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Ask HN: What are some resources to improve speaking skills?
216 points by throwaway_yc on Oct 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments
I get nervous very easily and my heart starts throbbing when it comes to speak to anyone. It is affecting my career. How can I fix it?

What are the resources to improve speaking skill?

There's a reason Toastmasters is so recommended in this thread: it's really good at what it is, so try that out.

For other options, try speaking a lot more in low pressure situations. At work, try small groups to start. Ask your manager if you can lead a team meeting where the agenda is defined, and your role is just to facilitate discussion. Present your work to 3 teammates and ask them to hold questions until the end.

In your personal life, if you are a regular at a coffee shop or lunch place and see the same person repeatedly, learn their name, then ask them how they are doing whenever you see them. Try to actually answer with something specific when people ask how you are doing. If you have kids or access to them (young relatives), try reading out loud to them. Join a writing seminar that asks you to read your work out loud.

The above are just a laundry list of ideas, the point is basically "find low pressure environments to speak, do it as often as possible, vary the scenarios."

Toastmasters is great.

The meetings are structured with an agenda, the toastmaster for the meeting makes sure the agenda is followed and stays on topic.

They've made the program more dynamic. I don't know the new details very well and not sure how I feel about it. It used to be everyone received a workbook on how to deliver ten short speeches about varrying topics, but now you can customize it and I think they use an online website/program to keep track of that.

Everything at a meeting is always explained to everyone, and everyone I've met at Toastmasters meetings have been very nice.

You can use the website (https://www.toastmasters.org) to find a meeting near you and usually just drop in, but it's always polite to give them a head's up that you'll be visiting.

I just want to reinforce this. Toastmasters is where you want to go. The quality of the speakers is excellent, but more importantly, they are incredibly kind and understand to people who aren't great speakers. This is literally the answer I came here to find, and post it if it wasn't. Toastmasters 100%.

Totally agree. Toastmasters got me from barely being able to speak before a group to a point where I have no problems giving presentations before anybody. One of the best things I ever did in life.

+1 for Toastmasters

Most times you can just attend a local chapter speech for free, and if you like it, you can sign up for a membership. There have been plenty of great tips on giving great speeches, and more importantly, this is all hands on!

And you can speak freely without worrying about sounding imperfect, and nobody judges you, because everyone out there want to learn and improve themselves.

Another CTM chiming in to say that Toastmasters should be one's first stop on this journey.

I've found different Toastmaster groups operate a bit differently. Some are very strict (using clickers whenever you say "um" for example) and others not as much. So OP, if you do try Toastmasters, and the first group doesn't "feel" right, see if another nearby group is available.

I've done this in various forms and I think this is one of the best methods to get better at public speaking. I recommend at least dropping in on a meeting to see how they're run. You'll be very impressed at how organized they are.

This. Have been attending meetings for about 2 months and have given 4-5 table topic speeches. Give my first prepared speech next week. Definitely can tell I'm getting better just by having to do it repeatedly.

I was a disaster at speaking until I was in grad school and had to teach classes (6+ hours/week). At some point you get enough volume and it becomes no big deal. You start focusing on trying to educate or amuse your audience and are no longer nervous. The key is to get enough practice. Toastmasters is one way to get started, but nothing beats the volume you get by signing up to teach a class several times a week.

Same experience here with teaching, it has had a huge secondary benefit for me in that I know how to run a room. I also highly recommend running a meetup.

If you are like me (super shy and self conscious) I definitely would do toastmasters first before doing a lot of teaching. I did teaching for a while but I wasn’t ready so I just kept piling up more and more bad experiences without getting better. After a year of toastmasters I had a pretty good foundation and finally could actually improve.

It feels like going into a country without ang knowledge of the language. You can be there for years and never learn anything. But once you have a foundation then learning is possible.

I'll second this. There is nothing like teaching to get your ability to publicly speak built up.

I was garbage at public speaking until I had to teach an ed. law course in graduate school. Now I'm exceptional at it.

It also helps if it's a subject you're super knowledgeable about. That helps.

Me to I was nervous, but when I was 20 or so I joined a group in the UK 18 Plus (now just Plus) similar to Rotaract.

