Every successful speech or presentation has a clear message. Ideally, that is the starting point for the whole process: there is something the audience needs to know and your mission is to enlighten them.
A brave young woman called Jessica Clark got past her trepidation about public speaking because the drive to speak out about sexual abuse was so strong. As a public-speaking coach, I would have advised her to take a different approach to preparing the speech we hear in the video, so as to have even more impact and to make it much easier for her to deliver, but that is not to detract one iota from her courage. Despite the rather stilted delivery, the audience is paying attention, because the message is so important.
Even if your subject is less momentous than Jessica’s, having something worthwhile to convey will give you confidence to speak up, as getting the message out there trumps your reticence. If you’re hovering with these needs finely balanced, concentrating on the content of what you want to share with the audience is a great help with overcoming nerves. It takes the spotlight off you: think of your talk not as a performance but as communicating something the audience needs to know, and automatically the focus shifts.
If you’re starting from the other end – ie, you’ve been asked to make a presentation but you don’t really know what to talk about – the first thing you need to do is to identify the core message you want the audience to take away. This will give your talk meaning and purpose, which already sets it apart from a distressing number of presentations.
The next step is to prepare your material in a way that allows your passion to shine through as you deliver it, but that’s another story. The message for today is that successful public speaking starts with having something to say.