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How anyone can master public speaking

Written on May 30, 2024

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager  

Those who fear public speaking shouldn’t avoid it, said one expert, and instead try to conquer that fear to help strengthen their career.  

“The challenge with public speaking, whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, is whether you get public speaking anxiety,” said Eileen Smith, public speaking expert and founder of Spokesmith.  


People often think because they’re an introvert they would be terrible at public speaking, or if they’re an extrovert it should come naturally, but Smith said the truth is all people experience public speaking anxiety.  

The most straightforward way to conquer that fear is by preparation, she said. This doesn’t mean memorizing your entire speech. Instead, write down bullet points on a piece of paper and practice what you want to say out loud. Oftentimes something sounds great on paper but not as natural in person, so don’t be afraid to adjust your words to flow better and sound more authentic.  

“You will immediately find ways to say things that are smarter and shorter than when they're on the written page,” she said.   

Sometimes people feel so much anxiety right before they start sweating or can’t speak clearly. Smith suggested if this happens to instead focus on all the things that will go right about your speech instead of wrong to put yourself in the right frame of mind.  

Rituals are helpful, Smith said, like if you normally wear a certain lucky tie or always listen to a song to get you excited. Focus on what builds you up and makes you feel like your best self.  

Smith recommended practicing breathing exercises to calm down, too.  

“You breathe in for four seconds, hold for five and breathe out slowly for six,” she said. “This slows everything down and gives you a moment to reflect. It also gets oxygen to the brain, which is a bonus. It tells the body when you're able to slow down for deep breaths, that there are no threats out there.”  

And if you’ve had a few bad public speaking experiences, Smith said not to focus on those and look for other chances to present in front of a group. Like any other skill, you have to do it repeatedly to strengthen it.  

“Anybody can do public speaking,” Smith said. “Depending on your anxiety level about it, you might have to do more preparation. But it's a great opportunity to expand your influence in your field.” 

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