I joined the committee and I was my job to stand up and announce the next weeks events, I used to imagine putting on circus masters top hat to get over my nerves.

I ended up going to various conferences run on formal lines and speaking at those.

I have also gone to a large number of "political" conferences run on formal lines (think roberts rules) both as delegates and standing order committees - which organize the formalities of business.

I was on may way to a meeting and bumped into John Bercow on his way to the house of commons, unfortunately I did not have my copy of Citrine other wise id have asked him to sign it.

Simon Lancaster has a good book on a mechanics of rhetoric and speech writing


That's basically how I did it, too. Teaching martial arts classes 3 to 5 times a week, for 3 hours a night (though that was many years and many beers ago). My coworkers remark on how well I speak in public, and while I get that from their perspective it's a scary thing, to me it's just another job.

If you're in a reasonably sized city, there are probably dozens of tech meetups looking for content. Just start hanging out and you'll start seeing opportunities to talk. Take them.

Also, when you're just starting out, stick to topics you know inside out. Only write enough notes to remind yourself of what you want to talk about. And then just talk to everyone. Don't make it a "presentation". Too much detail and you might get worried about sticking to the material. Just wing it.

Yeah this was a big one for me. TAing classes as an undergrad and then running classes as a grad student removed a lot of the anxiety. I still have some level of nerves, but it feels like it comes from a healthier place and isn’t crippling. Also helps to fail in low(er) stakes situations and realize that the world goes on afterwards.

There are also other venues for teaching that one can explore - extension classes, etc. I paid for my summers in grad school by teaching test prep classes. Was pretty awesome once I could focus mainly on the grad classes - LSAT, GMAT, GRE. But great teaching and public speaking experience.

I would suggest, if this is at phobia-level for you, it's worth thinking about why you're getting so nervous.

I went from enjoying public speaking to absolutely dreading it (feeling like I'm falling off a cliff, trembling voice, sudden drops in blood pressure leading to complete loss of train-of-thought). This was literally career-limiting, and I could see how I was being excluded from projects that would require presenting to VPs + execs.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on it, and realized what had happened was that I had taken over management of a failing project, and I wasn't turning it around. Our VP was extremely harsh, and drew out everyone's professional failures/limitations. But I realized that my sudden and complete inability to present, was linked to me "knowing" that my work sucked, or knowing that no matter what I said, it was gonna end badly with me looking like an idiot.

So I would suggest you might think about whether the public-speaking nervousness also happens when you're asked to present something you're happy, proud, and knowledgable about, or whether it's connected to insecurity in your work, project, or your own mastery of the material you're presenting.

I talk for a living. It takes time to improve. Some quick and dirty tips (sorry, english not my first language):

- Relax and meditate

- Practice a LOT. Everyday. Even two minutes helps.

- Learn to breath properly

- Record yourself speaking aloud at home with your phone. Make notice of all the nuances of the voice

- Prepare your material very well

- Visualize you are explaining the stuff to a friend at home. It will help you sound more natural.

Getting nervous is normal and part of the game.

- Record yourself speaking aloud at home with your phone. Make notice of all the nuances of the voice

This. Better yet video yourself. REALLY painful but REALLY helpful.

I suspect your starting point was different than OP's. He is describing (I think) a crippling nervousness. This is very different from just tensing or run-of-the-mill nervousness.

All your advice is great, but (from personal experience) it's not enough to overcome phobia-level tension.

I think many people don't understand what phobia-level tension even looks/feels like. My own worst moment: presenting an architectural diagram to a VP, I started panicking, and repeated the phrase "...and we're going to build an abstraction layer..." three or four times in a row, in a slow monotone voice, until someone in the room snapped me out of it. Embarrassing is an understatement.

Some have mentioned this, but it's true: jump at every opportunity you have to do any kind of public speaking gig - whether it's a 10 minute thing or a 2 hour thing.

This is what I've done - and though the first time is incredibly nerve-wracking, especially if it's a longer presentation, it only gets easier from that point on. But you do want to make sure that you know your material very well - the goal is to be as knowledgeable as possible of the topic on which you are speaking. Be prepared for questions.

