The dread of public speaking – Top 10 Tips

microphone presentations.jpgSAN ANTONIO (Chemicals Confidential)–Public speaking is often rated as one of life’s most stressful events, right up there with divorce, bereavement and moving house.


It’s easy to say that training and practice make it less of an ordeal, but it’s often the case that the boldest of people are reduced to terrified wrecks by the prospect of speaking.


There are a few obvious techniques, like remembering to breathe, slowing down, looking at the audience, having a decent presentation and rehearsing – but chemical industry conferences seem to have a few hazards which are peculiarly their own.


I was once left stranded at the speaker podium at a Houston conference, when the anti-trust lawyer who was giving the introduction walked off with all my notes to introduce the conference and the chairman.


From watching a fair few conference presentations, I’d like to share a few tips which may spark some reminiscences …


  • Don’t use the red light pointer unless your hands are rock solid, or the dot will be bouncing around all over the screen for all to see.
  • Don’t write your paper that morning (yes you, Nick)
  • Don’t tell the audience you wrote your paper that morning (ditto)
  • Do put in lots of colour photos – and videos are still enough of a novelty to always be a winner (especially if accompanied by stirring Iranian music and waving flags)
  • Don’t show graphs which other speakers have already shown
  • Do introduce or intersperse with jokes (see Best Conference Gags posting below)
  • Don’t be eating while you are speaking
  • Don’t show data which is two years old
  • Don’t show slides which are not in the handout
  • Avoid the graveyard slots of just after lunch, or last speaker of the day
  • Do wave your arms and walk around – it breaks up the day
  • Do bring a spare set of notes


I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the speakers and chairmen at the NPRA sessions to see what trends in presentations are emerging in 2010.


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