Public speaking – Five (5) common problems and how to overcome them


Public speaking can be intimidating and challenging but with the right approach, you can overcome these common problems. The word SPEAK can guide us through the five most common problems in public speaking, and we’ll explore ways you can address them.

S – Stage fright

Stage fright or performance anxiety is a common problem that can lead to a lack of confidence and credibility. To overcome stage fright, you should practise relaxation techniques – such as deep breathing, visualisation and meditation. Additionally, rehearsing the speech and being well-prepared can help you build confidence and reduce anxiety. Remember that feeling nervous is normal, and it’s okay to admit to feeling nervous to the audience.

P – Poor preparation

Another common problem in public speaking is poor preparation. To avoid this, you should prepare adequately by researching your topic, organising your thoughts, and rehearsing the speech. Practise your speech several times – ideally in front of a mirror or a friend – to ensure that you’re confident in your delivery. You should also anticipate potential questions from the audience and prepare appropriate responses.

E – Eye contact

Eye contact is a crucial element of public speaking. To make a connection with the audience, you should aim to make eye contact with as many people as possible and hold their gaze for a few seconds. Avoid staring at one person or reading from notes without looking up. You’ll appear more sincere and trustworthy if you maintain eye contact with your audience.

A – Awkward body language

Awkward body language can distract the audience and undermine your message. To avoid this, practise good posture, maintain eye contact, and use appropriate gestures to emphasise your message. You should also avoid distracting mannerisms, such as tapping your feet or playing with your hair. If you’re unsure about your body language, you can practise in front of a mirror or ask a friend for feedback.

K – Knowledge gap

A knowledge gap is a common problem in public speaking. This occurs when you don’t have sufficient knowledge of the topic you’re presenting. To avoid this, research your topic thoroughly and be prepared to answer questions from the audience. You should also be honest about what you don’t know and commit to following up with the audience later. Remember that it’s okay not to know everything, but you should have a good understanding of the topic you’re presenting.

To help you overcome these common problems in public speaking, here are some resources you can use:

  • Toastmasters International: Toastmasters is a non-profit organisation that helps individuals improve their public speaking and leadership skills. They offer a supportive environment where you can practise your speaking skills and receive feedback from peers. Toastmasters also provides resources, such as public speaking tips and educational materials.
  • TED Talks: TED Talks are inspiring and informative speeches given by experts in various fields. Watching TED Talks can help you learn from the best speakers and get inspiration for your own speeches.
  • Coursera: Coursera offers online courses on public speaking and communication. These courses cover topics, such as speechwriting, persuasive communication, and effective storytelling. You can learn at your own pace and receive feedback from instructors.
  • YouTube: YouTube is a vast resource for public speaking tips and speeches. You can find videos on topics, such as body language, speech delivery, and overcoming stage fright. Watching speeches by great speakers can help you learn from their techniques and get inspiration for your own speeches.
  • Personal coaching: I offer personalised communication coaching programmes for individuals and groups.

In conclusion, public speaking can be challenging, but with practice and preparation, you can overcome the most common problems. Remember to breathe deeply, prepare adequately, make eye contact, use appropriate body language, and know your topic well!

>>>the writer is an award-winning TV presenter, MC, coach and author. He offers communication expertise to help individuals and organisations reach their full potential. Connect at

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