Motivation Monday: Overcoming the fear of public speaking

Never read your speech. It's a distraction for you and the audience.  Photo by Brain POP via Flicker/Creative Commons.

Never read your speech in front of an audience. It’s a distraction for you and the audience.
Photo by Brain POP via Flicker/Creative Commons.

By Chanda Temple

If your hands get sweaty and your mouth gets dry before you have to talk before a crowd, you may want to call on Janice Ward.

She’s a Birmingham, Ala. speaking coach and college communications instructor, trained in helping people lose their fear of public speaking.

On Thursday, Sept. 25, she will host the “Fearless Public Speaking” seminar from  8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at The Club, 1 Robert S. Smith Drive in Birmingham. Early registration is $50 at On-site registration is $69. Breakfast, which is included, starts at 8 a.m.

Ward said the workshop is for novice speakers, CEOs, aspiring politicians, nonprofit professionals, business owners, the clergy, college students and anyone interested in conquering speech anxiety. She said the session will help participants develop skills to overcome their stage fright and become better speakers and presenters.

“Fifty percent of adults are afraid to speak publicly. They would rather do other things,” Ward said. “I think if people have the opportunities to learn the right techniques, they’ll overcome their anxiety.”

Here are six of her tips on public speaking:

Use your voice and gestures

You may have written the best speech, but if you deliver it like you are reading a novel, you’ve lost your audience. Use your voice. Know when to use the right gestures to stress a point. If you tell the crowd you are happy to be there, does your body say that?

Ward said that President Ronald Regan had a way of making people feel like he was talking to them. It was his delivery. It gave his speech life.

Avoid caffeine

Don’t drink caffeine before you have to speak. If you are already anxious, it could feed your anxiety. Drink plenty of water and take deep, slow breaths before you approach the podium. People tend to stop breathing when they are nervous about making a speech. You must have enough breath to push out your words.

Be prepared

The most common public speaking mistake people make is being unprepared. Their thoughts are not organized. They don’t practice what they are going to say.They may not ask about the target audience. If a person must make an impromptu speech, he or she fails to take a few seconds in their mind to focus on what they will say.

Take note of good orators

“I like Bill Clinton,” Ward said. “He’s a master at public speaking. Bill Clinton has a way of being able to ad lib. It seems to come natural to him.”

“I like Oprah. She speaks with a lot of passion,” Ward said. “When she’s talking,… she gives the audience something they can use.”

Don’t read your speech

Ward said that a bad speaker is someone who reads their speech or attempts to memorize it and then forgets it. They apologize throughout the whole speech about losing their place or they appear nervous. Plus, don’t say, “I’m not a good public speaker.” The audience doesn’t know that. Now that you’ve said it, you’ve put that thought into their head so now they’ll look to see just how bad you really are.

Bad speakers fail to connect with the audience, avoid eye contact and don’t engage the audience. Speakers fail when they make the speech all about them instead of the audience, Ward said.

Take note of your movement and length of speech

If it’s appropriate, move around the room. It helps the audience move with you and your speech. If you are nervous, don’t put your hands in your pockets and jingle car keys or coins. Also, avoid playing with your hair or jewelry.

Don’t make your speech too long. Most audiences remember what you said at the beginning and at the end. If you say, “The last point I want to make is XYZ,” make it. Don’t make your closing remarks and then come back and add something to it. The audience will say, “Wait a minute, you already said you were about to finish.”

Janice Ward of Ward Communications Consulting in Birmingham, Ala. (Photo Credit: Special)

Janice Ward of Ward Communications Consulting in Birmingham, Ala. says that everyone can develop a speaking voice and she wants to help them find it.  (Photo Credit: Mike Strawn)

For more information, contact Ward at 205-335-8607 or email her at

Chanda Temple is a former reporter now working in public relations. She blogs about being better in business and more at Follow her on Twitter at @chandatemple. Contact her at


2 comments on Motivation Monday: Overcoming the fear of public speaking

  1. Growth on Height
    April 8, 2016 at 4:37 am (2 years ago)

    This is a wonderful article i must sat, So much info given in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website, keep on sharing more…

  2. Kate Richards
    February 2, 2017 at 11:01 pm (1 year ago)

    This is very true! The secret of overcoming your fear in the public will rely on yourself. Always believe in yourself, be confident. Use your voice and proper gestures. Think of famous speakers that you idolized for inspiration purposes. Practice your speech before coming in front of your audience. I have known the great speakers at


Leave a Reply