"Speaking" of which....

Here I go again on another rant of somesort. Have you ever been somewhere and have had to do something in the order of public speaking? Don’t you hate it? I bet its one of those worst fears people have. Believe me, I do! I am so afraid about getting up in front of a group of people and speaking about a subject that may be boring to me.

I have done soooo many presentations and speeches about robotics and FIRST to people in classes and at businesses. I was just wondering if anyone else got the shakes and gitters from public speaking?

Lol, I am one of those person’s that sweats and shakes a little. I am a very nervous person and I wish there was something I can do to sideline this fear. Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do? Deep breath, relax, take is slow, I know that! I wish I could do it just like Dean and Woody.

I’m taking a public speaking course this semester (required for my major - not out of my own free will, heh) and one of the first things the professor pointed out was that the majority of people are more afraid of public speaking than of dying - myself included.

Honestly, I’m pretty good at getting up and talking to a group of people - as long as it’s not really planned, and not for a grade. If the “speech” falls under one of those two situations, I freeze. I can speak and I can breathe in, but I can’t exhale. Which makes speaking in a normal voice pretty hard to do.

I have a persuasive speech coming up soemtime soon, and we have to give it twice; the first time, to our class (no big deal) but the second time, we have to pick somewhere on campus and just stand up and start speaking. :ahh: Most of the class is seriously thinking about not giving their speech the second time and dealing with the automatic 10% grade loss. As for me? I’m not even sure what to give my speech on. I had a topic in mind, but she changed the requirement to be something “Earth Day” … -esque.


I was talking to my professor after the class and he mentioned the same thing you did. People are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. So far all of the topics we have spoken about in front of the class have been assigned. The last individual speech is solo and of our choice. Ugh, I can’t wait for this semester to be over. I hate doing speaches, especially in a public speaking class where slang, grammer, and how many times you say umm and ugh count against you lol.

I just finished up a speech in another class and I stumbled over every word and froze up so many times and still got an A on it. I guess it takes time to practice and get use to speaking in front of groups.

Now that I’m at college I’m more afraid of the people doing the speaking than having to speak myself. It seems like they’ll hand over a microphone to just anybody. Too much propaganda.

Sounds like my upcoming speech topic too.

I have to figure out my persuasive speech too!

I am also not one for public speaking; I have done many speeches and in front of many important people, but I still become nervous anyway.

In no way though, am I more afraid of speaking in public than dying. Ok it maybe second on the list!

Practice makes Perfection; I guess… well maybe not in our case.

I am sure if you were to become Dean Kamen tomorrow; you would be able to learn very quickly how to talk to people in public!

Here is a link I just came across:

Just Google it up and you will find many different things to learn about besides the ones you already know!

My meteorology teacher once told me this story at the beginning of the semester:

I started out working for our local TV news station one day. While working at the station my job was not to forecast news live, it was just to predict and study the weather. One day the live weatherman had stepped out of the studio and had to make a quick trip home. He was supposed to be right back before he was to go live on the air. Well to make a long story short he did not make it back in time. My boss told me I had to go on air live and do the forecast for him. So I immediately told him I was not going to do it, but eventually he persuaded me to do it. I was very nervous and did not really know how I would act in front of the TV camera. Once my first live air forecast was over; I found out that the weatherman that was to do the forecast was just playing a joke on me. He never left the studio and was watching my forecast live laughing away!

My meteorology teacher is still working for the same local news station and he now does the live forecast daily!

This is strictly my personal opinion:

I think that being good at giving speeches is about how much you *believe * in what you are saying. Sure, sure, there are plenty of people who give good speeches who don’t believe a lick of what they are spewing out [motions towards television]. But they believe in *something * underlying what they are saying (money, power, etc.)

I would be willing to bet that Dean and Woody both get at least a little bit nervous before they go up to speak in front of 10,000 people at nationals. Heck, for all I know, Dean might be more nervous about public speaking than you or I. What shows through, however, is that he really believes in what he is saying.

My advice to anyone who is doing public speaking for FIRST:

Don’t worry about it. If you have a thorough knowledge of what you are speaking about and you believe in it, you will do just fine.

