The art of public speaking


public-speaking 1

Did you know that public speaking is one of the most common fears? It is actually the number 2 fear after the fear of death.  The fear of speaking in public even has a name Glossophobia.

This can present a problem when you realize that at one point or another we all have to speak in public. Considering most professionals have to make presentations and speak to interested clients or stakeholder it is important to know how to speak in public.

A couple of weeks ago Regina Re gave a presentation on Public Speaking at our Rotary Club of Muthaiga meeting. I will try to summarize the points and then add a few of my own points at the end.

Why do people perform badly in public speaking?

  • Because we lack strategy for public speaking
  • Nerves
  • Because we are asked to speak off the cuff (impromptu)


 Public speaking tips

  • Mic technique
  • Use of rule of 3
  • Impromptu speaking – use of improvisation

 Microphone technique

A mic is there to amply your sound. It can only do that if it is near your mouth. Keep it near your mouth and play with the sound.  The important thing is to amply your sound so play around with the mic, angle it, and move it around.

Monitor yourself with the speaker or monitor (if there is one).  Train yourself to hear over sound of your voice. 

It is important to practice beforehand to get a feel of the room and also to dispel fear.

A mic can be used as a tool to contain nervous energy. 

You need to channel your nervous energy and there are many ways of doing this. You can hold a pen or stand behind a podium.  A podium is a barrier to the audience and it is a psychological tool.

This is not what I meant!
This is not what I meant!

Improvisation speaking/Rule of three

Sometimes you may be asked to speak at a moment’s notice.  You may not know where to start.  It is important to remember the rule of 3.  Have a beginning, middle and end.  Think of something in 3’s as in tic tack toe.

You can use a scenario of using the past, current and the future.

It is important to let the audience know what you are going to talk about.  It keeps you in track.

If you are going to speak and you have been given ample notice it is important to practice your speech and time it.

Organize the speech so that the most important things come first. Put your most important 3 or 4 points first so that if the speech has to be shortened you still cover the most important things. This also means if you are given more time you will be able to cover all the points you wanted to cover.

Part of the reason people get nervous is because they are not prepared.

It is important to be organized to know what you will talk about.

Other tips

Know your audience.  Research on your audience so that you speak appropriately.  You can also have jokes that would lighten the mood and get the audience to relax.

public speaking 5

Create eye contact with the audience.

70% of a speech is non verbal.  You need to be able to connect with your audience.  Come early and interact with audience. This is a great way to break the ice and also make the audience more receptive to your message.

If you have been asked to speak to an audience you don’t know ask your contact who you will be speaking to.  Equip yourself with the info.  Know the demographics of the audience and then put in something that resonates with everybody.


If you have only a few minutes don’t go on and on about a point.  Still to short bullet points that you can expound on in one or two minutes.

Personalize the speech.  Put a story that connects with the audience.

Many people have crutches when they speak.  They will mumble or say eer, em. Those are negative crutches. It is important to be aware of your crutches. 

Film yourself or record yourself when practicing your public speech.  It will help you know where you have issues.

Look at yourself in the mirror and practice.  Look at your facial expressions. Learn to smile as you talk.

Practice infront of somebody and ask them for positive criticism.

Dealing with hecklers.  Respectfully request audience to stop.  If they don’t stop speaking you can stop speaking.  Be comfortable with the silence.  This will get the attention of audience. You need to take control.  Look at a heckler and maintain eye control.  The heckler is looking for attention.

 Additional tips.

“A speaker should approach his preparation not by what he wants to say, but by what he wants to learn.” ― Todd Stocker

A good speech is always shorter than your audience’s attention span.

Let your passion shine through. There was a reason you were chosen to speak. If all you do is look at the paper and read you will have lost an opportunity to connect with your audience. If you speak with passion and maintain eye contact your audience will buy into your speech and cheer you on.


This post has some other great tips for improving your public speaking 7 tips to improve your public speaking

Practice makes perfect. So practice these 3 things and you will be ready to go. Work on your microphone technique; train yourself to impromptu speak by knowing the rule of 3 which is have a beginning (introduction), middle (body/climax) and end (conclusion.)


“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest” ― Winston Churchill

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Potentash Founder. A creative writer and editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories. Find me at [email protected]