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5 things I’ve learned on public speaking

Published on 08 May 2017
Updated on 05 April 2024

Public speaking ranks among the top five things that scare people.  Some of us would rather jump into a pool of spiders, hug a clown, or willingly sit through a dental procedure without anaesthesia, just to avoid the possibility of being publicly embarrassed. In this text, I will share a few things that I found extremely important for overcoming that fear and becoming a better ‘public persona’ in general.

Mary Murphy, a Budapest based public speaking coach that specialises in communication training for non-native English speakers, made us face our fear of public speaking during a two day workshop that has completely changed my way of thinking about, and preparing for, public speaking.

5 things I’ve learned on public speaking

At the workshop organised by Diplo Foundation, Mary got us to speak about subjects we are familiar with, and those we know nothing about. She shared her knowledge and insightful advice with us, while the hours passed in the blink of an eye. Here are the five things that I learned from both her, and the participants at the workshop.


1. Public speaking is not only about YOU being on stage with a boring Power Point (PPT) presentation, forgetting how to breathe and think. It is about giving people a reason to care – about the things you are saying in that moment, and generally in life.

Clear communication is an equally important skill, irrespective of the type of work you  do. Knowing WHY people should care about what you are about to say or do, gives you the key message of the presentation; and can give you a good idea on how to start that important e-mail you are about to write to your founder/CEO/donor/editor/mother…


2. Speak out loud when practising your speech. Smile. Breathe, and never apologise!

Missed a slide, dropped a pointer, tripped on a cable while walking on a stage? That could happen to anyone, so do not apologise. Inhale, exhale, smile and keep talking.


3. You forgot what you were going to say next and froze in panic while the Earth stopped spinning? Take a sip of water, pause a little, repeat your key message…

The World will not come to an end if you do this. The audience does not know your next thought or presentation slide, which is an additional reason for you NOT to be bound to your PPT as if it were a sacred grail of knowledge. Consider it a tool and try using it as a time tracker. Know which slides mark the 5th, 10th of 15th minute of your presentation, and you will never be that dreaded speaker that keeps people away from their coffee breaks and networking time at the conference.


4. Not a native English speaker? Good. That is your advantage!

Because you lack words, your sentences will be shorter, clearer and more specific. This way your message will find its way much faster to peoples’ minds.


5. Being an active listener and providing constructive feedback to the speaker, is equally important as giving the best Nobel prize winning speech ever!

Show some love for the speaker. Keep eye contact, nod your head, smile, and if you have the opportunity, share your feedback with the speaker on what went well and what could have gone better during his/her speech. If you are kind, positive and constructive about it, people will appreciate it and remember the attention you showed.

Those were the points that impacted me the most. If you have some other tips and tricks you would like to share, or just want to discuss communication over a cup of coffee, send me an e-mail of write on Twitter.


Jelena Ožegović
Marketing and communications associate, Serbian national internet domain registry (RNIDS)

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