My advice to anyone who is taking a public speaking class and has to choose a topic to give a speech on:

If you pick a topic that doesn’t fit you, your speech will be lifeless and void of emotion. Pick a topic that you really care about, whether it be the downfall of civilization due to television or why they should replace all stop signs with yield signs. Whatever the topic, if you really care about it, your speech will be great.

Being nervous about public speaking is healthy. But you should never be so nervous so as to prevent yourself from speaking about something that you believe in.


If you aren’t getting the shakes and jitters, then you have a problem. I did four or five speeches for SPCH 140 last semester, and about a dozen in front of my school board before that. Every single time, it took me a minute or two into the speech to get comfortable.

I find myself doing a lot of public speaking for my FIRST Robotics team.

This year and last year, I was the primary speaker at presentations that we would do for schools, businesses, and other potential sponsors. I would generally give a power point presentation, and I would read a script. Lately though, I have been finding that scripting the entire presentation was a little bit too formal, and as I have gotten used to presenting more, I have been going without a script and have decided to talk more naturally. The power point slides prompt me about the topic, and I just talk about it. I am less nervous now that I used to be, and going unscripted is actually less nerve racking than reading a script, because you can’t really mess up as long as you know what you are talking about. Also, with unscripted speaking, you can get other members of the team to pitch in and say something… which is what I want to move towards in our presentations… more contribution from the entire team, instead of just me.

I have found that public speaking has generally come easily to me…I have no idea why, but I have always been comfortable explaining to large groups of people my thoughts, knowledge, or opinions. I have also had an acting background from when I was younger…I learned how to project my voice and get over having stage fright. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still get nervous… I am always a little bit jittery before I give a presentation… but usually after I start talking the nervousness goes away.

I am not totally sure what advice I would give to those who are less “public speaking inclined”… but I would say that when you are learning to speak publicly, use a script for the first few times… make notecards that you can read off of. But if you do this, make sure that you maintain eye contact with your audience by looking away from your card every time you finish a sentence. However, the tough part about looking away is finding where you left off. In order to keep from losing my place, I often use my finger to track where I was reading last. I generally conceal this by placing my notecards/script on the podium or a music stand, and then rest my hands on the cards… pointing to what words/sentences I am on so I can easily see where I left off.

Once you get more familiar with the topic, and have spoken about the topic mulitple times, then I would advise getting away from the notecards and scripts, and start speaking naturally on your own. When you speak naturally, you get a better connection with the audience because it is more personal. I also find that scripted speaking in front of a small, personal audience can be somewhat awkward, and therefore speaking without a script makes your presentation alot more adaptable. The problem with unscripted speaking is making sure that you don’t forget to talk about key topics that will help your presentation. I use power point slides to prompt me about what topic to speak about next, but if you dont have a power point presentation, try writing an outline that you can refer to when trying to figure out what to say next, and not leave anything important out.

One other thing to remember… whether you are speaking with or without a script… always project your voice, and use a microphone if possible! At one of the presentations I did for the local Rotary Club, there were alot of elderly people in the audience, and we had no microphone. Alot of them struggled to hear what we were saying, and some of the team members that spoke up didn’t speak loud enough for them to hear. Also make sure that you put energy into your presentation… don’t just stand there expressionless, speaking in a flat, monotone voice. Engage your audience! Smile! Most likely you will be talking about something that you care about, and that you have a passion for. Let it show!

I hope this helped! Good luck to everyone who is doing public speaking!

– Jaine

The problem most people have with public speaking is that your ego is on the line.

Most people can talk to strangers on a personal level, because there is constant feedback. You can see if the other person is agreeing with what you are saying, or is questioning you.

With a conversation, its not just ‘you’, its everyone involved, and the converstaion is owned by everyone involved

but when you stand on a podium, or a stage, and talk, with no feedback, then you can quickly lose the audience if they do not agree with, or accept what you are saying

and that is when your ego is at risk. In the back of your mind you have this fear that people are going to laugh at you, stand up and call you an idiot, say you dont know what you are talking about, and walk out

its that open loop, that lack of feedback that makes you feel uneasy.

