Chapter overview



Public speaking skills

Your lesson progress



Public speaking skills

In a nutshell

Public speaking is the act of speaking to a large number of people at the same time in the form of a speech in order to communicate an idea. Many people find this idea daunting, so here are some tips on how to prepare and how to perform.

Why do people find public speaking so hard?

Many people find that they get stage fright when asked to speak publicly. This is because of the biological "fight or flight" instinct that humans have. It is entirely natural to feel this way, but don't fret! Remember, the only difference between nervousness and excitement is your attitude towards the task. Go into the speech with full confidence and it will only get easier for next time.

Writing your speech

Before giving a speech, every good orator must spend some time planning what they are going to say, and importantly, how they are going to say it. You should aim to express want to say in as few words as possible (be concise). You could also use language features to keep your audience engaged and/or to persuade them of your message.


I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – I Have a Dream

Language features

"I have a dream" x 4
"a state sweltering", "color (...) content of their character"
"transformed into an oasis", "the table of brotherhood"
"former slaves // former slave owners"

Linguistic public speaking skills

Much of what defines your success in public speaking is the language you use in your speech. 

Use rhetoric

Like those listed in the above example, you might employ language features such as rhetorical devices to engage or persuade your audience.

Speak clearly

Make sure to enunciate each and every word – there's no point giving an incredible speech if nobody can understand what you're saying! Try to slow down so that the audience can keep track of what you're saying. Also, try to cut down on filler words like "um", "like", etc.

Know your audience

Try to set the tone and register of your speech according to those that will hear it. Jokes are welcome at a comedy show or a best man's speech at a wedding, but less welcome at a business conference. Think about the best way to appeal to your intended audience and adjust the language you use accordingly.

Non-linguistic public speaking skills

It is not just the words you say, but how you come across as you're saying them that can make all the difference when it comes to giving a confident speech.

Control your breathing

Before you start your speech, take a few deep breaths. This relaxes you and helps combat stage fright. Imagine you are exhaling nerves and inhaling confidence. If you start to get hot and bothered during one part of your speech, remember to take deep breaths!

Use body language

We communicate more than we think through our bodies. Standing up tall and straight, for example, gives a confident impression. Some people like to "talk with their hands" – this is quite normal. Act like you are enthusiastic about what you're saying – you don't want a sea of yawns in the audience!

Maintain eye contact

Keeping eye contact with your audience engages them and creates the impression that you are speaking to them more directly. If you have notes, try not to look down at them too much, and look up at the audience frequently to build rapport. 

Want to find out more? Check out these other lessons!

Introduction to debating

Giving a presentation

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


  • Question: How do you overcome stage fright?

    Answer: Before you start your speech, take a few deep breaths. This relaxes you and helps to stave off stage fright. Imagine you are exhaling nerves and inhaling confidence.

  • Question: What are the qualities of a good speaker?

    Answer: A good speaker uses rhetoric, speaks clearly, knows their audience, controls their breathing, uses body language and maintains eye contact.

  • Question: What is meant by public speaking?

    Answer: Public speaking is the act of speaking to a large number at the same time in the form of a speech, in order to communicate an idea.



Your data protection

We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners who may combine it with other information that you’ve provided them or that they’ve collected from your use of their services. By clicking on either "Accept cookies" or "Necessary cookies only", you agree to this (read more in our Privacy Policy). Privacy Policy