Personally, I've found that presenting the topic to a friend or family beforehand helps immensely. Writing and reading your PowerPoint (or equivalent) is one thing, but learning how to transition naturally from point-to-point and from slide-to-slide is something else entirely. You'll also find, while presenting, mistakes that you didn't notice simply by reading through it and you can correct those mistakes before they serve to embarrass you publicly.

I recommend staying away from coffee before presentations and instead, drink an herbal caffeine-free tea to calm your nerves (chamomile works wonders for me).

I was not a very good public speaker (or general communicator), and it would make me feel uncomfortable having to have some normal conversations like ordering food. Nothing too severe, it didn't really interfere with my life, but it bothered me that it wasn't a very easy thing for me even though it was a daily part of my life. I think the most impactful way that I have improved this is sort of different from what a lot of people have recommended: Ask strangers how their day is going.

You're ordering a coffee? Well that barista has had a day, and you should ask them about it! It takes them a few seconds to ring you up, "I'll have a medium coffee, black, thanks! How has your day been?" People are usually very happy to be asked how their day is going, and you get the chance to practice small talk. After a while it feels natural, and you cheer up most of the people you interact with.

If you can find a supportive local improv troupe, that allows you to take classes, or has open "Jams" -- I would HIGHLY recommend taking said classes, or attending such jams. Learning how to perform improv (particularly, longform improv) has taught me a difficult-to-exhaustively-enumerate set of skills that are not limited to public speaking, such as:

- Focused Observation / Listening (insanely important, this)

- Ability to Deal with the Unexpected

- Empathy / Emotional Intelligence

- Negotiation (If you've played being on both sides of the table, you know what the other side wants)

- Cooperation

- Banter

- Storytelling

- Emotional Endurance

- Interpersonal Relationship Creation and Maintenance

- ...

In addition to these skills, I've also found myself a lot happier, being able to engage in a creative activity within a supportive community which offers something completely novel each time I attend.

When I moved cities, I started a new improv troupe in that city, because it means that much to me.

Check it out. :)

I recently signed up for a local improv 101. It's fun and super difficult coming from someone who is not quick on their feet. I've got a lot to learn. Any tips for someone who is introverted and not super witty?

I was debating between improv and toastmasters and picked improv since I thought it would be more fun.

That's awesome, I wish you the best of luck :)

Firstly, I should say, that depending on what your definition of "witty" is, you might be focusing on the symptom, rather than the cause. The appearance of wittiness, is fundamentally linked to an advanced ability to listen carefully to what is happening right now, both in your physical/social/(other domain) surroundings, and within your own mind/body. The ability to do all this is itself much more fundamentally important than I first realized when I started improv -- which I should mention, I also started because I wanted to be wittier :)

In essence, I would recommend that if you are looking to have a witty comment, you first focus on really learning to listen carefully and pay attention to what is happening right now. The skill of observation. You will notice some people in your class are not as good at listening. Perhaps you will offer a concept, and it is totally forgotten with the next sentence they say. Notice that these people always seem to be thinking of things ahead of time, rather than listening truly to what their partner just said, or was trying to convey with their body language. These people will not be able to make good scenes, because a "good scene" has created a temporary universe which -- even if it has ridiculous laws -- is internally consistent. If you are not listening you will miss when these laws & state are established, and you will cause contradictions in the universe you're making. If this happens the audience will be completely thrown off, and will find the scene distasteful, though they may not know why. The audience LOVES to see you care about made-up details of the universe.

I could ramble on about the subject... email me if you're interested in talking about it further... but here are a few other tips:

- Learn to agree with others. The best improvisers I know will agree with even the silliest of premises. Denial kills scenes. This is the fundamental rule.

- Learn to add details.

- Learn that not every sentence needs to be funny. The humor comes from the building of the self-consistent universe. I promise you will get the opportunity to say "the funny, laugh-getting line" eventually, if you build a self-consistent universe, and you and your partner care about its details.

- Be okay with silence, on that same note.

- Make bold character choices, but again, make your character have a believable internal consistency within the rules of your universe

- Anything is possible in the universe of the scene -- but once a "law" or "truth" has been established, you cannot re-establish it.

- The previous rule does not mean that your character and universe cannot grow and change -- character growth is something to be desired -- but there must be a reason in the universe for the change to have come about. Again, internal consistency.