This is why many people recommend you put a few jokes in your presentation, say something humorous. when people laugh that is feedback, and you get a reassurance that ‘they are still with me’.

Some other things you can to do avert the jitters:

  1. expect the worst. Tell yourself the audience is absolutely going to hate you, they are going to yell and curse and throw things at you. Then no matter what happens your ego is not a risk, because that is what you expected. If the speech goes “better than expected” then all is well.

  2. Pretend you are someone else. Pretend that is not you up there, pretend you are an actor doing a character, an impresonation of sorts. Think of a character or famous actor, and tell yourself you are acting out that role. That way, your ego is not on the line, its not you saying what you are saying, its an actor in a play or movie, so it doenst matter what the audience thinks.

Bottom line is, the problem is your ego, and the thing you are really afraid of is a massive rejection.

One of the drawbacks for me being the team president is speaking. I have to speak in front of the team and parents, And also give presentations to local companies about the team and how their sponsorship could greatly be used.

I have my notes and my points of discussion with me but I still get nervous. Nervous about my lines how they will sound are these people interested, are they keeping up with me. All of these things I am thinking about while I am speaking. But when its all said and done I do fine and my message is put clearly across.

But while I am speaking to someone or a small group I am fine, like talking to the judges in the pits or to other teams at the competitions. To people most of the time I don’t know, but yet I get nervous when speaking to a large group of people that I know.

Oh, I agree. My problem is that I have a hard time remembering the order of things and what to say. So believing in something you are talking about helps keep me in line.

Talking about FIRST comes naturally to me thank god, usually I start out with the main mission, the kit of parts, the time limit, the game this year, then I ask for questions.

I would agree with the posts above. I taught speech for over 10 years to HS students and have used the following pointers for those who suffer “stage fright”.

  1. Prepare thoroughly. You don’t have to memorize your speech completely but know your subject well enough so that you feel that you are having a conversation with a group of friends and/or acquaintance.

  2. Jot down your main points on a 3x5 card or cards (if you use more than one be sure to number them in case they fall to the ground… :ahh: ) Use them to assist you but avoid, whenever possible, reading from them (see #1 above).

  3. Practice your presentation at least 2-3 time beforehand in front of a small audience (if possible). This will allow you to go through your notes (both mental and physical) work with your AV materials (PowerPoint presentation slides, charts, handouts, etc.) and get a positive critique from people you trust and who won’t “flame” you.

  4. Once you are in front of your target audience use non-verbal communication to aid you in releasing any “pent-up” energy. Gestures and other body movements (moving around the room to accentuate a point) if done naturally allow the speaker to look relaxed and comfortable. However, don’t use gestures that are jerky, too fast or hide your facial features. These detract from your speech and are noticeable. If you use a podium or lectern don’t grasp it as a drowning man grasps a life jacket. The “white knuckle” look is a sure sign of apprehension. If you don’t know what to do with your hands don’t put them in your pockets place them naturally at your sides and let them hang.

  5. Use humor judiciously. Many people begin with an anecdote, a joke or a funny story. If that suits you and you feel comfortable telling a story do so. I would caution against off-color or “blue” material especially if it is to a group that you don’t really know, or that you are trying to make a good impression (and who isn’t). The worst thing you can do is to have a joke fall flat and get off on the wrong foot. My best advice is to save the jokes for the professional comedians and if you must make the story something that everyone can empathize with. or is personal to you and illustrates a point you are trying to make.

  6. Maintain adequate eye contact but don’t “bore a hole” in someone’s forehead. Glance naturally around the room picking out one or two people in different segments of the audience. Appropriate audience behavior is for them to look back at you. If this is disquieting simply break the gaze and move on. Make it look like you are simply making conversation and not searching for a long-lost friend at a crowded bus station and everyone will feel comfortable with your eye contact.

  7. Speak loud enough to cover the room but don’t shout or whisper unless for dramatic effect. People who are hard of hearing will be seen straining forward to hear you. If you notice this speak up. Conversely if the sound of your voice fills the room then you may need to turn the modulation down slightly to keep those in the front row from becoming numbed or intimidated.

