Practical tips for public speaking

By: Howard Feldman

So you’ve written your speech, designed your presentation slides and practised saying it in front of the mirror a dozen times and you still don’t feel ready? You have it in you to be the next great motivational or inspirational speaker and now you’re frantically googling ‘Tips for public speaking’, hoping for some miracle advice to help you ace your talk. Below are some tips to guide you through your public speaking journey and help overcome your fear of speaking before an audience. I can’t guarantee miracles, but with practice, perseverance and positivity, you might make one happen for yourself.

  1. Envision your success

This is an important step that people tend to overlook. Think about what you would like your audience to see, think and feel throughout your presentation. Create a picture of how you would like the room to look after your speech and keep that in your mind throughout your preparation period for the big moment.

2)  Practice

This is a tricky but vital step. Tricky because you don’t want to over prepare and have your speech sound too rehearsed but you also don’t want to seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about. It will do you good to practise speaking in front of other people and hear their opinions on what works and what doesn’t. Remember practising ≠ cramming. That might work for tests and exams but will never work for speeches and presentations.

3) Avoid caffeine and alcohol

Maybe you were too anxious and couldn’t sleep (it happens) and you decide to stop and grab an energy drink or a cup of coffee on your way to the presentation for a boost. Bad move. It all seems like a good idea until your heart starts racing and you become jittery because guess what? That’s what caffeine does, and it’s worsened by feeling stressed. It increases your level of anxiety and before you know it, you’re a doubtful, sweating, shaking mess. Alcohol might calm you down but you risk forgetting or stumbling on your words, or saying something best kept out of public spaces. So…rather not. Stay hydrated and keep a bottle of water with you at all times, feed the body, feed the mind!

4) Get there early

Getting there helps you settle into the environment. It also gives you time to set up anything if you need to or fix any problems that might hinder the success of your presentation. I would advise arriving at least 90 minutes before you start. Rushing to the venue will only make you more anxious and seem unprepared.

5) Breathe

A very generic thing to say but it’s very important. Calming your breathing helps you pace yourself and controls how fast or slow you deliver your speech. A useful trick is to use deep breaths to fill awkward silences or those “uhm” moments.


6) Smile, dammit

Smiling reduces tension in the room, especially when you feel stuck. And of course, everyone loves a friendly face. If you’re interested in this hidden super power we can all harness, find out more on my book here or order it online at Amazon and Takealot.

About Howard Feldman

Howard Feldman is one of South Africa’s leading entrepreneurs. His experience is global and extensive, spanning more than 20 years of working as a business strategist, keynote speaker, published author, both locally and globally, social and political commentator, morning drive show host and philanthropist.

Feldman provides insights into strategic thinking, motivation, facilitating solutions and addressing organisational challenges.

Feldman has used his experience and innate understanding of markets and business to also take his career into the fields of writing and radio. He is the author of two successful books – Carry-on Baggage and Tightrope: Musings of Circus South Africa. His third book; Smile, dammit was released in March 2019.

He is also the Morning Mayhem host on ChaiFM from 6am-9am, Mondays to Fridays.

Part of Howard’s career includes a 15-year stint building a global commodity trading business. He found significant conventional success, but lost himself along the way. His journey is an exploration of authenticity and meaning. Armed with business and academic knowledge as well as a brave and unflinching sense of humour, Howard uses his personal experience to educate and entertain.

Howard Feldman works extensively in executive and corporate training. His delivery draws on real-world experience, recognising the value of people and relationships without compromising the energy of entrepreneurship and career growth, providing audiences with applicable wisdom and the tools needed to thrive within a mercurial and challenging business world. He has a unique, positive outlook and courageously engages in conversations that most would prefer not to have. Through humour, insight, and disruptive thinking, Howard unravels complexities, unlocks talent, and ignites potential.