How To Give a Public Speech and Still Appear Confident

Confident Public SpeakingPublic speaking . . . it’s the number one fear of most adults. That fear is even greater if you happen to be shy.

Yet, most small business owners will be required to make a public presentation at some point in their career.

Whether it’s a proposal presented to clients, or a talk before a professional organization, the ability to speak well in public can bolster your freelancer business in ways that nothing else can.

Quickly, some of the benefits you can get from making a public presentation include:

  • Broadening your potential client base
  • Establishing yourself as an expert
  • Be seen as more human and more “approachable”
  • Giving customers the chance to ask questions
  • Getting additional publicity for your freelance business

But, this blog post isn’t about the benefits of making a public presentation. Rather, this blog post is written to help you get comfortable doing something that, in all likelihood, you’d rather not do.

Although most of us would rather not give a public speech, there are some techniques to help you feel more comfortable about it. Here are a few of them:

  1. Do your homework. There’s nothing worse than hearing a speaker who hasn’t done enough research into the topic that he or she is covering. Make sure that there is adequate time before your presentation for you to properly prepare.

  2. Organize. Your presentation should have a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion. Don’t try to present too much information all at once. Focus on the most important points that you would like to get across.

  3. Practice. Don’t go into a presentation without giving it a trial run. If you can, grab a family member and do several trial runs of your speech. If you can’t find anyone to listen to you practice, then practice in front of the mirror.

  4. Take notes. But, don’t read from them. You’ll want to have notes and an outline with you to refer to as you make your presentation, but remember that it’s also important to make eye contact with various members of your audience.

  5. Use visual aides. PowerPoint, handouts, and other visual aides can be the speaker’s best friend. They can help clarify your points and provide additional information. (They will also give the audience something to focus on besides you.)

  6. Anticipate questions. One of the benefits to giving a live presentation is the ability to clear up any misunderstandings about your topic. One way to do that is to allow questions. Be prepared with answers to questions that your listeners will most likely ask.

  7. Ask about the facility. Find out about facility limitations in advance. Will there be a microphone? Is there a projector available for your PowerPoint presentation? Know how many minutes you have to speak and plan your speech accordingly.

  8. Look the part. As a freelancer I work in jeans or sweats, but I would never show up dressed that way to make a presentation. Find out what the typical dress is for the group that you will be speaking to and dress accordingly.

  9. Your audience is human too. They really are. In most cases they won’t notice if you make a mistake. Or, if they do notice, they’ll probably forget it quickly. They wouldn’t have asked you to speak if they didn’t want to hear what you have to say.

  10. Breathe. Remember to take a breath between sentences. Don’t speak too rapidly. Make sure that your audience can hear you. If you’re not sure whether everyone can hear you, ask. Don’t be afraid to pause.

One thing that helped me to overcome my fear of public speaking was taking classes throughout high school and college. Based on my experience, I would definitely say it helps some people become more comfortable. If this interests you, I recommend looking for a smaller class or group where you can get good individual attention from the instructor.

Have you had to give a public presentation lately? How did it go? What did you do right? What would you do differently?

Article translated into french by CMIC


  1. Bob Saggett says

    I could not disagree more with point 5. Handouts should be left to the end of the presentation unless they are absolutely essential to understanding what you are talking about. Having PowerPoint open for people to read removes their concentration from you unless the PowerPoints are very carefully crafted and not riddled with bullet points. (See Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson for a good idea of what a well designed PowerPoint presentation may look like).

    The most important part of the presentation is the direct communication between you and your audience. Anything that distracts, rather than enhances, this communication flow is liable to break the concentration of your audience. Once this is broken, it is very difficult to get it back.

    Another point that is essential is to research the enivironment you will be presenting in. You need to ensure that it is fit for purpose, has everything you need and does not add distractions.

  2. says

    Well, I’m a Pastor. I currently speak three to five times per week before a couple hundred people. On the spiritual side, I pray. On the human side, I remind myself of a great truth that usually erases my nervousness… “these people need what I have to say.”

    That is, we remember that the information we are giving is helpful to our audience. This shifts the focus off of me and my nervousness, and causes me to focus on the audience and their needs.

