Public speaking & presenting

Top tips to take out the fear factor!!



Jerry Seinfeld has a skit where he points out that studies show that public speaking is a bigger fear than death. The context of his statement claims that you are better off in a casket than doing the eulogy.


Even the most polished and practised speakers get nervous and so do I. Preparing for my role as key note speaker for an upcoming conference I was asked what I do to calm my nerves to confidentially walk on stage. Whether I am presenting at the conference or to the Executive Team of one of my clients, mediating an unfair dismissal case in court or training a team of warehouse staff, these following drills are the same, and they work for me every time.


I do my homework and know my audience, where possible. Each of my examples above require a different approach and require a different language. For example, the level at which I pitch to an Executive Team is very different than to warehouse staff, as it is all about demonstrating something of value to them.

Be well prepared – in my early days of presenting, when my knowledge wasn’t as great, I was lucky enough to be able to “wing it”. 20 plus years working in the HR industry has given me the background and knowledge to be able to legitimately “wing it” but I have learnt through experience that I am far less nervous if I am well prepared – I know my key messages, and how I am going to deliver them. Have an understanding of what you want your audience to get out of the experience.

Becoming a competent rather than just a confident speaker requires some skill and practise – so practise. Harvard Brain Researcher Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor rehearsed her Ted Talk presentation 200 times before she delivered it live. Practice relentlessly and internalize your content so that you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend. Your approach will be more relaxed and genuine. Practise projecting your voice, using a microphone, and timing your speech. Practise in front of the mirror, in front of friends and colleagues. And if you need to, get some help –there are some great public speaking and presentation skills courses that can assist in polishing your delivery so you nail it every time.


Engage your audience – find a way to connect with them – whether it be through telling a story, humour or visuals, captivate their attention with something they don’t expect, you will win them over every time.


Back yourself – you are there because YOU are the subject matter expert – you have something people want to hear, or learn. You are in front of them and in the position you are for a reason. Give your audience something to take away.

And finally – if you are not feeling confident, well prepared and on top of your game and your stomach is doing somersaults – ‘fake it til you make it’. Pretend you are, your audience will never know.


And if all else fails, picture your audience naked and grab the rescue remedy.

Nicky Mackie regularly hosts and presents at conferences, conducts training for all levels from management to staff, is a mentor and business coach. For more information on Nicky Mackie and People Assets visit the website.

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