Category Archives for Public Speaking Tips

Using Music as a Background for your Speech

musicHere’s some interesting thoughts from Tom Antion on using music when you are talking in public. I agree with Tom, you must check on the regulations that cover playing music to an “audience”.

“Background music playing when participants enter a room is a great way to set the mood for a NO ZZZZZs meeting or event. It also makes you look like a more polished presenter. The proper selection of music gets people in the right mood and adds a touch of drama to the presentation.

You can also use music when the participants are leaving to give them a
pleasant atmosphere as they exit. Avoid turning music on or off suddenly. It should always fade in and fade out slowly.

When selecting music, generally you would pick upbeat music for upbeat presentations and slower music for more serious ones. This is very subjective, but not usually too critical unless you’re the type who would play loud rock music at a retirement home. If you have no clue how to pick music, get some expert help or buy music designed for presentations from a training supply company that has labels that tell you when to use it.
If you are on a tight budget and can’t arrange for professional sound equipment, don’t worry. In small rooms a decent boom box will suffice. If you are in a larger room, you can put the microphone that will be used for the
presentation in front of the speaker of the boom box. This will send the music through the room’s sound system.

Public Speaking: Background Music via Great Public Speaking by Tom Antion

Choosing the Right Clothes

When you are talking in public, its very public. Its not just what your
audience can hear that is on show – everything your audience can see is on
So we need to ensure that what you are wearing is both appropriate for the
occasion and is comfortable enough to give you some inner confidence. How
can we do that when you are already dreading getting up in front of this
clothesFirstly, your mind should be totally focused on what you are speaking about, not have a niggling worry that you should have worn something else.
Secondly, when you are thinking about the occasion at which you are making
your speech, think about the audience and what they will be wearing, decide
on what you will wear that is both appropriate and comfortable, make the
decision and then don’t think about it again. If you continue to worry
about what you are wearing or are uncomfortable in what you have chosen,
your discomfort will add to your nerves and then we’ll be back on the path
to a poor performance.
Thirdly, have a practice run. Wear the clothes you have chosen when you are practising your speech – it may be that they are not as comfortable for
this purpose as you thought. Be particularly careful of clothes that have
many pockets. It’s likely you are used to putting your hands in these
pockets without thinking about it and this action may detract from your
speech in a more formal setting.
We all still judge by appearance first, so don’t let that first impression
be one that you have to work extra hard to overcome when making your

What To Do With Your Hands

handsHow often do you think about your hands when you are talking in public? I mean when you are talking to friends or colleagues rather than when you are a making a speech. It’s not really high on my list, however when I’m making a speech it’s a different case altogether.
Just remember one thing – when you are talking in public the last place for your hands is in your pockets!

So what can you do with them?


  • One hand can be placed behind your back which means no-one in your audience can see if its shaking from nerves!
  • When you are speaking without notes you will appear relaxed if you lace your fingers together loosely when you have both arms in front of you.
  • When you are using notes, hold them in the hand that is natural to you at about waist height and hold your wrist with the other hand. It may feel a little uncomfortable at first but it looks relaxed from the audience viewpoint.
  • When you have the advantage of a rostrum to speak from, rest both hands lightly on it at the base or about 1 inch up from the base at each side. Don’t lean on the rostrum, quite apart from some being unstable it encourages bad posture which in turn will affect your breathing and presentation.

Of course, you may need to use your hands to emphasise points within your speech. Then you need to remember not to make these gestures too sudden (unless you want to startle your audience) and to use a variety of them for maximum impact.

Again I recommend you watch other speakers and take note of their hand movements. Also have someone watch you and give you some feedback on what looks natural with your hands when you are speaking.

Breathing for Better Public Speaking

I love the line in “Lord of the Rings” where Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas
have been running for some time and Gimli says to himself – “Breathe, just
keep breathing – that’s the key”. It’s a statement of the obvious but with
public speaking, as with running, there is a style of breathing that will
help your performance.


You need to take in more oxygen than you would do with your normal style of breathing. This will settle your nerves but also, and more importantly, it will provide you extra voice power, voice control and voice projection. The end result of these exercises is to be able to strengthen your muscles so that you can hold your windpipe’s column of air as it presses against your vocal chords in the same way as successful singers do.