- Do not worry if it takes some time to come up with a response. It is more important to prioritize listening and fully understanding what has been communicated by your partner, than it is to prioritize the speed of your next move. New improvisers will, almost without fail, prioritize the speed of their response over their response's quality. Don't fall into this trap.

- At the same time, don't overthink it. You can do this by making sure that you're measuring the quality of your response purely based on the fact that what you're saying is (1) listening to what your partner said, (2) saying yes to some component of what they gave you, and (3) adding some new information. That's it. If all you're trying to do is meet those three criterion, you have a very solid bedrock.

- Improv maxims and teachings can be notoriously cryptic at first; and in many ways it's still an art that is difficult to succinctly & fully communicate in English. Don't get discouraged if you don't understand your teacher, or the things I've just said... just understand that there are truths contained within each phrase

At the end of the day, the last tip is that the funniest things, the most side splitting laughs, are going to come from the "truths" about the real world you and I live in, that you can express through the scenes you create.

Anyway, sorry for the long response. I am very passionate about this subject, obviously, and I hope that some of this information can help you.

Propranolol (beta blocker) will help. It shuts down the fight or flight mechanism in your brain. It calms your voice, your heartbeat and your nerves. It's really amazing...


I pop 4-5 of this 1 hour before a big meeting or presentation. I've also used them at private gatherings when I'm speaking in front of a larger group. Works really well. Tell your DR about your public speaking fears and he/she will more than likely prescribe you a beta-blocker.

So to sum up your solution in one word, drugs. Nothing against it Propranolol but I just found it amusing drugs can almost be the solution to a lot of biological problems.

For most people, it's the fear and nervousness of public speaking that's the problem (not the content, knowledge, or skills of the presenter.) This fear can hold people back (it did for me). I'm sure Toastmasters would have the same impact (and I went to a few TM meetings) but I couldn't make it work with my other commitments. Propranolol is immediate and from a personal experience, it was extremely helpful for my career, confidence, etc.

All good, I get it. Like I said before, it makes sense and sometimes drugs is the solution. For ex. (since I've been watching a lot of baseball recently), Roman could be the go-to solution to ED. I just find it amusing that there is a drug to help with anything/everything.

I'm sure in our lifetime we will see CRISPR replacing drugs as the panacea to these "biological" issues.

CRISPR and drugs both have the same problem though, they lead to physical damage IF they go wrong (which they always do for some). I had a medical need for adrenaline blockers it gave me terrible nightmares for weeks, changing meds did not help.

They obviously did help you, so anyone else just be careful, biology is complex.

Sorry to hear that and I agree with your sage advice to be careful.

If you have any health issues, tend to those. Anxiety can be a side effect of things like blood sugar issues. Being physically healthier can help reduce the incidence of anxiety attacks.

It's generally useful to wonder what other people want or need. Most people spend a lot of their time in social settings worried about being judged by others, hurt in some way, etc.

If you are focused on putting others at ease, things will go smoother and then this success will help calm your nervousness and can lead to a positive feedback loop that goes good places.

I can be a ball of nerves, but other people have told me I don't look it. I have been told that's surprising news because I seem so calm.

That's probably in large part because I'm aware that my subjective experience of the thing and my performance aren't necessarily directly related and the important piece is performance.

(This comment is not comprehensive. I'm just hoping to add new thoughts not already covered by other comments.)

I got a 2 month gig lecturing basic CS after finishing my degree. It was a pretty transformative experience - the first two lectures were among the worst experiences of my life! Panic in front of 200 people. After that it was fine.

Since then volunteered recently to speak at tech meetups, etc. Organizers are usually very happy to find more speakers! Still get the heart rate increase, sweaty palms, etc but apparently it no longer affects my speaking :)

This is easy:

1. Prepare

2. Practice

- Toastmasters (or similar group) is a good way to practice

- Meetup groups will ask for speakers if toastmasters is not available

- You could also record yourself, and revise

This is pretty much all there is to it. Perhaps study others closely as well.