  3. says

    Wow! Thanks for the comments.

    Bob, I appreciate your point. I too was taught to leave handouts until the end of a presentation. However, anyone giving a presentation should understand that without handouts the audience focus more on you. For a nervous and inexperienced presenter (who I primarily geared this piece to), having dozens of faces staring at you can be a real nightmare. Giving them a handout early can relieve some of that tension. Of course, if its important to have that direct contact (it isn’t always), then leave the handouts to the end.

    Great point about researching the environment. No sense in doing a PowerPoint presentation if there’s no way to present it.

    Brandon – “These people need what I’m going to say…” I like that. It even works in a business context as well as a spiritual one.

  4. says

    I do not have a probably with public speaking or shyness, but I am a poor presenter. I usually know what I want to say, just don’t know how to deliver it in front of an audience, however give me a pen and a pad then I can make magic happen. I really enjoyed the tips and think they will be useful for the next time I find myself in front of an audience. thx.

  5. says

    Awesome list, Laura.

    I’m still always nervous before hand, no matter what, but once I start talking I’m fine. It’s numbers one and ten that do it for me. When I have a solid understanding about what I’m presenting, I can kill it, as long as I remember not to speed-talk my way through it because I’m so excited — breathing is key. Slow and steady.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. says

    I do a lot of public speaking, and in fact today spoke to 2 separate groups of high school students on the topic. Two of the things I learned over the years that helped me:

    Self-confidence is key – I need to believe in myself, my voice, my words

    Authenticity – I needed to be me. The audience is human and so am I! I spent too long presenting as I thought I should, instead of as me. Once I made that distinction my presentations had more flow, I received positive feedback and I felt satisfied at the end. With this comes knowing the audience and whether or not they are the appropriate audience for you!

    Another resource that has helped me – Toastmasters.

  7. says

    What a great discussion! I really, really like all of the personal stories and additional tips that are coming out in the comments.

    Keep it up!

    Obviously, this post touches a topic that a lot of people have to deal with.

  8. says

    Good article and glad that discussion evolved. I haven’t got big experience, so I really will learn from these points! :)

    Stacey thanks for sharing Your experience as teacher! :)

  9. says

    As Jerry Seinfeld once said : “A survey shows that the number one fear of people is public speaking. Number two is death. This means that at a funeral more people would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy”. It may not be true but it’s probably pretty close.

    Some excellent tips here on giving that speech and appearing confident. I would echo the comments of your first commenter about Cliff Atkinson’s “Beyond Bullet Points” approach to Powerpoint which I have found very useful in the past.

    I would also say (as an actor and presenter) that having nerves before having to stand in front of people is quite normal and, in fact, can make the whole experience better. It heightens the senses and raises the level of performance. Embrace those nerves. But own them and don’t let them own you!

  10. says

    Nice Article !!

    I myself faced respective situation in the beginning but after referring few books and few useful articles i get over with. Now I’ve no fear for Public Speech. I want to make one more useful point that you also can watch or refer videos of good speakers like companies CEO, Directors on their product launch. For an example videos of Steve Jobs from Apple Macintosh on their new product launch. It really help to learn from others.

    It’s just my personal opinion as it worked good for me.

  11. says

    I find that the most important preparation one can do for public presentations if you’re the nervous type, is to learn body language analysis and teach yourself proper gesturing. Body language is 70% of interpersonal communication, and by “hacking” it you can completely disguise your nervousness. The right hand movements at the right moments will distract people from your own insecurities and help get the point of your material across. The thing about this that makes it probably the #1 technique in this field is that with practice you’ll be able to improvise a presentation as long as you feel relatively confident in the base material and have some clues as to how the presentation is supposed to be done.

    Personally I’ve had to improvise presentations on topics ranging from saboteurs during WW2 to several product presentations and project progress reports, all while being nervous enough about it that I’m still not sure how I managed to stay upright. They all went well, and according to comments I’ve received afterwards no one ever knew I was unprepared or even nervous about it.

