• Public speaking is an understandable fear for many

  • Here Maggie Eyre, a professional coach in public speaking, has advice for making it easier

  • If you are seeking a coach or therapist, you can find one here

You need to engage your audience warmly and authentically in the first 30 seconds and that’s all about the ‘P’ words: preparation, presence, projection, pizzazz and practice.

Here are some things to think about to mater public speaking:


Making an impression requires making an effort. Know your opening, your key messages and your stories inside out. Think carefully about your audience and consider how you can connect with them. Who are they? Are they a professional or business audience, a community group, colleagues, old, young, racially mixed or a specific culture? Are they well informed about the topic, or do they know nothing about it? Are they likely to be hostile, supportive, passive or active? What do they have in common and what do you have in common with them? Why have they come to listen to you? Perhaps they want to, maybe they’ve been told to or maybe they share your politics or cause. Do they want to learn, be amused or entertained or are they ‘ticking the boxes’ as part of their professional development?

Your objective

Define your objective. Is it to bring in more business or attract new clients? Is it to raise money for a cause you believe in, talk about leadership or launch a new project? In the end your job is to move, touch and inspire people, so a great opening is essential if you want to do that.

Add value

If you have an opportunity, dress the set to help you enhance your story. Maybe a photo slide show or some music would add real value? What about your company banner or a pull-up sign? Think about great props that reinforce your message or even a series of hats.


How do you want to be perceived? The clothing you wear tells people a lot about who you are. Invest in your image. If this is not your strong suit it’s not overly expensive to hire an image consultant. Some stores, especially those where you are already a customer, will give you this service for free. Talk to a friend who has flair with clothes and accessories. Spend an afternoon going through your wardrobe with that person and think about some new, more interesting ways to put your existing clothes together. 


Work with a coach or a professional actor and learn how to use your voice to your best advantage. Or ask someone to film your performance, then critique your voice and work on it yourself. 

Workshop your opening lines

You’ll need to introduce yourself if someone else doesn’t do it. Welcome the audience, thank them for coming and find a powerful and memorable way to get into your topic. Always allow time to acknowledge other speakers and significant people in the audience. 

Leave-behind documents

Have a great business card and always carry it with you. Keep some on hand to give to people you meet before or after the presentation and leave some at the back of the venue — always make sure they’re clean. Get your ‘leave-behind’ document copied and make it available with your card. Make sure it is copyrighted, attractively branded and professional. If you have books, CDs or DVDs of your work available put these out on display too.


Marketing is essential when wanting to make a strong impression. Hire a public relations consultant to make you look good or find a mentor where there is no cost. You can hire a publicist for a one-off project and that could be something as small as getting you an article in a women’s magazine.


Speak from the heart and people will be motivated to listen. Show others you’re willing to share your feelings and opinions with emotion. Move your audience to listen and want more. It’s perfectly OK to show you care by wearing your heart on your sleeve.

Encourage participation

Make some of your presentation interactive. People pay more attention when they feel included. Communication is a two-way exchange.


I'm a New Zealander and I can tell you that Antipodeans don’t brag enough. Our culture of understatement and laconic expression encourages us to undersell ourselves, even when we’ve excelled internationally or won Olympic gold. One of the things I loved about living in America was that it is acceptable to talk proudly about your skills. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself, but do it with sincerity and integrity. Remember that your accomplishments are facts, not a sign of arrogance. I’m often amazed to discover the extraordinary things clients have done, but extracting this information can be like pulling teeth. Share who you really are — people want to meet the real you.

Maggie Eyre is the author of Speak Easy: The Essential Guide to Speaking in Public 

Further reading

Why do we fear uncertainty and losing control?

How can I stop my voice from shaking?

How therapy helped me understand my fear of rejection

The neuroscience of fear: what’s happening in your brain and how to manage it