This doesn't actually answer your question as far as a pointer to resources, but here's some tips:

- Take a breath before you begin speaking. Often I'd find that I'd start speaking too quickly and my voice wasn't "ready" which ends up making you sound squeaky or out of breath or just generally flustered. This tip also helps a bit with the tendency to speak way too fast.

- If you have room to move around, don't be afraid to walk back and forth across the stage/platform/front of the room etc. Don't over-do it, but I find it's way easier for me to speak while I'm moving.

- At least for myself, I've found that moments where I feel like I really stumbled over my words, or spoke too quietly/loudly, or "forgot a line", actually end up being very noticeable when I later watch the video recordings.

- Public speaking is very opinionated and some people have some pretty pedantic rules. For example toastmasters is really aggressive about chiding you for using the word "umm". Now there's perhaps some truth to it - the role of a word like "umm" is to indicate that your brain is searching for what to say but still produce sound thus "holding your space" (so that no-one else cuts in), so in one sense I get why it's recommended against because when giving a talk there's no risk of someone cutting into you; your audience is captive (usually). However in another sense, "umm"-ing helps keep a certain rhythm/tempo to your speech which can actually help keep things smooth when you're searching for what to say.

Similar to the above, virtually every "rule" of public speech can be broken if you have the fundamental principles right. Barack Obama says "uhh" quite frequently, yet most people consider him charismatic. You could certainly argue that he's charismatic in spite of saying "uhh" rather than because of it, but in any case just remember not to miss the forest for the trees. Follow the principles - measured speech, don't be afraid to use space, try to talk more or less naturally - and you'll be a great public speaker.

Lastly, public speaking is a skill. It takes practice. If you can find a room to yourself, practice giving a talk a bunch, and make sure to record yourself. You'll likely be very surprised in the difference between your perception of yourself and how you actually come off, and having recorded videos is a great way to identify any tics/odd habits you have that you might want to work on.

Patrick Winston of MIT gave a good series of lectures on how to give a presentation: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9F536001A3C605FC His explanation of why writing things on a board and slow pacing is helpful for your audience made sense to me.

The reality is that speaking is a physical skill similar to any over physical activity. How do you get better at riding a bike? You ride it a lot. How do you get better at speaking? You speak a lot. Verbal communication is something I long struggled with and I used to look for all kinds of solutions but then, one day, I decided I was going to start talking into a microphone and record myself talking about whatever topic I wanted to talk about. In my day job I work at home and rarely talk to anyone, at the time I used to also live alone in a suburb area way on the edge of my city, basically I was pretty isolated and already a bit depressed so my daily opportunities to talk to others weren't very many.

At first, trying to talk for 10 minutes straight seemed very weird. I realized my mouth would get sore, etc, I would sometimes physically get tired of talking and make mistakes in what I said.

After doing this for about a month though I eventually started getting better at it and even posted some videos on YouTube where I narrated. I was also finding that I had less trouble expressing myself and being understood when talking with other people.

This isn't a cure all and it's not going to solve all anxieties related to public speaking but I really believe it can help most people. Many jobs nowadays don't require much talking and some people can easily get by nowadays with much less verbal communication than they probably is used to so I think this approach is something at least worth considering.

As an aside, this has also led to be developing a much greater appreciation for verbal communication, including music, listening to different accents and I have also been learning a foreign language. This isn't strictly relevant to becoming a better speaker but I feel like my approach eventually opened up a new appreciation for language and communication that was completely lacking from my life before.

Not a big one, but one that I found helped a lot: cutting out the "filler" words ("like", "uh", "so"...). These fill words are used in many place to hold onto the listeners attention, but doing it too much can make your talk non-dynamic, and your audience will stop listening.

We have somewhat primal instincts that make us maintain focus on subtle things like body movement and differences in speech, or even lack thereof. So moving slowly from one spot to another, talking with your hands, and having _gaps_ in your speech will help your audience naturally maintain focus.

Filler words are easy to remove: just practice not saying them when you're having conversations with the clerk at the store or your friends/family. You'd be surprised how effective it is, and how much more polished you'll sound.

With experience and some anxiety resistance filler words can be filtered out as you said. It does detract ones attention from the speaker and reduces the quality of the talk. It is a long process.

It's well worth the effort as it it will also pay dividends in the longer term. Speaking wo filler words in normal conversations (especially in the workplace) can help you immensely.

