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44. Public Speaking Basics: 3 Steps to Above Average Public Speaking: 5. Basic questions to ponder:

Last week I recommended a few actions to help us get better in this area of public speaking.

The post ended by considering the following questions:

A. What are the challenges I face today in public speaking?

B. What have I done to address those challenges?

C. Did what I do address effectively what I faced as challenges?

Today, let's explore some of the challenges that we may face when attempting to be better in public speaking.

I will cover the basic four: fear, anxiety, procrastination and distractions.

Fear of Public Speaking

Many say this is one of the major fears in life for most people. One of the easiest ways to address this fear is to avoid public speaking altogether. But that's nearly impossible. Our roles in life generally require us to speak in public, and therefore avoidance is not the answer. I would like to suggest 2 points to note for this.

  1. Accept that you are going to be above average, so there is no need to be totally fearless.

  2. Practice, practice, practice. The more times you prepare yourself, the more it will be natural for you to do what you need to do.

Anxiety just before presenting

Many call this "butterflies in your stomach". There is a funny phrase I learnt while in Toastmasters: learn to get the butterflies to fly in formation. I have learnt over time to not suppress that anxiety, but make use of the associate adrenaline to give me the energy to present a clear and confident message

  1. Know your audience by moving around prior to your presentation. Be friendly and create small talk with the early comers. Find out a few names, what they do, what do they intend to get out of the talk would help you be more comfortable as you prepare to take the stage.

  2. Know your message and know your stuff inside out. This will give you the confidence you need when you take to the stage


There is a saying I heard somewhere which goes: If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Many people I know, including myself sometimes, wait until the last minute before preparing for a talk or presentation. While there are times when we need to speak in an adhoc manner (I'll share some tips on this in a later post), most of us have ample time to plan for speeches, presentations or meetings. We however, don't spend enough time planning as we often have certain excuses: busy, not enough time, other distractions, etc. One way to cure procrastination is to actually experience a time when we are unprepared. You will then feel disappointed and ashamed with yourself, such that you don't want to have to experience that again. Then you will strive to prepare. For those whom have not felt that before, I suggest you take the word of someone whom have been caught unprepared before. It is not worth the pain. Prepare early and prepare well. Then prepare all the time. Once you are used to the habit of being prepared, you will seldom procrastinate any more.


There are 2 types of distraction. The first keeps you away from your preparation work. I kind of covered that in the Procrastination item above. The second pulls you away from your main message when you are actually presenting and speaking. I have seen and heard many speakers whom have deviated from their point / message mid-presentation and allowed the distraction to lead the rest of the speech out of the topic entirely. While most presenters will not allow that to happen, it does happen to even the better speakers around.

Some reasons why speakers can get distracted:

  1. Speech not totally scripted: this allows speakers to adapt and create, and thus may tempt the speaker to deviate;

  2. The speaker is not focused on ensuring the main message is observed and presented, thus allowing the gist of the speech to go where it may;

  3. The speaker does not have a strong main point, and therefore is easily swayed by what comes to mind in the middle of the speech.

Some ways to overcome distractions that can veer a speaker off topic / off message:

  1. Script the speech and religiously stick to it;

  2. Script the message / main point, and ensure that no matter where the story goes, the main point gets delivered;

  3. I read someone who once wrote: "make the main thing the main thing". Well, ensure that there is a main thing.

Next week, we will have a short discussion on the best times and places to practice, as we can see above, practice is one of the main ways we not only minimise the challenges we may face, but also help to enhance the overall experience we have in being a public speaker.

Questions to consider for the week:

A. Currently, what are the occasions you find yourself speaking in public? (List them down)

B. Are the occassions often enough? Should we find more opportunities? If yes, how? If no, why not?

Let's catch up next week!

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