Public Speaking: How not to choke


I do quite a lot of public speaking.  It varies as to the size of the group I speak to, but whether it’s 5 or 50 I always get those butterflies, the lump in my throat, the little voice in the back of my head saying “run!”.

I’m not alone.

Research has shown that public speaking is one of our greatest fears, followed closely by spiders!  Surprisingly though, we’d prefer to die before we have to get up in public.

This week my fears were realised. Half way through my session, I managed to have a coughing attack, not an ordinary coughing attack, a “can’t-breathe-can’t-talk-eyes-crying-arm-flapping-red-faced” coughing attack.  Everyone stopped.  Everyone stared.  And I had to leave the room.  5 minutes later I returned, red faced, eye make-up smudged and I finished the session.

But guess what??  I got through it, I lived even!!  And whilst I’m not going to sing that it was one of my most successful sessions – it could have been worse.  So the morale of the story: if you choke, it’s not the end of the world.

Everyone has a different tactic, so it’s best to try and pin down what works best for you.   Here are my top tips for public speaking:

  • Be prepared – know what you’re talking about. The best speakers are always the ones that speak “off the cuff” and don’t read their notes.
  • Show conviction – it helps if you really believe in what you’re saying.  If you don’t (which isn’t recommended) pretend that you are.  Self-fulfilling prophecies come true!
  • Act like an expert – you are there to impart your knowledge on everyone else.  You are going to tell them something that they need or want to hear – they do not know what you’re going to say or what you’re supposed to say.
  • Be confident – even if you’re not feeling it, if you act confident it won’t be too long until you actually feel confident.
  • Breathe – don’t rush yourself.  Take time to have a drink of water or give a pause. Let the audience have time to take in what you’re saying.

Good Luck!

Not that you’ll need it.


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