How to Nail Public Speaking

Stay relaxed, confident, and on message with these expert tips.

Nancy Marshall, Marshall Communications
Nancy Marshall, Founder, Marshall Communications
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As chief of one of Maine’s largest public relations agencies and a “PR Maven™” with her own weekly podcast and regular appearances on Greenlight Maine, Nancy Marshall spends a lot of time speaking to audiences. Whether she’s addressing crowds at press conferences at the state capitol or in conference rooms at major hotels in Chicago or Denver, Marshall knows how to stay relaxed, confident, and on message.

The PR Maven Podcast presented by Marshall Communications

But like many of us, she still gets the jitters.

“It’s very intimidating,” she says. “Public speaking can bring up all these insecurities.” Daunting as it may seem, though, Marshall says that effective public speaking is worth the effort. “It’s an opportunity to market yourself, grow your network, and connect with people who may become important business contacts or friends, or both,” she says. “Potential clients are much more likely to go with someone who has spoken as an authority on a subject.” We asked Marshall to share her own authority on winning over a room. 

What does a great public speaker do to prepare?

Never underestimate how much practice it takes to make public speaking look natural. Take as many opportunities as you can to rehearse alone and in front of peers who can offer honest feedback. Join a group like Toastmasters, volunteer to lead a company’s lunch-and-learn program, or raise your hand to speak at the company staff meeting. Hire a speaking coach if you can. The more you rehearse, the more comfortable you will become with your content, and the more calm you’ll feel in front of an audience.

What’s the trick to communicating clearly and effectively?

Take time before you speak to map out your key message. Your message might be a seven-second sound bite that conveys what you do, whom you work with, and what kind of impact your work has. Repeat that key message at the beginning and end of your address. Afterwards, you can use that message in any context — on social media platforms, a job interview, or in your annual holiday message.

Are there secrets that have nothing to do with speaking?

Dress for success. Maine has a casual vibe, and not everybody needs to dress up in a suit and tie, but you don’t want to look like a slob. Make sure your clothes and appearance reflect the impression you want to make. It’s not about being vain. If you feel good about the way you look, you’ll have the confidence you need to put your best foot forward.

Also, you have to show up consistently, both in person and online, before and after your speech. Use a headshot that’s up-to-date, and make sure your website and LinkedIn page present an accurate and up-to-date reflection of your work. If you don’t, it’s a distraction and takes away from the credibility and authenticity you want to convey.

Marshall Communications, 151 Capitol St., Ste. 1, Augusta. 207-623-4177.