9 public speaking tips

How to face your fears and master the art of the speech

Would you be surprised to learn that public speaking is one of the most common fears in America? Not if you’re one of the 25% of people who have this fear. You’re not alone – many people feel nervous speaking in front of a crowd. Even business legend Warren Buffett and undeniable leader Mahatma Gandhi had stage fright – and both learned how to be excellent public speakers.

They both knew that there’s only one way to overcome your fear: to face it head on.

Even if thinking about public speaking gives you a rush of adrenaline instead of a shot of anxiety, these public speaking tips will refine your skills and bolster your confidence.

What is public speaking?

The simple public speaking definition is to convey information to an audience. The audience doesn’t have to be large – everything from giving a client presentation to a room of five to giving a TED talk to a room of 100 counts as public speaking. But there are some specific characteristics of public speaking that differentiate it from a more general conversation.

To meet the definition of public speaking, a presentation must be purposeful – meant to inform, influence or entertain a group. Public speaking has a goal in mind and requires preparation and research. The source of the message is usually an expert, and the audience is always invested in the topic. It takes practice to master, but it’s an essential life skill.

The importance of public speaking

Public speaking is often thought of in terms of business, like giving a presentation, participating in a Q&A or hosting a training session. Great public speakers are rewarded with workplace influence, trust and beneficial relationships. It’s one element of corporate communication and is vital to career advancement and outstanding leadership.

These skills serve well in other areas of life, of course: making a toast at a wedding, participating in an open mic night or presenting – or receiving – an award are all examples of public speaking.

As you incorporate public speaking tips into your life and work on strengthening this vital skill, you’ll see other benefits, too. The research required to write a speech or make a presentation, plus the need to take in questions and respond in a persuasive way, will sharpen your critical thinking skills.

Practicing constant and never-ending improvement through personal development gets you into a growth mindset you can take into other areas of your life. One study even found public speaking increases confidence – and that’s something you can take with you anywhere.

Public speaking tips

When it comes down to it, public speaking is all about being able to communicate effectively with your audience. Here are Tony’s public speaking tips on how to master the art and get any group of people, no matter how small or large, on your side.

“What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.” – Tony Robbins

1. Face your fears

Ask yourself this: What’s your biggest fear when it comes to public speaking? Determining your fears will help you decide which public speaking tips you need to work on the most. For most people, it’s the fear of embarrassing themselves in front of a crowd or finding out they really have nothing to say or no way to connect with others. These are limiting beliefs based on a combination of factors including past results, your environment and lack of knowledge.

When you get too hung up on these fears, you become incapable of delivering an incredible presentation. Instead of thinking of what could go wrong, start thinking about all the things that can go right. What would it be like if you could not fail? Step into that mindset and how to speak in public will suddenly become much easier. As Todd Herman recommends, create an “alter ego” that you feel possesses the skills you fear you lack. When you step in front of a crowd, channel that persona who is confident, knowledgeable and truly cannot fail. Not only will this help you learn how to improve public speaking, but it can also increase your confidence in many other areas of life.

public speaking tips

2. Master your physical state

man with public speaking skills

Public speaking must include mastery of both mental and physical aspects. Think of a powerful presentation you’ve seen in the past. You might remember what the speaker talked about, but you definitely remember how they carried themselves. Excellent public speakers not only know their topic inside and out, but also take pride in their physical state. Those who are skilled in making instant connections with others know the power of nonverbal communication. When you show self-confidence and energy through standing up straight, making direct eye contact and breathing regularly, you show your audience they can have confidence in what you say. Remember, how to speak in public is not just about the speaking – it’s also about the way in which you deliver the words.

3. Visualize your outcome

There’s a reason why you’re presenting in front of a crowd. Are you selling something? Are you trying to get a group of investors to back your new company? Before you get up to make your presentation, take some time to think about your ideal outcome. This will help you develop SMART goals for your presentation. SMART goals are those that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and have a time frame. Without them, you will not truly know how your speech went and if it was a success.

