What have you learnt from public speaking that you would share?

@deborahreid has shared with us five lessons she learnt about public speaking in her new article:

Five things I learnt speaking at a testing conference for the first time

I was curious to hear if others had advice or experiences to share?

One thing I always like to share is that no matter how nervous you feel on stage it never shows half as much as you think it does to the audience. Being on stage gives you an air of authority meaning that the audience will be more focused on your content than your demeanour.


One big thing I learned is that being well-prepared for your talk will make it a lot easier. I’m a big procrastinator and I’d usually leave preparing a speech until the very last moment which would in turn make me nervous - but lately, I’ve tried being a bit more responsible to do it earlier, and it means a lot.


Looking at @deborahreid’s post, I can definitely relate to her Risk 4. I was once called to speak in a debate at a trade union conference (a slightly different context, where supporting speakers on a motion might be ad-libbing or have minimal notes at best), and I was due to speak immediately after an official from the National Executive. Except that individual chose to recycle a comment I’d made in a fringe meeting two days before. All I could do was get to the microphone and loudly say “HUGH LANNING HAS JUST NICKED MY JOKE!”

On another occasion, I was called to speak immediately after a well-known (within the union) personality whose off-the-cuff speeches were notorious for their spectacular off-the-wall humour and surrealist imagery. My only reaction was to get up to the podium, make a big show of tearing up my notes, and say “I can’t follow that! Support the motion.” (I got almost as good a laugh as the prior speaker.) In situations like that, an element of theatricality is an advantage if you can pull it off.

These conferences were events where you would be addressing a hall of a few thousand delegates. If I was presenting a formal speech, I usually prepared a script in advance, checked it for timings (speakers were usually time-limited), and then printed it out with the text set to a larger font - 14 or 16 point. And (perhaps paradoxically), the bigger the audience gets, the less you can see of them from the front. A sea of faces where you recognise few of them are easier to push to the back of your mind than a smaller audience in a smaller space where you can identify individuals and know more of them.

1 Like

As someone who was very shy growing up and forced into public speaking at school I didn’t return to it until much later. At first it was in capacity of a cricket club chairman then speaking about accessibility in my mid 40’s. Those were two very different context but both had quite a bit in common.
I get really nervous before speaking so some things I do to mitigate that are;

  • Breathing. I do deep breathing and calming exercises in the 5 to 10 minutes before I speak
  • Content. I prefer slides with no more than 3 bullet points and an image which research shows helps link image to information. It also makes good reminders of what to say for each slide you have. I feel if I think more about areas and important points than a script my talks come across as more natural. It also helps if you are passionate about the subject
  • Practice speaking. That is your entire talk, improvising lightning talks or answering questions out loud. These are things you can do on your own which will help with timing, breathing and pace.
    Hope those help someone.

I participated in Super Voice 2022 last year. It was a public speaking contest in the testing space. I wrote an experience report on my lessons: Experience Report – Super Voice 2022 - Testing Titbits | Rahul Parwal


Know what you want to say. Like, really know it. And then be comfortable with straying a little or not hitting it perfectly.

Being nervous is fine. Be mindful of it and slow yourself down. It will pass.


Everybody is nervous. Even when they look that they’re not.

I’ve had people tell me that they envy me my confidence and how I’m not nervous at all. I’m nervous as hell, hands shaking, I usually don’t sleep at least a day before and two days after. But it doesn’t show at all (that’s a perk of my autism, I guess :smiley: )

1 Like