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How to plan your speech to reduce nerves on the day

Image of a woman presenting to a team at work

It can be difficult to know where to start when planning a talk. However, by following these steps, you will be able to prepare in a time-efficient way and will reduce the chance of nerves getting in the way of your performance.

Public speaking isn’t easy and let’s face it, only a small handful of people actually like the action of speaking publicly. Whether it’s panic or anxiety over saying the wrong thing, or a dislike of the attention being on you, presenting to a room full of people – however large – is frankly terrifying for many of us. So with that, why should you plan and prepare your speech or public speaking event?

There are many benefits to planning ahead, such as:

  • you will start with the end in mind
  • everything will be focused towards that desired outcome
  • the content you need will become more obvious
  • your talk will have a logical progression
  • your selection of visuals will be straightforward
  • you will be less likely to miss things

6 steps to plan your speech and reduce nerves

Think of the audience

“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: ‘To Whom It May Concern’.” – Ken Haemer, former Presentation Research Manager AT&T.

With that in mind, ask yourself:

  • Who will be in the audience?
  • Why are they attending?
  • What are their expectations?
  • How many will be there?
  • What is their level of knowledge about your topic?
  • What might their attitude be towards your talk?

Set outcomes and objectives

Just like planning a journey, first think about where you want to get to. Set your desired outcome and look beyond the talk.

Set your objectives

These are what you need to achieve in the talk in order to increase the chances of achieving your desired outcome.

There are three types of objectives:

  • imparting knowledge
  • developing skills
  • changing attitudes or beliefs – usually intending to motivate people to action

Useful phrasing for each of the three types of objectives could be:

By the end of my presentation the audience will:

  • understand or know…
  • be able to do…
  • commit to take action…

Examples for each type of objective include:

  • Understanding: the team will be able to explain the 10 safe working practices (e.g. they acquire knowledge, therefore understand).
  • Being able to: students will be able to use visual memory techniques (e.g. they can do).
  • Committing to action (influencing attitudes and beliefs): the panel will be convinced that we can benefit their business and will decide to hire us.

Consider time and environment

What other factors will influence the plan for your talk?

Time

  • How long do you have?
  • Does that include time for questions?
  • Is there flexibility?

Environment

  • How big is the room?
  • How are people seated?
  • What equipment will be available?

Different set-ups will influence the feel of the occasion, such as making it formal or informal.

What can you do to get the set-up how you would ideally like it to be?

Structure content

Follow three steps:

  • brainstorm all potential content
  • decide on content to keep or discard
  • sequence the content in a logical ‘story’

Design visuals

Now your content is sorted, you are in a position to decide on visuals. Ask yourself, ‘Do I actually need visuals?’ because you may not.

Rehearse

Rehearsing is useful for developing your talk as well as practising a finished version.

Trying out your talk while it is still being prepared will enable you to:

  • see how well it works
  • come up with great phrases and ways of explaining ideas
  • get feedback
  • adjust and finalise the design
  • develop your script or guide notes

Once your talk is ready, you can work on rehearsing your delivery. By practising repeatedly you can perfect your performance.


By working with a coach, you can tackle presentation nerves, build confidence and develop and build upon skills that can benefit you personally and professionally. With over 1,000 coaches offering online coaching, you can access support whenever and wherever you are.

Alternatively, if it’s a fear of public speaking you’re experiencing, consider hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy for public speaking (also known as glossophobia) is highly effective and can help you understand where the fear has stemmed from, how to manage this fear and ultimately, overcome it. Search for a hypnotherapist on Hypnotherapy Directory.

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Graham Shaw

Written by Graham Shaw

Graham Shaw is a Business Book Awards finalist, author of 'The Speaker’s Coach: 60 secrets to Make Your Talk, Speech or Presentation Amazing', published by Pearson.

Written by Graham Shaw

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