There’s an old saying “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” But if you’re like most people, you probably need to amend that statement to “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself...and public speaking.”
Public speaking is one of the most common fears in the world, affecting more than 25 percent of people; for some reason, the thought of getting up and presenting in front of a crowd gives a lot of people serious anxiety.
If you’re one of those people, not to worry! There are ways you can get more comfortable with public speaking—and breeze through your next speech without the sweaty palms.
Here are 20 public speaking tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking, make your presentation the best it can be, and knock your next public speaking engagement out of the park:
One of the biggest fears people have about public speaking is, of course, that they’ll completely blow it. Luckily, there’s a simple solution for that—and that’s practice.
Practicing your presentation is a must for a number of reasons. Not only will more practice allow you to feel more confident (which can help in your delivery), but it will also help you identify any potential problems with your presentation (like areas where you trip over your words or there’s so much information it feels overwhelming) before you give it in front of other people.
Ideally, you should practice until you can speak through the entire presentation, beginning to end, with confidence in a) what you’re presenting, and b) how you’re presenting it. If you’re still stumbling through parts of your presentation, tripping over words, or doubting your delivery, there’s still practice to be done.
Practicing your presentation is a must if you want to knock it out of the park—and so is nailing the design. Get started with one of Canva’s presentation templates, like the Turquoise Photo Advertising Pitch Deck Presentation or the Black and Yellow Plain Marketing Pitch Deck.
Speak as often as you can
As mentioned, you should practice every presentation before you present it. But if you want to get more comfortable with public speaking, you need to get as much practice as possible—and that means jumping on as many opportunities to speak as you can.
If you’re afraid of public speaking, you might be tempted to turn down opportunities to present to a group. But don’t! The more often you get up in front of a crowd and present, the more comfortable you’ll get with the process—and, in turn, the better speaker you’ll become (which will make you even more comfortable!).
The more you speak, you more people you’ll meet. And if you want to connect with those people (and potentially get new speaking opportunities as a result)? You need business cards. Get started with one of Canva’s business card templates, like the Monochrome Leaves Creative Writer Business Card or the Pastel Modern Web Designer Business Card.
Find your authentic voice
The best speakers are the ones who connect with their audience. And the way to forge that connection? Authenticity.
If you get onstage and try to be someone you’re not, it’s going to seem inauthentic to your audience—and they’re not going to connect with what you’re saying. When you stay true to who you are, your audience is going to sense and connect with that authenticity—and anything and everything you say will automatically be more impactful.
Adapt your tone to the message
As mentioned, being authentic when you speak is important. But you also want to make sure the way you speak matches what you’re speaking about.
When you’re speaking in public, make sure your delivery style matches your content.
For example, if you’re speaking at your annual sales meeting and want to motivate your team, you’d want to use a loud, enthusiastic, motivational delivery style. But that same style wouldn’t be appropriate if you were giving a presentation on, say, world hunger.
The point is, what you’re giving a presentation on should, in large part, drive the way you present—so make sure your style matches your content.
Your style needs to match your content. That’s true for your delivery—and it’s true for your design. Find the perfect style for your presentation with one of Canva’s presentation templates, like the Green and Red Photo Pitch Deck Presentation or the Brown Pitch Deck Presentation.
Talk slower than you think is necessary
You might think you speak slowly. But when you’re speaking in front of a crowd (and those nerves kick in!), it’s much easier for your speech to speed up.
Whenever you’re public speaking, talk slower than you think is necessary. Chances are, your version of “too slow” is your audience’s version of “just slow enough to understand.”
Be conscious of your body language
Public speaking is about more than what you say. Your body language speaks volumes—so make sure that your body is sending the right message.
Stand up straight. Use your hands to gesture and emphasize your point. Keep your stance open. Move around on the stage or in front of the room if it feels comfortable. Make sure your body language projects the confidence you want to come across in your presentation.
Engage in eye contact with your audience
It’s also important to make eye contact with your audience. Eye contact helps to forge that connection with the people who are listening—and will immediately make them more engaged in what they’re saying.
When you’re between looking at your slides, scan the room and make eye contact with various people. Just a beat is fine; you don’t want to hold it too long and make it feel like you’re staring!
Remember, what you say is important—but so is how you say it
What you say during your presentation is important—but so is how you say it.
Your tone, inflection, and the way you project your voice will go a long way in making your presentation more successful, engaging, and impactful. Make sure to practice how you deliver your presentation—and infuse it with confidence—before you present.
Be confident in your topic
No one wants to get in front of a crowd and give a presentation when they don’t know what they’re talking about.
The more knowledgeable you are about your topic, the more confident you’ll be speaking about it—and the better your presentation will go as a result.
If you want to succeed in public speaking, you need to be confident in your topic—and the way you present it. Making a visual impact with your content is a great way to connect with your audience. And infographics? They’re a great way to make a visual impact. Get started with one of Canva’s infographic templates, like the Red Gray Steps to Bicycle Safety Infographic or the Chicago City Guide Infographic.
Get comfortable with your tech before you speak…
It doesn’t matter how comfortable you are with your speaking abilities—if you’re not comfortable with the tech you’re going to be using during your presentation, it’s a recipe for disaster.
