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New user
Stirling/Manchester UK
54 Posts

Profile of sak07
I've got to do a presentation next week as part of my unit course for about forty people. I am scared to death; I know the content is good, it's just my delivery that I need to improve on. Has anyone got any advice for a worried teenager, making his debut on the public speaking scene? It's really strange because I don't think I'd be nervous if I had to do a trick, and I consider myself to be really confident; yet the thought of having everyone staring at me for twenty minutes is making me sick with worry. Please; any advice is greatly received.
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Regular user
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
173 Posts

Profile of Indyfan
I've had to do a number of public speeches, and first off, there's nothing wrong with being nervous.

Some tips to help, though......know your material. The better you are at knowing what you're talking about, the easier it will be.

My problem is that my face turns red when in front of a group. At the start of my speech, I tell them that "if my face turns red, that's normal". Usually, that breaks the ice, and gets a little bit of a laugh.

You could alter that to say you shake, or whatever may happen when you're nervous. Tell them that if you pee your pants, then worry.

But really, it's experience that will help overcome your nervousness.

Good luck!
Amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.
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Veteran user
303 Posts

Profile of HiveMind
Just remember that they want you to succeed,
so in a sense they are in support of you.
No one will tear you apart if you mess up,
George Bush can't give a speech and no one
interrupts him to laugh... (we wait until he's finished) But I'm sure you will be fine.

May we know what material you will cover?

PS: if there is a lectern or something to
rest your hands on I feel this helps me. I
look down at my notes and await pure silence
while I compose myself, then I look up at the
audience, and find one guy in the middle
and stare right at him, then I speak. I
usually find a point beyond the audience
dead ahead, and to the right and left which
is where I occasionally look while speaking.
This helps me.
"Free will is an illusion." - B.F. Skinner
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Veteran user
Hamilton, NZ
341 Posts

Profile of ChrisZampese
Tell them that if you pee your pants, then worry.

that's great Indyfan!

Sak07, Indyfan has some good advice. Make sure you know your material. Go through your speech in front of a mirror out loud. This helps as at least when you stand up you know that you are capable of speaking!

Like Indy said, it may be a good idea to let them know you are nervous. Use a line like the ones in Indys post. If you can make them laugh at the start, then it makes you (and them) feel better. don't continually apologise for being nervous, get it out of the way at the start, and then go for it.

Do what you can to make the venue comfortable for yourself. If you know you are going to shake, then get a podium to put your notes on (if its OK for the president to do, then its OK for you to do!). This can also be helpful as something to hold onto! Take a short peice of time at the start to ensure that the room is set up right (curtains pulled if necessary, projector in the right place - if you have overheads then make a test sheet so you can get the focus right etc) and ask if everyone is comfortable and can see (no light in their eyes, can they see the test overhead OK etc). This will help break the ice a bit, and get you speaking to the group outside of your rehearsed presentation.

Lastly, don't sweat it! I know that is somewhat trite, but consider this (speaking from 4 years of Uni presentations!)...

If the presentation is part of the course, then everyone will have to do it at some stage, they will be more worried about their presentation than yours!. Also, out of the 40 or so people in the class, less than half will be concentrating on you! So what it comes down to is you are speaking to 20 people, who are all more worried about themselves than they are about you!

Sorry to ramble so much, but I hope that there are things in there that help,

Good Luck and be sure to let us know how it went,

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are
Cheshire Cat
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Special user
Wilmslow, UK
941 Posts

Profile of Cheshire Cat
I'd keep my hands occupied with something - if only a pencil. Also if anyone suggests having a stiff drink beforehand - just say no as it will make matters so much worse.

Finally, good luck. Smile
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Veteran user
386 Posts

Profile of r4bid
I know this column has to do with magic performances but I see public speaking to be very similar

Just rename your fear, call it power and use it when you speak to make your delivery 200% better.

Lots of practice actually delivering is necessary, get a small group of friends to sit down in chairs, get up on some sort of platform and do your presentation just as you would for the actual crowd.
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Special user
Memphis area
956 Posts

Profile of Margarette
From someone who has been there, here's my two cents on overcoming fear of public speaking:

Don't write out the speech....outline on note cards

Don't read the speech....looks awful when you lose your place

I know lots of people will tell you to look just above the heads of the people in the audience. While this might work for a lot of people, it doesn't work for me. What I do is divide the room into four sections...right front, right back, left front, and left back....and choose one person in each section to look at. This way, I am looking at the audience and not over their heads. It works for me, but this technique is not for everyone.

If you have no podium for your speech, don't put hands in pockets (especially if you are the type that likes to use your hands when you talk)...if you have to ask, you're too young! Smile

Practice the speech as often as you can.

Try to speak in such a manner where the 'deaf grandmother in the back row' can hear you, but don't other words, speak from the diaphragm, not the throat.

It does get easier the more times you speak in front of an audience. I know that doesn't help much now, but it does get easier.

The only stupid question is the one not asked.
Peter Marucci
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Inner circle
5389 Posts

Profile of Peter Marucci
HiveMind is right: The audience WANTS you to succeed and is on your side.
Another thing to remember, just as in magic: Only YOU know what you are going to do; that's advice I used to give young reporters who had to interview people they considered "heavyweights". The subject is the one that should be worried, since he/she doesn't know what you are going to ask or say!
One final bit of advice that may be of a help right now:
Focus on something else, just before the speech -- breathing exercises, the weather forecast for the next week, the price of rice in Malay, anything; but totally focus on something that has nothing to do with the speech and you will find that it will relieve the pressue.
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New user
Stirling/Manchester UK
54 Posts

Profile of sak07
Thanks guys for the great advice, I really appreciate your advice.
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Howard Wiles
797 Posts

Profile of hkwiles
My two Penny worth !!

