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The Rife Team

‘Say it loud…’, or how to be good at public speaking (Jobs)


Public speaking is a necessary part of life, according to Sami Ullah. And with these handy tips from the man, it won’t be a scary part of life.

I stood, tripped on my untied laces

Nothing can more terrifying than speaking in front of a crowd of menacing, stern, intimidating-looking strangers (apart from cockroaches…god, I hate those things). I remember the first time I had to properly speak in public. Let me set the scene (cue weird, airy music with onscreen ripple effect)… The sun was shining down on Bristol. Birds were singing. A group of year sevens were making their way to a primary school, to give a talk about what secondary school life is like. One-by-one, we got up, said our bit, and sat back down again. After a few minutes, it was my go. Here, I’d like to say that I triumphantly stood, said my bit, and the crowd went wild. However, I stood, tripped on my untied laces, and, after regaining my composure, said someone else’s bit, which completely ruined the whole plan. Despite this, the day went successfully. Apart from the ridicule that followed because of my fall. All in all, it was a NICE TRIP (see what I did there?)

Public speaking is a necessary skill of life. You need it for school, work, and just generally around life.

Public speaking is a necessary skill of life. You need it for school, work, and just generally around life. As someone who loves public speaking, has done talent shows, award ceremonies, and GCSEs, I’ve got a few tips, tricks and some advice for anyone who is nervous in public, or just wants to get better at it (I’m also very modest).

Now, if you ask anyone for tips on public speaking, chances are they’ll say “imagine the audience naked”. Now the premise of this idea is pretty good; it’s the idea that the audience has been degraded (by the speaker imagining them naked), which induces a feeling of superiority in the speaker, and will help control nerves as they begin to believe that they own the audience, which is what you need to do (own the audience, not degrade them!). However, I think that the phrase has been over-used, and is now just something people say half-heartedly when they can think of nothing else. So if anyone tells you to “imagine the audience naked”, instead, politely thank them, then imagine you punching them in the face.

Being nervous is normal. It can even be beneficial.

Being nervous is normal. It can even be beneficial. The main problem people have is how to control their nerves. Once you’ve mastered a coping mechanism that works for you, you’ll be one step closer to stepping out and doing whatever speech or presentation you need to do. This coping mechanism could be anything, from deep breaths to doing 20 star jumps. I find that not talking to anyone five minutes before I’m due on, and just emptying my mind is a good way for me to focus. It keeps my mind on the task at hand, and cancels out distractions. Some examples that I’ve heard help for other people include: meditation, listening to music, pacing, deep breathing and just looking at yourself in a bathroom mirror and smiling at yourself. They all work for certain people, and for others, maybe they won’t. But everyone has their own way of dealing with things; it’s simply about finding out what works and what doesn’t.

Knowing what you’re going to be talking about helps too (surprise surprise). A month before your speech, read over what you’re going to talk about. A fortnight before, try and present to a small group to get feedback. The night before, read over, and get a good night’s sleep. Keep reading. Keep researching. Keep practicing. When it comes to the actual day, try not to read it straight off a piece of paper, word for word. Maybe have a sheet with cue words on it, small notes that can ensure you know what exactly you are going to say next, or perhaps some cue cards, with one or two word on them (or if you’re really good at remembering stuff, just memorise it!)

The main thing to do when public speaking is to be yourself.

The main thing to do when public speaking is to be yourself. Don’t change your personality because you’re afraid. Don’t try too hard – I can think of times when I’ve tried to be funny, and the audience were having none of it. They just stared at me. Complete silence, with the occasional coo of a baby, after I’ve told my best joke. It’s a downer, but when things like that happen, you have to be good at picking yourself up, and working with it. The audience want you to succeed, but they don’t want to see/listen to a strained, forced presentation. They don’t care about the way you speak, your accent, or any nuances you have. Like you, they want to have fun, they want the night (or day) to be worth it. Public speaking is just one of those things. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll realize just how much it helps, in school, work, interviews and more. As I said before, it’s necessary in some areas, such as exams, but you’ll realise the full benefits once you’ve used it in many different contexts. At an interview, for example, if you have good public speaking skills, while you’re not required to do some big speech, you’re much more likely to be able to think of coherent answers for the tough things interviewers will ask.

If you want more info or advice, go to my website (if you’re reading this on another website) and leave a comment on this post. If you have any questions, specifically for me and my experiences, leave an email address.

Happy Speaking.

Done any public speaking? Got any other tips? Let us know @rifemag