Public Speaking for Career Girls

Posted September 4, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Building Your Brand

BONUS MATERIAL, CAREER GIRLS! We shared this article with Connect: Professional Women’s Group Powered by Citi over on LinkedIn and over 30 women commented with their best public speaking tips for women. Read the article below, then click here to access the LinkedIn conversation with even more tips and tricks to command a room.

Public speaking is widely accepted as the most common phobia, especially in business settings. Standing up and realizing “it’s all you” is nerve wracking for many individuals, women included. Some cope by hiding and refusing to speak publicly. Others attend toastmasters or another support group to overcome their fears. No matter the coping mechanism, if you’re afraid of public speaking, you absolutely must work to conquer this fear. Anyone who wants to rise to the top of their field or career must become more at ease in front of groups.

So hey there, Career Girls. If you’re afraid of public speaking, we’re giving you the tips to feel confident and ready when it comes to speaking in public.

  • Practice, Practice, Practice. It’s true what they say – practice makes perfect. When you’re preparing to speak in public, you should practice beforehand. And don’t just practice in front of your mirror. If you can, ask someone to listen to you practicing and perhaps to give you constructive feedback.
  • Use a prop. One of the biggest problems in public speaking is not knowing what to do with your hands. Even for seasoned speakers, having a set of notecards or a clipboard can make the nerves that often come out in your hands go away.
  • Stick to bullets rather than word for word written statements. The best public speakers sound like themselves, not some scripted robots. So keep your written speech to bullet points, and then elaborate on them in your own words. Practice this technique and you’ll find that you’re speaking more conversationally and with less rigidity, making your nerves calm.
  • Talk to specific people. One of the hardest things about public speaking is feeling like you have to talk to everyone in the room at all times. Don’t. Instead, pick out a few people throughout the crowd, and imagine you’re having a conversation or explaining something just to those people. Move your eye contact from one to the next naturally and know that these people are your audience. Focusing on conveying your points just to a few people can make speaking in front of a crowd much less nerve wracking.
  • Go ahead, move around. Standing behind a podium can produce more anxiety, not less. So go ahead, move around if you are able. Don’t pace back and forth, but allow yourself to take a few steps to the side and come out from behind a podium. It makes you seem more approachable and natural.
  • Speak. A lot. This is why toastmasters is so popular. The best cure for a fear of public speaking is…unfortunately…public speaking. Offer to present your ideas at a staff meeting, speak at your volunteer group or church, and you’ll soon find that the more you speak in public, the less nervous you’ll be.

Speaking your way to the top? It might just be possible. Your “executive presence” will come out in a speech and you never know who it might affect – and what might come out of it to get you ahead.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."