The day of your presentation should not be the first day you try out a new presentation pointer or projection system. Make sure that when you practice, you’re practicing with the actual technology you’re going to be using during your presentation.
...and then make sure to test your tech immediately prior to your speech
In addition to practicing and getting comfortable with your technology before your presentation, you should also make sure to test all of your tech the day of your presentation. That way, if anything is being buggy or not working, you have time to address and fix is before it’s time to speak.
Even if you test your technology before presentation, things can still go wrong—which is why you should plan to have printouts of your slides as back-up. Design print-ready slides with one of Canva’s presentation templates, like the Pink and Violet Gradient Modern Creative Presentation or the Blue and White Simple Pitch Deck Presentation.
Use design to enhance—not distract
Design is an essential part of excelling at public speaking. Well-designed slides can enhance your presentation, helping to strengthen your points and make a bigger impact on your audience.
But the wrong design can have the opposite effect, distracting your audience from you, your speaking, and the content you’re trying to convey.
When you’re designing your slides, design them in a way that enhances what you’re speaking on. For example, listing 20 bullet points about your topic on a single slide is distracting; your audience is going to be trying to read each bullet point instead of paying attention to what you’re saying. Instead, use imagery, charts, or data points that back up what you’re saying—so they enhance your audience’s understanding of the content (instead of distracting their attention).
Infographics are a great way to enhance your presentation—without distracting from the content. Enhance your next presentation with one of Canva’s infographic templates, like the Blue and Orange Twitter Business Social Media Infographic or the Colorful Icon Business Infographic.
Watch yourself speak—and adjust accordingly
You might think your facial expressions, body language, and delivery are on point—but until you see yourself speaking, you have no way of knowing.
Watching yourself deliver your presentation (whether by recording yourself and watching the playback or practicing in front of a mirror) is a great way to get insights into how you look, move, and speak—and gives you the opportunity to adjust anything that doesn’t feel quite right before you give your presentation to a room full of people.
Do a run-through with distractions
In a perfect world, you would give every presentation to a silent, completely attentive audience. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so chances are, there’s going to be some distractions—like ringing phones, whispering audience members, or people coming in and out of the room—during your presentation.
You can’t avoid these distractions—but you can anticipate and prepare for them. Do a run-through of your presentation with distractions. Set the alarm on your phone to go off halfway through your speech or ask a colleague to walk in and out of the room a few times. Practicing your presentation with the distractions you’re likely to face on the actual day will help you get comfortable speaking through those distractions—which will make you feel more prepared to deal with them.
Take a minute to center yourself before you speak
In order to deliver the best presentation you can, you need to walk into it feeling calm, cool, and collected. And that means taking a minute to get there before you start speaking.
Before you walk into your speaking engagement, take a minute to yourself. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and center yourself. Set your intention for your speech and how you want things to go. Visualize yourself knocking it out of the park—then open your eyes, get out there, and bring that vision to life.
Don’t run (or, in this case, talk) too long
One of the fastest ways to ruin a perfectly good presentation? Not knowing when to stop.
If you’re allotted a certain amount of time for your presentation, whether that’s 10 minutes or an hour, make sure you stick to it. Going too long is a surefire way to lose your audience’s attention (or to get cut off before you’re finished and, as a result, deliver an incomplete presentation).
Don’t forget to breathe!
A lot of people are so nervous about public speaking, they want to rush through their talk as quickly as possible. And sometimes, they’re talking so fast, they forget to breathe!
Don’t be that person. If you find yourself feeling nervous or speeding up during your presentation, pause and take a breath before you keep going. This will help keep you centered and focused (and keep you from passing out!).
When in doubt, keep it simple
A lot of people get into trouble with public speaking because they overcomplicate things. They try to fit in too much information, too many slides, too much data...just too much overall.
When in doubt, keep it simple. When you streamline your message, it becomes clearer and more impactful to your audience—and it becomes easier for you to deliver. It’s a win-win!
When it comes to public speaking, sometimes simple is best. Craft a simple (but visually impactful!) presentation with one of Canva’s presentation templates, like the Black and White Architecture Presentation or the Blue and Red Hustle Loft Coworking Presentation.
Ask for feedback
No matter how comfortable you get with public speaking, there will always be room for improvement—which is why asking for feedback is so important.
Getting direct feedback from your audience will help you identify areas where you can adjust your style and make your presentations more impactful. It will also give you insights into what’s working, where you shine, and what your audience is connecting with—which can help increase your confidence for your next presentation.
Like anything else, there’s a learning curve with public speaking. Issues are going to come up, you’re going to make mistakes, and there are going to presentations you walk away from wishing you would’ve performed better.
And that’s ok! No one is perfect, and learning a new skill—especially one that scares people as much as public speaking—is hard. Cut yourself a little slack and practice self-compassion. The kinder you are to yourself, the easier it will be to get back up and try again—and the faster you’ll become an expert-level public speaker as a result.
Get out there and speak your way to success
Mastering public speaking is definitely a process. But now that you have these public speaking tips, you have everything you need to get out there and speak your way to success. So what are you waiting for? Go knock that presentation out of the park!