Strategies to Build Confidence in Public Speaking [In-Person and Online]

It’s normal for students to feel nervous about speaking in front of their classmates. Here are some helpful strategies to build confidence in public speaking – both in-person and online!

1. Record yourself practicing. One of the best ways to improve your public speaking is to film a video of yourself reciting the speech. This can help you with three critical components of your presentation:

  • Pacing and speaking style. A video will give you direct feedback on your verbal style, how your words are emphasized, where you take pauses, how fast or slow you are talking, etc.
  • Body language. Your facial expressions and arm movements (and if you’re not using a central podium, your physical position on “stage”) can contribute greatly to your overall tone and speaking direction. Visual feedback can help you refine these movements and how they will be interpreted by your audience.
  • Duration. An important part of most public speaking assignments is length, and recording your speech will give you an accurate idea of how long it is. Speech assignments often have a specified length requirement (for example, 3-5 minutes), so it’s crucial to make sure you are presenting within the allotted time.

If recording yourself isn’t an option, you can always recite your speech in front of a mirror. However, we really recommend filming a video for the reasons above!

Tutor Doctor Tip

With many students learning from home due to the pandemic, public speaking assignments will likely be over a webcam anyway. Filming yourself ahead of time can give you tips on your lighting and volume levels – plus, you’ll get to preview exactly what the class will be seeing!

2. Practice speaking in front of your family. Recite your speech in front of your family members when the stakes are lower and the pressure is off. They can provide you real-time feedback about your performance, and it helps to be able to practice in front of a live audience – even if it’s just your parents!

3. Remind yourself that it’s okay to be nervous. Don’t ever feel self conscious if you are anxious or scared while public speaking, because the reality is most people feel the same way you do. In fact, public speaking consistently polls as one of the most commonly held fears – more than fear of heights, insects, and flying! Remember that public speaking can be a nerve wracking experience for many of us, and it’s perfectly normal to feel uneasy.

4. Watch examples of public speakers you admire. Depending on the type of speech you are giving, watching examples of other speakers can be a helpful preparation tool. Will your speech rely on interactions from the audience? Do you have to pause to conduct a demonstration? Will you be working with external materials, like a slideshow or poster board? Viewing similar types of presentations can give you a good idea of how to effectively structure your speech.

5. Volunteer to go first. If you are really, really nervous about giving your speech – volunteer to go first. It’s common for class presentations to last several days while everyone gets a turn, and for some students the anxiety of waiting can be worse than the speech itself. Sometimes it’s best to just get it out of the way – and you may even feel a boost of confidence for being brave and going before everyone else!