  12. says

    Great words of wisdom. I just gave a speech today and it went well (not as well as a Jobs’ Keynote though) The main reason it went well is because I spoke with 1 reason in mind…to give the listener something to walk away with. I want the listener: change, inform, stop, start, or improve their lives. Don’t forget to give the listener something (knowledge, not physical). They should walk away a bit smarter after the speech. Never underestimate #8 & #9. Look good (not like slob) and don’t freak out if you slip up when you make a mistake. They probably won’t notice. Keep in mind, practice, practice, practice…even if you look in the mirror while saying your speech.


  13. says

    its a little bit hard to stand infront of a huge crowd… but if you really need to do it, do it with confidence.. just think good about yourself, and you’ll find out that you’ll gonna rock the house down..!!

  14. sharon lane says

    Hi,I have my first speaking enegagment tomorrow at 3:00pm at Thomas Jefferson High School.Please pray that i can reach at lease one of those young girl’s.I do have a Story to tell and how the Lord has brought me out of a deep dark world.My dream is to save many young woman from going down the wrong Path in Life and that they can do all thing ‘s if they just belive and know that what ever it may be that they are going throught It will Pass.

  15. Malcom says

    Hi, just if someone is interested. I’ve just got this amazing iphone application called iSpeech Cards, which is basically an app to create iphone “index” cards for your speeches, lectures, reminders’ etc. You can say goodbye to cardboard and become more ecologically-oriented. It’s worth a try. If you want it, here’s the link guys!

  16. says

    I think Visual Aids are important! It’s not what you use, it’s how you use them. All visual aids should be used to ‘support’ your message, not control it!

  17. Abdullahi Rogo says

    I am really impressed with this dicussion and I’m sure it will help me improve my nerve when presenting publicaly. Tnx

  18. ozemegwa jude says

    now, i feel like walking up to an audience and giving a presentation. My basic problems have been lack of confidence and being shy, but with these wonderful tips from laura i could make a change. Thanx laura.

  19. says


    i ‘ve read 10-15 books on public speaking…

    The common thing in those 15 books is that :

    ” whatever you are going to say in presentation..

    say it by standing in front of the mirror by watching your eyes ”

    Benefit will be it helps your mind not to go blank..and you

    would be more likely to present in a spectecular way…

  20. says


    Grabbing the attention of the audience is very necessary..

    ..i am damn sure…whoever visit this blog read my comments for sure…

    REASON..i’ve started my comment with AMAZING PHRASES like

    MOST IMPORTANT THING, GOLDEN RULE…that will grab audience


    THE POINT is that start your PRESENTATION with PHRASES will

    grab Audience attention

    FOR EXAMPLE : when i was giving presentation on US NAVY SEALS ..



    then start with very gud afternoon i, your name n all that…

  21. Manuel Sanchez says

    Hi there!
    the article gives really great insights! There are really just some very good advices you have to consider as a shy person. I especially love the last part. It’s what I really consider important. You have to remember that the audience is human and that breathing is very important. That helps your ‘curing’-process a lot! I address my issues about my difficulties to talk in public to professional online coaches and I talk about it while getting some really helpful advices (for who might be interested: They stress again and again not to avoid opportunities to present in front of an audience just to prevent certain uncomfortable circumstances, but rather seek every possibility of any interaction to practice and get use to it.
    Good luck to ya all!
    Manuel S.

  22. manaf says

    the ability to speak in public it depends upon the fear, if its a new one
    obviously let me know some instructions to clear the fear rather than the above mentioned points

  23. says

    i think public speaking without being afraid or shy has to do with the environmental influence of such individual. Many people pass through the problems of inferiority complex while trying to deliver a public speech but i still think the best way to battle this is to learn from other people and also read motivational books that will strengthen one on how to deliver a public speech though.. see here f or related topics on public speech

  24. Fatima malik says

    these are very helpful tips to give effective presentation in front of huge audience. thank you so much.

  25. says

    i felt so better finding a part of my problem solved through the articles i was able to go through on tuis noble site today.

    my exact problem is that the connection between my brain and my fingers is fast and through dan that connecting my brain and my tongue.

    am very good and fast in writing and reasoning speaking is a bit problem

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