I used to have anxiety attacks when I was in school, I had stage fright from my child hood, I avoided crowd, never participated in extra curricular activities unless it was forced or mandatory and even then I used to find reasons to skip it. I dreaded that I would stand out and become a laughing stock. But in my 8th grade one of my teachers pushed me to present a lot of projects regularly. At first I tried to find way out of them but slowly I got around the fear bit by bit and Now thankfully I am in a better position when it comes to presentation, talks and general speaking skills. I guess one can confront fear bit by bit and chew through the pain/trauma and build resistance. That's all just wanted to share my experience hope it helps.

I have this problem as well. I have gotten around it in a few ways:

First, practice what you are going to say RIGOROUSLY. You should be able to recite your full speech / pitch / presentation / whatever with no use of visual aids. Basically, you should memorize it. I always assume that I will be ~20% worse while performing than while practicing, so if I can do the whole presentation without visual aids while practicing then the visual aids will be sufficient to save me if I get in trouble while presenting. Most people rely on their visual aids as a huge crutch during practice, and as a result they forget what they want to say and end up staring at their PowerPoint or notecards during the entire presentation as opposed to engaging with the audience. They come off as nervous and unprepared. Further, using your visual aids as a crutch incentivizes creating verbose slides as an insurance mechanism which is why most PowerPoints you see are shit.

Second, realize that public speaking is fundamentally about telling a story. A good story and a good presentation should share the same elements: they should be amusing and engaging (always work in some humor and audience interactions to engage the audience, many of whom probably don't want to be there and will fall asleep otherwise); they should be concise (don't go on tangents); key take aways should be clearly stated and there shouldn't be a data dump; there should be a natural flow and verbal transitions should be employed as if you were speaking to a friend; etc. Finally, know your audience. What do they care about / want to see? What do they already know? How can they be persuaded or amused?

Third, as other posters have mentioned, the only way to get better at this is to practice. Go find opportunities to practice. It only takes a few good presentations to shake the fear of being a bad presenter / acquire the rep of being a good presenter.

Finally, realize that the stakes are pretty low normally. Most of the presentations I sit through are awful (even those from C suite people who basically present for a living) and most people can't speak or convey information well. As such, I rarely remember when people bomb as bad performance is the norm.

Many years ago in college I was skydiving with an adrenaline junky friend who would sign up for public speaking at any opportunity just to make himself nervous on purpose. He enjoyed the thrill of having his heart start throbbing, and even liked not being very prepared. While I recommend lots of preparation for public speaking, I do really like the idea of embracing being scared of speaking as part of the fun, and I’ve tried to borrow that attitude and make it part of my own personal narrative. I guess it helped because these days I always jump at the chance to give a conference talk.

There is probably no shortcut to that skill. Try to find speaking opportunities on topics you know about, e.g. at meetups. It is better to start in front of a smaller group (10 people), from my experience nervosity is lower when in front of a smaller group. Record your talk and listen to it afterwards in detail and find things you want to improve. Don't hesitate to ask for feedback from others, and don't take it too personel. Try to be objective like you would train for a sports challenge.

Every public talk will improve your skillset a bit, so you need to just do it!

This is a tricky one, because there are a few different facets or domains relevant to the topic. Two major ones that immediately come to mind are public speaking and conversational speaking.

I'm very good at conversational speaking, and I think that it mostly comes from listening to a ton of podcasts. This has helped me gain curiosity across a wide range of topics, but has also helped me learn how to dig into those topics via conversation. For this, pick topics you're interested in (perhaps some in fields that you're not fully interested in yet, to broaden your ability to converse across domains!). Also, while listening, look for traits that you admire in conversationalists, and try to practice them when speaking with others (this is a similar approach that can be used to learning anything, really).

As for public speaking, from what I've heard, Toastmasters is as good as it gets. They provide a learning and training environment. Then it's up to you to try it out "in production" (at work, weddings, etc).

Remember that it's a learning experience, and it will only get better with time via analysis, practice, and persistence!

Are there any podcasts that you would especially recommend for building conversational prowess?

