion.

5. Embrace the Imperfect Pause

We fear silence during a speech instead of using it strategically. Before diving into a particularly important point, take a deep and deliberate breath, letting a beat of silence hang in the air.

As a technology keynote speaker, I use pauses strategically to build suspense or allow ideas to sink in.

It creates emotion, anticipation, authority and emphasizes what I’m about to say, and (bonus!) gives me a moment to recollect myself if needed.

6. Vocal Variety and Playfulness

Vocal variety adds depth and richness to your delivery, capturing the audience’s attention and enhancing your credibility as a speaker.

When practising your talk, play with your voice really high and really low. Read your talk like a children’s book and make it sound silly.

Once you’ve practised this, your voice will naturally be more playful and engaging.

Through practice, I’ve learned to leverage vocal variety and playfulness to engage my audience and convey authority in my speeches.

7. There is only one You (Embrace the Imperfect)

Speak from your heart and the authenticity will naturally shine right through all of what you say. Authority doesn’t have to be an iron-clad fist of boring narrations.

Being a great speaker means speaking from a place of truth — your truth not someone else’s truth. Your audience will feel and know your intentions right away.

Embrace the Imperfect. Striving for perfection is a recipe for anxiety. Record yourself practising and celebrate the “happy accidents” — an unexpected turn of phrase, a genuine laugh.

Perfection is boring; authenticity is magic.

Remind yourself that even a stumble can be endearing and relatable.

8. Pay attention to your body language

Stand tall, make eye contact and use expansive gestures to command the stage. Emotions are generated by you the speaker.

What matters most is not how you feel when you speak but how you make your audience feel. A quick way to achieve this is ask yourself:

“What’s my objective?” With this question comes your plan of action in how you want to make your audience feel.

Do you want to persuade, encourage, inspire, challenge?

Just make sure you always stay away from “Inform” — a short cut to boring talks.

Plant your feet to start. The more you move unintentionally the more you look nervous and less commanding.

Avoid distracting mannerisms or movements that undermine your authority, such as fidgeting or slouching.

Pay attention to your body language to convey confidence and authority. Your body language should align with your message and reinforce your credibility as a speaker.

Practising confident body language has helped me exude authority and connect with my audience effectively.

9. Seek Feedback

Seek feedback from peers, mentors, or trusted advisors to refine your speaking style and emotional delivery.

Ask for honest critiques of your tone, expression and body language, and incorporate constructive feedback into your practice sessions.

Actively soliciting feedback has been instrumental in honing my ability to speak with emotion and authority in my presentations.

Continuous feedback helps me identify areas for improvement and refine my emotional delivery.

Research shows we don’t become experts in anything without analysing. Athletes watch films and scientists evaluate research findings

Musicians listen to their recordings. It’s how they reach the top of their chosen field. Speaking is no different.

Recording, filming and asking for feedback from experts or trusted voices is the only way to become excellent!

Practising without feedback will only get you 50% success.

Now go out there and shine!

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