You want those in the crowd to be engaged with your message, and eventually want them to follow through with a specific action. Before you begin your presentation, visualize this outcome. What would it look like if your speech went incredibly well? Imagine not only your desired result, but also how you look presenting your speech. This visualization exercise will help affirm your purpose and give you a boost of confidence and is one of the public speaking skills Tony uses before he steps on stage.

how to speak in public

4. Know your audience

how to improve public speaking to an audience

“The more you understand what somebody wants, needs and fears, the more you can figure out how to add value,” says Tony. Those who know how to speak in public understand that it’s not just about them. Just as great leaders know it’s about their buyers and not about themselves, effective speakers always put their audience first. Your audience is there for a reason. When you tap into that reason, your speech will be powerful and memorable.

The best public speaking also builds rapport with the audience. This means inquiring about their lives, sharing personal anecdotes and connecting nonverbally via eye contact and mirroring techniques. Just because you’re the one on stage doesn’t mean you can’t bring your audience into the conversation through asking questions, soliciting feedback and asking others to share stories. Public speaking can and should involve drawing your audience in and making them a large part of your presentation.

5. Practice makes perfect

Start with detailed research – even on a topic you’re an expert in. Look at your presentation from every angle and anticipate what questions your audience might ask. Show it to someone who is even more of an expert than you are and ask for advice on how to make it better. You cannot be too prepared for public speaking.

It’s time to practice – and then practice some more. Tried-and-true public speaking tips include practicing in front of a mirror, delivering your speech to a friend and even recording yourself to look for areas of improvement. Take it from Mark Twain, who famously said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

how to improve public speaking

6. Learn relaxation techniques

None of these public speaking tips will be effective unless you are calm and relaxed before your presentation. The next time you have to speak in public and feel yourself getting nervous, take a moment to relax. Do some deep breathing and employ one of Tony’s tips on reconnecting with yourself. Ask yourself some meaningful questions or sing a relaxing or empowering song in your head.

Once you’re relaxed, reaffirm that you are prepared and know how to speak in public. If you know your material and can present yourself in a confident manner, there’s no reason for you to worry. The people you’re presenting to are there because they want to hear what you have to say, so don’t hesitate when it’s time to share your message.  

relaxation as a public speaking tip

7. Get some exercise

exercise as a public speaking tip

Exercise relieves stress and helps you sleep at night, among other benefits. You’ll need to be stress-free and well-rested in order to give a great presentation or speech. Plus, creating good habits like regular exercise is key to living a balanced and positive lifestyle – and that positivity easily turns into confidence in front of a crowd.  

Exercising right before public speaking also has positive benefits. You don’t have to work up a sweat. A brisk walk, a few squats or some curb jumps will get your blood pumping and send extra oxygen to your brain. You’ll feel relaxed but alert – the perfect state for public speaking.

8. Don’t overthink it

Public speaking may be our number-one fear, but anxiety is Americans’ number-one mental health issue. Are you an overthinker? You’re not alone. One estimate is that 1 in 5 people suffer from anxiety. But there are strategies you can use to let go of these patterns and stop overthinking. When you’re able to be fully present in the moment, your public speaking will reach new heights.

thinking as a public speaking tip

“Where focus goes, energy flows,” as Tony says. “Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.”

9. Find your personal style

having a unique style as a public speaking tip

Just as there are many types of leaders, there are all different types of effective public speakers. Part of the reason why Tony has been so successful is because of his distinct public speaking style. Though Tony is well versed in how to speak in public, he also puts his own individual touch on his appearances, ensuring that he will stand out and be remembered. Tony consistently provides high-energy presentations and is known for getting audiences to be simultaneously introspective while connecting with the people around them.

You don’t have to mirror Tony’s style, but you do have to find an energetic and appealing way to connect with your audience. What are some of your greatest personality traits? How can you channel these characteristics into a moving, thought-provoking presentation? One of the best public speaking tips – and a surefire way to steal the show – is to bring your unique brand of authenticity to the stage.

Overcome your fear of public speaking by tackling your limiting beliefs

Overcome your fear of speaking to large audiences by learning how to conquer your limiting beliefs. Combat the thoughts holding you back by creating empowering ones with the help of Tony Robbins’ free digital Limiting Beliefs guide.