Our guide to public speaking
Molly Longman

Our guide to public speaking

First published date April 16 2015 Amended date April 16 2015

Do you get a little shaky when it’s your turn to speak during a company meeting? Do you find yourself tripping over your tongue during interviews? Maybe you just want to speak with a little bit more confidence when you give a toast at your sister’s wedding. Whatever the case, you could benefit from a public speaking course. A variety of courses will teach you techniques for formal and impromptu speeches, introductions, toasts, and discussion leading in a welcoming environment.



We learn to speak as small children, but we generally think of speaking as a second nature practice, so we forget to brush up on our skills. We unconsciously practise walking and breathing every day, but opportunities to speak publicly come around only once in a blue moon and tend to take us by surprise, leading to red-faced embarrassment if we freeze up. Public speaking courses are highly practical, and you’ll walk away having mastered the very necessary art of speaking eloquently to small and large groups of people.


The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plane...

During a public speaking course, the chances are slim that you’ll feel as overwhelmed as Eliza Doolittle did. The environment in these courses is generally receptive and friendly. If you’re a bit shy about speaking, there is a great likelihood that everyone else on the course is too. You’re all there for the same reason, which creates a very low-pressure environment to practise in. Before you know it, you’ll feel comfortable enough to speak in front of anyone.


Speak – thanks to the Greek

The art of public speaking, or orating as it was then called, was developed by the ancient Greeks. The young Julius Caesar was one of many politicians and lawyers who were sent to Greece to study under famous masters in the field.


Famous public speakers

From Bruce Jenner to Barack Obama to Russell Brand, public speakers have come to us in many different forms. Without the ability to capture the attention of millions with their words, no one would recognise these household names. If you need some inspiration to get you into a course, just think, you could be the next important political voice/comedic standout/Keeping up with the Kardashians guest star – tempting, we know.



The amazing thing about public speaking is that it can help you be more successful in any job that involves other people. However, if you want to make a career out of speaking in itself, there are plenty of options. Pursuing a career in politics, motivational speaking, or instructing are all possibilities within the field.


Tips from the pros

There is an old saying that advises one to picture the audience in their underwear when venturing to speak publicly; this is bad advice. Instead, try:

  • Preparing what you’ll say ahead of time (if possible) and practising in front of a mirror or in front of your friends, family, or colleagues
  • Making sincere eye contact with each audience member
  • Pausing – allowing both you and your audience time to think and reflect on what you’ve just said
  • Adding humour when possible and appropriate


Did you know...?

Approximately three out of four people suffer from speech anxiety, also known as glossophobia. It is the most common phobia, followed by necrophobia and arachnophobia (the fears of death and spiders). Yes, speaking publicly is even more terrifying than a tarantula to 75 per cent of the population. Beat this statistic by signing up for your first public speaking course!