1. Know your subject/topic well.

2. Unless you are a natural comedian don't try to be too funny, although an odd joke included helps to lighten things.

3. Basic presentational skill are a must:

4 A good "opener" to get their attention, could be your joke, a statistic, a well known saying .You could even do a trick if it fits in with the content of the talk

5 Tell them briefly what you are going to talk about and the contents.

6 Give the body of the talk

7. Summarize the main points at the end

As regards your "fear" look at it rather as "excitement" at the anticipation of giving a brilliant talk.

Good Luck, Let us know how well you did

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Regular user
107 Posts

Profile of hockey
Pretend they are all naked!! Or have you ever presented magic in front of anyone? If so, pretend your doing that.
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Veteran user
303 Posts

Profile of HiveMind
One can also do something beginning magicians
often do, get material that is a surefire
winner and concentrate on presentation. Just
like buying an easy packet trick, you can
pick up an easy poem and find an open mic
night where poetry readings take place. I'm
sure most people wouldn't do this, but IF
you are determined to not just "get by" but
want to have people saying "they were a
really great speaker" then I suggest working
on your ability to speak. It can be fun, I
swear it can!

"Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley is a GREAT
short poem. It is very powerful and less than
20 lines long. (of course it helps to know
who Ozymandias was but that is another
"Free will is an illusion." - B.F. Skinner
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Inner circle
Bar Harbor, ME
2191 Posts

Profile of drwilson
Lots of good advice here!

My thoughts, from many years of public speaking:

1. Don't memorize your whole talk, but be sure that you memorize your first couple of sentences. After that, you have momentum.

2. Write out the notes, practice the talk, then ultimately give the talk with no notes.

3. About starting with a joke, an apology, etc.: the other school of thought is, don't. The audience doesn't know you. They are here to be informed about something, not to see a night club act. You can be funny once you have given them something. State the problem, perhaps as a question. I don't know what your subject is, but if you were talking about probability, you might begin:

"Did you ever wonder how how mathematicians made a living in the seventeenth century? They had wealthy patrons. What did wealthy patrons like to do for fun in the seventeeth century? They were gamblers."

That's more interesting than a joke about the weather, isn't it?

4. The key rule of rhetoric: tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them. For the probability talk that I started above, you go on to say:

"In this talk, I'll tell you how Pascal developed the basics of probability theory to give his patron an advantage at the tables. You'll see how Pascal's ideas made many other things possible, from genetics to life insurance. Finally, you'll learn how to do simple calculations to figure the odds at dice."

At the end of the talk, you tell the audience how you have delivered what you said that you would (make sure that you do).

5. Use props or visual aids. In the talk were are discussing here, you might hold up a pair of large cloth or foam dice (at least 4" on a side, two different colors) and toss them to illustrate a toss of the dice.

6. Record yourself giving your practice talk, in front of people if possible. Listen for, and eliminate annoying vocal mannerisms (ummm, you know, OK, etc.).

7. Stage fright is normal, even beneficial. Everybody gets butterflies, the trick is to make them fly in formation. If you are completely prepared, you will be confident. If you are confident, the audience will be interested. They will get something out of your talk.

Good luck!


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Loyal user
291 Posts

Profile of FTAMagician
I finally realized some time ago that ALL the people setting there either watching me perform or listening to me are NOT some "magical creatures" hanging and judging every word!! They are people and while they are there watching and listening, at the same time they are thinking about their OWN problems, fears, ideas, fantasies, money problems, male or female problems...PROBLEMS in general..maybe dreading and fearing something THEY have to do soon!!!!!! That's pretty much a FOR SURE since they're all human!!
Since I started think about that, I have been much LESS (like almost NONE!) worried about doing anything in front of a group...whether 15 people or 515 !!!
Anyway...just a view that I HOPE will help!
Jonathan Townsend
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Eternal Order
Ossining, NY
27019 Posts

Profile of Jonathan Townsend
There is a great book titled:
How to Speak, How to Listen.

Like your magic audiences, they are there to be entertained. Just focus on establishing rapport. all the coins I've dropped here
Steve Hart
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Veteran user
Palm Bay, FL
382 Posts

Profile of Steve Hart
WOW! Everyone has given some great advice.

I would be interested in hearing back from
sak07 to find out how well it went.

Sak07, what did you learn from this experience?

Any advice that you have to offer for others who are giving their first speech?

Steve Hart
Cape Canaveral, FL USA
"Motivational Magicians are some of the highest paid magicians, find out why?"
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Elite user
432 Posts

Profile of Magix
I've done a fair amount of public speaking and I would have to go with the school of thought that says DON'T start with an apology for your nervousness. I don't think it's a good idea to call attention to it.

A funny opener can be a good ice breaker if appropriate. I spoke once in Bismarck, in Feb. I mentioned how I knew I was in trouble when I saw a sign at the airport that said "Welcome to Bismarck. Turn your watch back 60 degees".

Just my two cents.
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