Handling the BIG speech nerves.

 Speaking in public is high on the list of fears for most people. Much has been written by psychologists about finding the right coping strategies and many will work given the luxury of  time. For those who can’t find that time, here is an entirely practical approach to the problem.


In essence, do not tackle, as a single daunting task, an unbroken, say, 20 minutes of deathless prose. Think in terms of  five short ‘ part-works’ that will make-up the whole. They are easier to write, easier to deliver and easier on your audience – who mostly will not be hostile!


Prepare your material using the classic ‘rule of three’ structure. In all, five components. The ‘overture’- when you introduce yourself, declare your subject or challenge and three supporting themes (A,B,C). Then develop these in three ‘acts’, each with no more than three scenes. Lastly your ‘finale’, drawing your 3 themes together into an inevitable conclusion.

 Think of your 3 headings, and subs, as verbal signposts, to be emphasised at the start and end of each section. These signposts not only keep your audience on track, they keep you on track. Remember them and you will find remembering your script much easier. 

  Cultivate the     PAUSE. It is probably the easiest  thing to do that will improve your presentation style, increase your confidence and manage nerves. In normal conversation, naturally, you pause for thought.  Quite simply, consciously reproduce this in the big speech. Pause between every small change of subject, longer pauses between acts. Use the spaces between the blocks in the diagram to plot your pauses. 


In The King’s Speech, we learnt that King George was forced to pause to overcome his impediment but the resulting speeches were seen as both powerful and hugely confident. Most of us are not forced to pause, but when we do we become more confident and we are seen as confident.

Finally, practice, or better still rehearse to someone, and work on one short act at a time. Try not to worry about the words and focus on your signposts and your pauses. The rest will follow more easily!