For most of us, having to speak in front of a room full of strangers is the ultimate nightmare.

In fact, even the most articulate of us can be reduced to a stammering fool when put in front of a microphone or lectern, irrespective of whether the audience is live or virtual.

The recent controversy over international tennis star Naomi Osaka, while at the more extreme end of the scale, is a glaring example of just how debilitating fronting the media or any public speaking situation can be.

Odds are that as a junior player coming up the ranks, Osaka was concentrating on her game rather than on her media or presentation skills. Yet, like many successful sports people before her, she finds herself in the media spotlight, with audiences world-wide expecting her to show up, and speak up.

The business world is no different –  successful leaders are expected to be able to do more than just run a company. They are expected to be able to communicate their ideas and strategy clearly and openly. Being able to get your message across to clients, customers, staff and regulators – not to mention investors – is seen as a “must have” for business leaders.

But the reality is that good communicators are made, not born. Like many things in life, most of us aren’t born natural orators. We had to teach ourselves these skills, equip ourselves with the basic knowledge and tools, and then practice, practice, practice. Public speaking is no different.


Everyone’s level of fear or anxiety to public speaking will be different, but here are a couple of suggested places to start:

Seek out opportunities to speak:

Grabbing each and every speaking opportunity is a great way to start. Don’t let fear hold you back. Start small in team meetings and then continue to challenge yourself with bigger and different audiences. The more experience you get, the more confidence you’ll gain. Practice what you have learned and you will get better at it.

Be prepared:

It makes sense that the more prepared you are, the less worried you will be about being nervous or losing your train of thought. Ensure you know your audience, know what they are expecting,  and have your key messages clearly and succinctly prepared.

Prepare yourself for Q & A. If there is an opportunity for your audience to ask questions, put yourself into your audience’s shoes and anticipate as many questions as possible. And have answers prepared and link them back to your key messages.

Focus on why you are speaking:

Just before you are about to present, remember that this is not about you. Remind yourself that you are there to help your audience. You are an expert in your field, and you have useful, necessary information to share. This kind of thinking will help you become less nervous.

Ask for help:

There are plenty of self-help books and courses on offer, and your local Toastmasters group can provide great opportunities to build your skills in a non-threatening environment.  Then, of course, there are professional media and presentation courses, which can help you practice your presentation skills and provide simple techniques designed to ensure you perform well under pressure.

Irrespective of whether you think of yourself as a naturally good speaker or as a complete beginner, when it comes to public speaking, there is always room for growth.

You can reach out to Cannings’ media and presentation coaches at [email protected].