Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

Public Speaking Tips That Could Save Your Life (almost)

From Tissues to Toilets

When you have to give a speech all of your focus is on the speech, what you will say and how you will come across when you deliver it. But there are other things you should consider that may be more important than the speech itself. If you neglect these other things you could fall flat on your face and your speech will be a disaster.

We’re not going to let that happen. Let’s get to it.

Plan Your Route

When you arrive at the venue where you will be speaking take notice of where in the room you will be speaking as well as where you will be sitting during pre-speech coffee and pastry time. Look at the stage and the lectern and ask yourself, “How am I going to get from my table to there?” Walk the route ahead of time and make sure you know how you’re going to get from here to there gracefully.

Where are the Stage Steps?

Raised stages usually have two or three steps you must climb before you reach the lectern or podium. However, not all stages have steps on both sides of the stage. Make note of which side of the stage the steps are on. There is nothing more embarrassing than being introduced and approaching the side of the stage that has no steps. So much for your well-planned grand entrance.

Don’t Be A Heel!

This one is for the ladies. Be wary of wearing high heels to your speech. A formula for disaster is three steps leading up to a stage, no railing, a woman in heels already nervous who is holding a script and not concentrating on ascending the steps. A broken or twisted heel makes for a less than graceful entrance.

The Cell is Hell!

Don’t bring your cellphone to the lectern. At the very least turn it off. Aunt Mavis who calls you from Florida to tell you about Uncle Floyd’s gout has no idea you are addressing 1000 people at the moment. Also, even if you leave your cellphone at your table or in your purse, turn the ringer off. There is nothing more distracting than knowing it’s your cellphone ringing during your speech and there’s nothing you can do about it. Your mid-speech concentration will be gone.

In the interest of full disclosure I must admit I do bring my cellphone to the lectern with me when I am emceeing or speaking because I use it as a clock to make sure things stay on time. However, it is on silent mode.

Kleenex is Your Friend

Have some facial tissue handy in an easily-accessible pocket or tucked into a sleeve. When you are two inches away from a microphone there is no way to muffle a sniffle.

Don’t Drink and Speak

Be mindful of your liquid intake. Whether you are drinking soda pop, water, tea or coffee, cut yourself off as speech time approaches and be sure to answer nature’s call (even if you don’t really have to). Also remember that nervousness can sometimes compound the urge.

Personal tip: When I am driving to a speech or to emcee an event I stop at my local convenience store and get a bag of popcorn which I eat all the way to the venue.

Excuse me, where are the restrooms?

Know where the restrooms are located. ‘Nuf said.

Carbonated Beverages

Avoid carbonated beverages. The effects of a carbonated beverage and a live microphone do not make for a good mix.

A Disaster at Dinner

Be careful what you eat prior to your speech be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. A piece of meat stuck in your teeth and no toothbrush can ruin your concentration as you deliver your speech.

Do Not Ad-Lib

I learned this one from a mentor early in my television anchoring career. He told me, “The best ad-libs are written.” Meaning ahead of time. Don’t ad -lib something that you think is clever at the spur of the moment. You run the risk of saying something inappropriate or just plain dumb! Think it out ahead of time and practice your ad-lib.

You’re Not Funny

Jokes can make or break your speech, but they usually break it. Realize that you are not a comedian. You are not funny. Comedy is an art and science that requires timing and proper delivery. Concentrate on your speech.

Avoid The Stumbling Blocks

Now that you’re aware of the physical pitfalls you may encounter, keep them in mind but don’t let them be all consuming. Write your speech. Refine your speech. Rehearse your speech. Just make sure the physical stumbling blocks don’t ruin your big moment.




Tom Zalaski is a television news anchorman, speaker, emcee, author, grandpa, guitar player and #1 fan of Leslie West and Mountain.

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Tom Zalaski

Tom Zalaski

Tom Zalaski is a television news anchorman, speaker, emcee, author, grandpa, guitar player and #1 fan of Leslie West and Mountain.

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