The Exercise Routine
Standing upright, place your hands against your rib cage with the fingers just touching. Breathe in slowly and deeply so that your fingers are forced apart. Hold your breathe for as long as you can comfortably then breathe out slowly and evenly.
Try this about 20 times a day – whenever you need a break rather than all at
once. We want it to become second nature as a breathing method rather than an exercise regime. When you begin to notice an improvement in the time it takes you to breathe out, start counting the time it takes to breathe out.
You can start by counting to five and gradually extend the counting until
you get to 20 without feeling too much discomfort.
Now you have developed a breathing pattern to use when you are talking in
public. But be warned – there is a wrong way to breathe which will actually
make you more tense and therefore nervous!The wrong way is called shallow
breathing or “clavicular” breathing because your collarbones and shoulders
are raised as opposed to your chest being expanded. The resulting tension
in your neck and throat muscles will make you feel more anxious or nervous
– and that’s not what we want is it?
So get started on this easy way to improve your breathing style so that your voice will be powerful, projected and controlled.


Is Anyone Listening to your Speech?

audienceRecently I was asked to expand my thoughts on thinking about the audience when preparing your speech. Here’s a summary of what I do when I’m preparing my speeches.

Whether your audience is enthusiastic or hostile, one step in your preparation for talking in public must be to think about your audience, assess them and be prepared to be adaptable in your presentation.
Your audience is the reason you want to make a success of your speech so you must ensure that your style, your vocabulary and your message match the audience so they have the maximum opportunity to understand you.

What compels you to react to a public speaker and what is being said? For me (and for most humans) its the sincerity of the speaker. Sometimes I don’t agree with what is being said but when the speaker is genuine and sincere in presenting the information, I feel compelled to listen.

Knowledge of the subject of your speech is also vital but don’t let a wealth of knowledge make you speak down to your audience. I have yet to make a speech where there was no-one in the audience with some degree of knowledge of my subject matter!

So now to thinking about your audience. In a previous post I gave you some questions to ask yourself when you are preparing your speech, but now we are at the venue and you’ve had a quick peek at the actual audience – a sea of faces waiting expectantly for you…..

  • Are they friendly or hostile?
  • Knowledgeable, well primed, already bored or thinking of other things?
  • Having made a few assessments do you need to adapt what you have to say and how you are going to say it?

Your audience is a group of people – not people in special categories. Don’t talk down to them.

  • When you have a choice between a short word or longer words and phrases, use the short word simply because this will always be understood and will maintain the attention span of your audience;
  • Make sure they can hear you comfortably without you needing to shout;
  • When they are hostile, acknowledge that your points of view differ just as you would in any face to face negotiation;
  • If you feel they are not listening, try not saying anything for about 5 seconds – this can be enough time for them to refocus on you and gives you time to quickly reassess how you are presenting your speech so you can adapt it to keep their attention for a bit longer. 

If your audience feel you are interested in them by what you say and how you say it, then they will be interested in hearing what you have to say – even when they don’t agree with you!

Public Speaking – Nerves

nervous public speakingToday is the BIG topic for all public speakers regardless of experience – nerves.

Nerves – the very reason we don’t want to speak in public. How often have I heard “ I get too nervous”; “I feel sick at the thought of it”

Did you know that in any number of quotable surveys, speaking in public is more feared than death? I am here to assure you, you will survive it. Some will go on to actually look forward to opportunities and all of you will be able to do it with the right preparation and practice.

But – no matter how often you speak, how well you know the topic, how well you know the audience, how well you are prepared or how often you have practiced this particular presentation, you will get nervous.

My answer will look too simple. Well, it is simple – focus on the message not the delivery vehicle. And simple is always better.

It is the message that is important, not how you feel. You want the audience to remember what you said, not how nervous you were, even though they may have some sympathy for the way you are feeling.

Write down your symptoms and analyse each one for a workable solution.

If your hands shake, work out something you can hold that won’t accentuate the shaking or practice holding them together behind your back (or putting one in a pocket) You will need to ensure that your solution doesn’t change the style of your presentation.

Always have a written copy of what you are preparing to say, even when this is as short as a two minute introduction – nerves have a way of completely blanking your mind to the extent of not knowing what you do for a living!

Because nerves take many forms, my kindle book has some other suggestions and methods for you to consider when addressing your nerves.

However, both my personal and coaching experience have shown that focusing on the message and not how you feel will make the most difference to how you can control your nerves.

Developing Your Style for Public Speaking

practiceOne of the most important aspects to master so that you can be a confident speaker in public is developing your own style. Why?

Because without a style of your own, you will appear to be one of those “cardboard cutout” speakers, on automatic with no thought of the audience or the topic.

So let’s get started…..

There is no point in trying to present a speech using someone else’s style. Your audience will be uncomfortable because you will be uncomfortable. You will not be able to control your nervous reactions. You will not be able to adjust your speech to reactions from your audience.

