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by Nora Rubinoff

Being invited to speak about your business or a project you are involved with is exciting as well as an honor. However, the thought of getting up in front of a group can be a scary prospect.

Most people have some level of anxiety before public speaking, particularly in large groups. With a little organization and preparation, you can have a successful public speaking experience. Consider the following 12 points as you prepare for your next speaking or teaching engagement:


  1. Find "friends" in the room. Talk to people one on one prior to when you get up and speak. Smile, shake hands, exchange pleasantries. When you stand to speak, look around the room, allowing your eyes to rest briefly on those "friends."
  2. Smile as you speak.
  3. Don't race through your comments.
  4. Maintain a comfortable stance and have something in both your hands so you don't fidget, such as a piece of paper (don't rattle it while speaking though) or a pen held by both hands.
  5. Don't do "the baby rock." Do you ever notice when some people speak that they stand and gently rock left to right on their feet as though holding a baby? While it is an unconscious comforting motion, it is distracting to your audience.
  6. If you worry that you'll go blank when you stand to speak, prepare a brief outline. I print mine in a slightly larger type and double space it, then slide my thumb down the paper like a place marker as I make each point. If I need to refer to my outline, I will know right where to look for my notes and they'll be quickly readable without me lifting the paper close to my eyes. Remember though that you should be looking at your audience and only occasionally glancing at your notes if needed.
  7. Don't be afraid to pause for a moment to emphasize a point or to glance at your notes.
  8. Note others' style. For example, if you like the way someone else you hear speaking pauses to make a point, consider incorporating a similar technique as you speak. Observe those who are great speakers and emulate components of their speaking style that fit well for you.
  9. Practice what you'll say ahead of time. Rehearse in front of a mirror, a friend or a colleague. Get someone to video tape you and then watch the tape to critique yourself.
  10. While a little practice is good, remember not to attempt to memorize your material. This is almost always counterproductive.
  11. Wear something that makes you feel fabulous and professional, that's easy to wear, doesn't irritate you and is not distracting to your audience. For example, I have a black suit that looks great every time, doesn't wrinkle easily and fits well. I'm extremely comfortable in it. Not worrying about my clothes is one less thing to distract me when I stand up to speak. The same thing goes for hair and jewelry.
  12. Save your outline or notes! The next time you're asked to speak on your business, you may be able to use a "script" that you've prepared and rehearsed before.

While many people will never be completely comfortable speaking in front of large groups, these tips will help you as you prepare to speak. There are a number of excellent resources available for speakers, including Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org), and a great book entitled In The SpotLight: Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing, by Janet E. Esposito M.S.W.

Good luck and enjoy the opportunity to speak about your business.

Nora Rubinoff is a Virtual Assistant and a member of Elite Office Support. Her company, At Your Service Cincinnati, Ltd., provides virtual office assistance for small and medium-sized businesses as well as entrepreneurs and students.

© 2002 Nora Rubinoff, GVA

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