20 Public Speaking Tips to Help You Become a Better Speaker

Even those with social anxiety can become confident speakers.
Become a confident speaker with practice. Getty / Blend Images / Hill Street Studios

Public speaking tips can be helpful for those with social anxiety disorder (SAD). If you suffer from SAD and need to give a speech, it helps to be as prepared as possible. Here are 20 quick tips to help you on your way to becoming a better public speaker.

  1. Talk about what you know. If possible, choose a topic that you know and love. Your passion for the topic will be felt by the audience, and you will feel less anxious knowing that you have a lot of experience to draw from when questions are asked.
  1. Practice. Even great speakers practice their speeches beforehand. Practice out loud with a recording device or video camera and then watch yourself to see how you can improve. If you are feeling brave, practice in front of a friend or family member and ask for feedback.
  2. Visit the room. If you have access to the room where you will be speaking, take the time to visit in advance and get used to your surroundings. Make arrangements for any audio-visual equipment and practice standing where you will deliver your speech.
  3. Tell someone about your anxiety. If you are speaking in front of a high school or college class, meet with your teacher or professor ahead of time and describe your public speaking fears.
  4. Visualize confidence. Visualize yourself confidently delivering your speech. Imagine feeling free of anxiety and engaging the audience. Although this may seem like a stretch for you now, visualization is a powerful tool for changing the way that you feel. Elite athletes use this strategy to improve performance in competitions.
  1. Realize the audience is on your side. Think about a time when you have been an audience member and the speaker was noticeably nervous. Did you think less of that person? More likely, you felt sympathetic and wanted to make that person more comfortable by smiling or nodding. Remember—the audience wants you to succeed.
  1. Concentrate on your message. When you focus on the task at hand, anxiety is less likely to get out of control. Concentrate on the main message of your talk and make it your goal to deliver that message to your audience.
  2. Rack up experience. Join a public speaking group like Toastmasters so that you can practice giving speeches. Your confidence will grow with every public speaking experience.
  3. Observe other speakers. Take the time to watch other speakers who are good at what they do. Practice imitating their style and confidence.
  4. Organize your talk. Every speech should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Structure your talk so that the audience knows what to expect.
  5. Grab the audience's attention. Most audience members will pay attention for at least the first 20 seconds; grab their attention during those early moments. Start with an interesting fact or a story that relates to your topic.
  6. Have one main message. Focus on one central theme and your audience will learn more. Tie different parts of your talk to the main theme to support your overall message. Trying to cover too much ground can leave your audience overwhelmed.
  7. Tell stories. Stories catch the attention of the audience and deliver a message in a more meaningful way than facts and figures. Whenever possible, use a story to illustrate a point in your talk. (Read: 8 Ways to Be a Better Storyteller)
  1. Develop your own style. In addition to imitating good speakers, work on developing your own personal style as a public speaker. Integrate your own personality into your speaking style and you will feel more comfortable on stage. Telling personal stories that tie into your theme are a great way to let the audience get to know you.
  2. Avoid filler words. Words such as "basically", "well", and "um" don't add anything to your speech. Practice being silent when you feel the urge to use one of these words.
  3. Vary your tone, volume, and speed. Interesting speakers vary the pitch (high versus low), volume (loud versus soft), and speed (fast versus slow) of their words. Doing so keeps the audience interested and engaged in what you say.
  1. Make the audience laugh. Laughter is a great way to relax both you and the audience, and telling jokes can be a great ice breaker at the beginning of a speech. Practice the timing and delivery of your jokes beforehand and ask a friend for feedback. (Read: A List of Jokes About Social Anxiety)
  2. Find a friendly face. If you are feeling anxious, find a friendly face in the audience and imagine that you are speaking only to that person.
  3. Don't apologize. If you make a mistake, don't offer apologies. Chances are that the audience didn't notice anyway. Unless you need to correct a fact or figure, there is no point dwelling on errors that probably only you noticed.
  4. Smile. If all else fails, smile. Your audience will perceive you as a warm speaker and be more receptive to what you have to say.


Toastmasters International. 10 Tips for Public Speaking. Accessed March 23, 2011.

Intuitive Systems. Twenty Great Tips for Public Speaking. Accessed March 23, 2011.

Presentation Magazine. 14 Public Speaking Tips. Accessed March 23, 2011.