In short, your presentation will be unsuccessful.

You need to develop a style that reflects the qualities in you that you want the audience to appreciate in the context of the presentation you are making.

Style is not just the words on the chosen topic, it is the combination of presentation content and delivery.

We unconsciously recognize this when we try to relate a joke or story told to us by another person. We tell the story and then say “I can’t tell it the way Joe does” or “You had to be there”.

What we are saying with these phrases is that we cannot deliver the material in our style and gain the same response , nor can we comfortably emulate the other person’s style to deliver it.

Now, how are you going to develop your style?

These days I will write out a presentation, then read it aloud and add a highlight mark at the points where I change an expression or word, then rewrite with the changes. Again I read it aloud to another person or record it for a further review.

For those I coach, I will write out the presentation as though I was presenting it and then give the person an opportunity to put it into their words and style before they do a practice run for me.

You need someone to help you recognize your style – you have found it when both of you are comfortable with the actual presentation of the material regardless of the content.

Favorite Public Speakers

favorite speakers

Today we are going to consider the benefits of using a favorite speaker as a role model.

Already you have thought about your audience and learning from other public speakers – both good and bad, as well as the importance of writing your speech, its preparation and practice.

Before you finish these summary posts you will also have had the opportunity to think about developing your style and recognising your nerves.

Voice is still the first characteristic to impress me when I listen to public speakers. It follows, therefore, that my favorite speakers are those with voices I enjoy hearing.

Do you know what your voice sounds like? The simplest way to find out is to leave a telephone message and then replay it.

There’s no point blaming the machine – that is what you sound like to others! Its a bit like passport and drivers licence photos……. I have yet to observe anyone hearing their recorded voice saying “I sound great!”

Perhaps your favorite speakers seem to always be at ease when they are talking in public. Take the time to observe and analyse why this might be.

It doesn’t matter what the characteristic is that you enjoy, learn from the style and analyse why it is you enjoy it or see it as effective. You may well have different favorites for different occasions.

These posts contains excerpts from my kindle book (and the audio version).available via the menu above.  If you have a specific question, you can drop me a line at

Learning about Public Speaking

microphoneToday we are going to look at Learning from Others…..
When you observe other speakers you learn about styles and methods.

At first, armed with all your newly acquired information about public speaking, you will find fault with every speaker in some way. It may be physical movements that are distracting, repetitive phrases or the words used within the talk itself.

Just for fun one evening, award your own “Best on the Night” prize for the person on television or radio who presents their information in a way that pleases you most (ignoring the topic). Then list your reasons. What we’re looking for are the characteristics that you can adopt with ease for your style of talking in public.

Another useful exercise is to observe the different way you already present information to different groups of people you know.

Do you relate a story about your weekend activities the same way to your friends, work associates and family? Probably not – you already unconsciously acknowledge they are a different audience from each other and adjust your presentation accordingly.

So you already understand the importance of knowing your audience and adjusting your presentation to suit it. Now you can observe how others treat their audiences and use elements of their styles.

Observe and record speakers you enjoy and those you don’t. Compare the characteristics of the presentations to see if there are any features you are comfortable using (or could be with practice).

Learning about public speaking shouldn’t end with you making a speech. It is a valuable skill to keep working on as you move through the business world.

Who Is Your Audience?

audienceThinking about that audience for your speech…..

Today we will have a quick look at the reasons for thinking about your audience when you are preparing to speak in public. At the same time you are thinking about the length of your talk, you will need to think about who will be listening.

I have never decided whether it is easier to talk to a group of strangers or a group of those you know. I do know I feel significantly more comfortable with a large group – the larger the better. I am much more nervous and feel more intimidated by a small group (less than twenty).

Regardless of the size of the audience, however, you need to answer three questions to get yourself started:
1. Why are THEY there?
2. Why are YOU there?
3. Why are YOU going to speak to THEM?

You must present your information in a way that others can assimilate, discuss and accept as information.

You need to think about who will be hearing it and how best to have them think about the information you want to impart.

If you want them to take action, you will have to tell them what action you want them to take. They should be satisfied that in preparing your speech, you have thought about the reasons why they would take this action and you have presented these reasons in your speech.

In most situations, the audience is on your side. The want you to succeed – many of them would never consider talking in public so they already admire the fact that you are.

When you have to impart unpleasant or controversial information, bring that information to the attention of the audience in an independent way, unless it is appropriate for you to take a personal and business responsibility for the information.

Remember, these posts cover a fraction of the information contained in my  kindle book and audio where you will also find over twenty readymade templates for business speeches.