I'll give a shout out to Speeko! (I'm not affiliated with them in any way)


A testimonial (also unaffiliated): https://www.speeko.co/blog/beth-tucker-interview

This book is, Ole coached me for TEDx - after which my talk was uploaded also to TED.com:


A few thoughts, as someone who went from being deathly afraid of talking in front of the class in Junior High School, to presenting well over 100 times:

- Just do it: Find opportunities to talk in front of people. Come up with things you know about, and find meetups or similar, and talk. Part of it is just getting familiar with it.

- Watch other people do it: Find other presentations that have lots of views and/or that you enjoy watching, and figure out what you like about them. Then try to do a similar thing.

- Figure out what you want to say: I've spent a lot of time talking impromptu. The talks I like the most, and the feedback I've gotten, has been refine your message and practice your presentation and pacing. The best talks I've seen really had their message refined.

Practice it as much as possible, I stutter and developed selective mutism because of it. Speaking used to agonising to me but in my mid twenties I got cured of my stutter. Don't know how it happened, but one day I realised I hadn't stuttered in months while before I was anxious everytime I had to open my mouth. Now I have a bigger vocabulary than most, in part thanks to my avoidance strategies around certain words.

There is some good advice in this discussion. My own personal checklist for when I have to give a talk. Not perfect but it helps me: http://lukecall.net/e-9223372036854744342.html

(It is oriented for church but the steps would largely be the same elsewhere.)

I found this YouTube channel yesterday and it appears helpful: https://www.youtube.com/user/charismaoncommand?itct=CCcQ6p4E...

Beta-blockers are often used for performance anxiety. They block physical symptoms of anxiety caused by adrenaline. They're safe and cheap. https://patient.info/medicine/propranolol-a-beta-blocker

Although most of the advices focuses on specific techniques (which is very important to focus on), I want to emphasize something different: diet and lifestyle.

Without sounding too obvious, I can not recommend you enough reducing caffeine and alcohol use (if its a problem) and focusing on sporting regularly.

It’s like doing software releases: if it hurts, do it more often.

So accept every opportunity you get to practice.

If your work will pay for it, I've had good results sending people to the Dale Carnegie course.

One of my engineers had almost crippling anxiety speaking in front of even small groups. After the course, she had the confidence to speak up and lead meetings.

An old friend of mine who was very comfortable with speaking told me it was acting that helped him. You get to practice saying someone else's words, until you're ready to use your own.

Read a book loudly. Listen to audiobook or a language course and repeat simultaneously after the lector. Try doing these in different languages. Drink water while doing these.

https://speaking.io/ has an extensive set of useful advice.

I recommend this book: "it's not all about me" - robin dreeke


I am a part of a program at Mozilla called Mozilla Tech Speakers and we help people to become better public speakers. By your message, I'm guessing that public speaking is not your focus buuuut we do have a lot of resources that might be helpful. You can find them at:


If I can give you a couple fly-by tips, I'd say:

* Do not compare yourself with extroverted people. Speaking comes quite easy and naturally for some but that doesn't mean it should be like this for everyone. We're quite unique and what works for one person might not work for others. AS long as you're making progress, you're doing good and you're the only one who can decide what progress look like for you. Don't measure yourself using "other people rulers".

* If you have a group of trusted friends that you could meet (online is fine) regularly, you could do an exercise that helps a lot, more about it at the end of this comment. This exercise is my favorite thing ever and the most useful thing in this comment to be honest.

* Small meetups are a great place to start practicing talking to people. They are low pressure and low stakes. If you want, find a small meetup that you enjoy. Go for a while as a listener until you create some relationships there and feel safe. Then, when you want, try giving a small talk (5 min). It works quite well if there is someone you trust there and you can do this as a pair. Pairing with more experienced people makes talking easier (you both might want to practice together first).

So, back to the exercie and the actual very useful thing in this whole wall of text. It goes like this:

* Find a group of trusted people. I think it needs to be a group of three people for this to be useful, in my mind the ideal group is five people.

* Meet regularly, online or IRL. Whatever regularly means is up to you all.

* Decide on a topic for the meeting before hand. It doesn't need to be tech, but it usually is. It is fun to do themes, for example Halloween topic.

* Prepare a 2 minutes talk about that topic.

