Public speaking is hard. Just ask anyone who has ever spoken before an audience. Even the best ones will tell you that it’s no walk in the park.
If you ask them, however, why they think public speaking is difficult, that’s where their answers will vary.
That was quite expected. Public speaking, after all, is more than just speaking before an audience. There are other things you need to do, too. You need to create a script, memorize the script (at least the outline) and create your visual aids. You need to know how to use your hands, body and face to convey your message. You also need to know how to use your voice to get your audience’s attention. There are many others I could say, but I’d end up just occupying a lot of space and wasting your time.
The important question is this: What’s the hardest part about public speaking?
In this article, let’s look at the possibilities. So if you’re planning on making public speaking a career or just have a speaking engagement in the next few days, you’ll know exactly what to expect and can make the necessary preparations.
What Is The Hardest Part Of Public Speaking? (Top 5 Areas)
1. Staying Calm
Ask any of the public speakers you know and they’ll probably tell you this is at the top of their list. People especially with glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, will have a difficult time keeping in check those nerves. They’d tremble at the sight of the audience (or even at the idea of just speaking in front of a crowd), start speaking with a high-pitched voice and really quickly or worse, just lose their voice then and there.
What makes keeping those nerves in check so difficult is that, well, it’s actually your body that’s making you do all those things. And if your body is in control and not you, what else can you do, right?
The good news is, there is something you can do, at least as far as manifesting those nerves or not, is concerned. Since you know the trembling, loss of voice, and all those things are just the body’s natural response to a perceived threat, to stop the body from responding that way, you can make it believe there’s no threat at all.
So, take deep breaths, give yourself a pep talk, exercise, do whatever you think will make your body believe you’re in a safe place. Once you convince your body you’re not in danger, the trembling and all those symptoms will just go away on their own.
2. Remembering What to Say
Conscientious public speakers create a script, memorize the script (or at least the flow), and then practice in front of a mirror before D-Day. Sometimes, though, no matter how many times they practice, they still forget what to say once they’re in front of a crowd. They end up stumped because, for some reason, they really can’t remember what to say.
You can get yourself out of this kind of situation with the proper preparation. Once you memorize the script you’re about to deliver to your audience, make sure you don’t throw it away. Bring it with you during your speaking engagement. So, if you suddenly forget what you have to say, you can easily go back to your notes and pick up from there.
For this to work, though, it’s implied that your notes need to be readable in the first place. That’s why I suggest you organize your script into bullet points. That way, if you forget something, you don’t need to read through the entire paper to determine where you got lost. The bullet points will just pop out from the page and you can easily pick up right where you left off.
There’s another way to go about this kind of situation: create visual aids. Make a Powerpoint presentation and use it as a guide when you’re speaking in front of your audience. When you get lost, just refer to it. Just make sure you use it as a guide. Don’t just parrot what you see on your screen.
3. Getting and Sustaining Your Audience’s Attention
In public speaking, you don’t just need to worry about how you’ll deliver your speech. You need to be concerned about how you can get and sustain your audience’s attention, too. A successful speech, after all, is not just all about good speech performance (the proper use of the hands, the facial expressions, and the tone of voice, among others, to deliver the message). It’s all about getting your message across effectively, too.
Getting and sustaining your audience’s attention, however, is undoubtedly hard. Wyzowl has reported that the average attention span of humans is now down to eight seconds from 12 seconds in 2000. So, if you want to be an effective speaker, you need to know how to find your way around those numbers.
What’s the solution? Well, there’s no other solution than to be engaging in the first place. Don’t go on stage and start performing a monologue. Even if you’re the speaker, you still need to involve your audience. Use the second person, “you,” instead of the third person, “they.” Ask your audience questions whenever you can and crack a joke if you need to elicit some sort of response from them when appropriate.
Your content, of course, should also revolve around your audience. You should have planned your content around your audience’s needs. If you’re a finance expert and you’re talking to finance beginners, don’t start spewing out complex terms your audience wouldn’t understand. Do your audience research beforehand and write that script based on what you find.
4. Answering Audience Questions
For some public speakers, the Q&A portion is the most dreaded part of any speaking engagement. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s that portion of your speaking engagement you don’t have any control over. It’s members of your audience who ask the questions and you’re the one who merely responds. In essence, you’ll be the one to react to your audience.
There is a way you can make things a bit easier for you on this front. First off, you really need to prepare beforehand. When writing your script, make sure you also include questions your audience might ask you and the answers to those questions. So, when you study your script, you’d need to study those potential questions and answers, too.
What happens if someone asks you something you don’t know the answer to even if you did make the necessary preparations? Well, just don’t panic. Give the typical “I don’t have the answer to that now but I’ll get back to you” statement. Once you’re done with your presentation, you can look up the answer and get back to the person.
5. