Public Speaking Secrets: Z is for Zone

Illustration by Keli Dey


Is it possible to get lost in your own neighborhood? Most unlikely. That’s because over time you have become familiar with the areas you frequent. Can you lose your way as a public speaker? Certainly, if you don’t master the internal, space and time zones over which you have control. Here is what you should know and do.

Secret #99: Your Mind Zone

Top athletes say a race are won first in the mind before the victory is translated on the track. You have to do the same with public speaking. Just like a runner, the moment before the big event is when you deliberately make yourself relaxed. Breathe slowly and deeply to calm your nerves.

Repeat positive affirmations like “I like this audience” or “I speak effortlessly in public”. Visualize a positive outcome with an appreciative audience greeting your speech with enthusiastic applause. Of course it goes without saying that all these methods will help you if you have already done the necessary work of researching and rehearsing your speech.

Secret #100: Your Space Zone

As a public speaker, you rely a lot on audience feedback to give you a sense of how you are doing. If you notice that a particular person or group of people respond positively to your address, you may be tempted to keep looking at them toreinforce their feedback. You do this at the risk of cutting off other people who also deserve your attention.

So make a deliberate effort to look at everyone in the hall. You can so this by looking at those in the middle as you make a point. When you make the next point, look at those to the left and then those to the right for your next point. Repeat the process so that you cover the audience several times during your speech.

Secret #101: Your Time Zone

Your speaking slot is likely to be part of a bigger program with different segments and time allocations. Don’t be the speaker who throws the event out of gear by speaking longer than permitted. Some speakers arrange to have someone in the audience who will remind them of how much time they have left.

Others practice relentlessly until they get a sense of how much time they have spent on the stage. Note that your audience is likely to remember the concluding part of your speech. Therefore aim to commit your closing points to memory so that if you’re running out of time, you can get to them and at least end on a strong note.


Your mind zone is where you succeed even before you step onto the stage. Master it by breathing deeply, motivating yourself and visualizing a positive outcome.

Know your space zone. You are speaking to the entire audience and not just those in your immediate field of vision. Make sure you engage everyone in the hall by looking at them when you talk.

Know your time zone and keep within it. It is a good idea to memorize your closing statement so that if you find yourself running out of time, you can cut straight to the end. The event organizer, your audience and the next speaker will appreciate your respect for keeping to your time zone.

The writer is a corporate emcee and author of Public Speaking A to Z and How to MC Any Event.

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