* You'll take turns. One person will give their two minutes talk, others will listen.

* Each of the listeners will then give their feedback and this is important because there is a structure to it. The feedback must be one of two kinds. The listener can either talk about what they liked from your talk or what they want to see/hear more about. There is not space for negative comments or criticism. You can only praise something or say what you want to see more about. It is this way so that it creates a safe space. People can talk without the fear of being criticized. It works better than providing "constructive criticism" because instead of prunning what you see as problems, you're steering the person towards what you see as strenghs, this is better for both you and them.

This exercise is done for all the Mozilla Tech Speakers cohorts, we've done this with hundreds of people and the same technique is used by Universities and courses on public speaking. It is a proven thing and has a name, but I forgot the name and anyway the content is more important than the name.

If your fear of speaking is related to potential live feedback from people, you might want to experiment with analog asynchronous forms of getting your opinions and content out like making zines. They can convey the same content but allow you to practice finding a voice, a style, and gain confidence in exposing your own ideas without the fear of live audience.

Hope this helped!

I'm an effective public speaker and really enjoy it (especially the responses I get afterwards). Here are a few of my tips:

1. Rehearse your presentation enough beforehand (including immediately before in another meeting room if possible) such that you are able to run on auto-pilot after the first few minutes. Can't emphasise how crucial this is.

2. Conduct your presentation so you're speaking naturally about particular points, rather than trying to remember an exact script (the act of trying to remember what you are "supposed" to say may be causing you anxiety). If you have rehearsed enough, and know enough about your subject, it should be possible for you to do this.

3. Recognise that you might need to write a script to begin with, when preparing your presentation. This can help ground you, and gives you something to start from. Once you have rehearsed it a few times, you should start developing a "rhythm" that feels more natural to you, and this is when you can start "winging it" a bit more. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with bringing your script / notes with you on the day. This will give you a feeling of security (you have a backup in case you freeze). By the time the end of the presentation rolls around, you may find you never needed to unfold your notes at all.

4. You will always feel nervous in advance, to some degree. This degree is lessened with lots of prior rehearsal, but it will still be there. Accept it as normal, and don't think that because you're nervous you are destined to fail. After the first few minutes, that's when your "flow" will start kicking in, and things will begin to happen naturally.

5. When developing your presentation, try to empathise as much from the audience's perspective as possible / take a very skeptical view on your material. If you then convey your presentation in this manner, you will easily be able to get your audience on side with you. This helps you get to the "flow" state more quickly than if you are talking at odds to people, and they keep their wall up.

6. Hopefully you are presenting about something that you are interested in or passionate about, or at least know enough about to be confident. Let your energy and confidence out into your presentation style. Don't be afraid to use big gestures, and convey your passion in your voice. Think of it less as a recitation of a script, and more of a powerful and fun experience that your audience is being taken along with. Think of your presentation less in terms of merely conveying dry information, but to "entertain" your audience. Emphasise dramatic flair to create interest from your audience. This comes more easily to some people than others (I have a drama background). People respond really well to this if you can pull it off.

7. Information retention in your audience increases by a lot if you get them to participate in some way. This can be more than just the cliche'd "everyone raise their hand if you have heard of X". If you do this well, and empathise with your audience's reluctance to participate (e.g. say "now I know everybody just loves these audience participation activities! /s"), they can be a really nice break to the monotony of a presentation, and is another tool to get your audience on side with you.

8. The more punchy and interactive things you can do during your presentation to grab your audience's attention, the easier it will be for you. Rather than looking out at a sea of bored faces checking their cellphones, you will see everyone's eyes looking directly at you, and can feel the expectancy in the air. This is a very powerful state to be in, some people refer to it as "holding the audience in the palm of their hand". Good luck!


I transformed my life by participating in Toastmasters for about a year an a half. Here's the thing, to get good at something you need the following..

* Training * Practice * Feedback * Show up and do it over and over again

Toastmasters provides all four of these ingredients.

“I transformed my life by participating in Toastmasters for about a year an a half. ”

Same here. The time investment is quite small compared to what you can get out of it. my main regret is that I didn’t learn about toastmasters when I was 18. My life could have gone quite differently.

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