  8. Enjoy the experience. I have heard that public speaking is the second greatest fear behind death. I don’t believe it. I have observed thousands of speeches from hundreds and hundreds of students and adults. None have ever died and none have ever even fainted! Public speaking is what you make it. If you believe you’ll be cool, calm and comfortable you probably will be. If you look at the lectern like a man looks at a guillotine right before his final haircut then your experience will probably end up as a bloody mess!

I agree with what everyone says – some very good advice. What I’d suggest is JUST DO IT! - It becomes easier once its done so just think in those terms:D

Practicing your speech out loud, many times, can help. Memorizing your speech is usually a good thing, as long as you don’t sound like you are reciting it. Normally when you get nervous, you get an adrenalin rush; you can use this energy in your speech. If you make a mistake, just keep going, don’t stop and correct yourself. Have confidence in yourself, and if you don’t, learn how to act like you have confidence. And if worse comes to worse, one of the oldest tricks in the books is to imagine everyone in the audience is in their underwear (they swear this is supposed to make you more relaxed). Another trick they say is to single out one person in the audience and aim the speech toward them (though I always thought this might make that person in the audience feel a bit odd).

I wish I could guarantee it will get easier for you the more you do it. I’m actually pretty good at public speaking (lots of practice, not always by my own choice) but I get super nervous. I’ve learned to use that nervous energy to enhance what I am speaking about (I have more experience with doing readings than actually speeches) but once I’ve finished and moved out of the “spotlight” I get all jittery and hyper and often I get a strong urge to flee! And that’s when taking deep breaths helps me…


In my speaking class, we learned that 50% of public speaking relied on visual - meaning how you dressed and moved (ie: if you were dressed more professionally and had good posture, the audience would like your speach more than if you came in looking like a bum and fidgeted a lot)
43% of speaking relies on how you say things - (if you have a lot of feeling, people will be more interested in what you have to say than if you were speaking in a monotone voice)
7% of speaking relies on what you say (meaning, as long as you look and sound good saying it, you’ll get a better reaction to reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” than you would reciting shakespear while looking shotty and stuttering and speaking without emotion)

Also, it’s important to “break the ice” when you go up to speak. Meaning, before you get on to your presentation, make some small talk with the audience, even if it’s just to say “Hi, how are you all doing?” because it allows the audience to welcome you and thus let you feel less nervous about speaking.

And the best speed of speech is 120-155 words per minute. So do a word count and then time yourself speaking to see just how fast/slow you’re going and practice improving as needed.

Also, remember that time and silence are warped in the speaker’s mind - what seems like an eternity to the speaker really only seems like a few seconds to the audience, so if you forget your place, instead of filling in the gaps with “ums” and “ahs”, just keep quiet. 9 out of 10 times, the audience won’t even notice you paused (and it sounds more professional than the “ums”).

And above all - when you present a speech, only use words you know how to pronounce! Nothing is worse than going up there and slaughtering words - it cuts away from your presentation and makes you sound professional.

All those things are good for an experienced public speaker to work on but personally I am not that far along yet. Here is what I know…

  1. If you know you can’t hold still figure out how to move a little and not make noise/let people see. Wearing loose shoes and wiggling your toes works for some people. Don’t try tapping your foot, fingers or any kind of large repetitive motion near a microphone…it may pick you up.

  2. If you start getting nervous fix your eyes on a point just above the heads of the audience. Perspective can trick them into thinking you are just looking at the person in the row behind them (or in a very vague way at them) and will give you time to collect yourself.

  3. Look for faces not people when speaking. Personally I avoid looking at the face of anybody I know. You know the expressions of people you know and so will be more sensitive to their running feedback. This running feedback frequently is “upset/anxious” because they are worried about how well you will do. This freaks you out which makes you do worse which makes them more nervous which freaks you out…around and around again.

  4. When you practice your speech practice saying it extra slowly. If you get nervous you will talk much faster so you can compensate for this by talking slowly during practices. This just about averages you out.

  5. If the microphone squeaks put it back in the stand. Sometimes that makes it better. If that doesn’t don’t be afraid to shut it off, there are few better ways to make people uncomfortable than to make them listen to microphone fits. Try to smile, apologize and ask if everybody can hear you, and keep moving while speaking up as best you can.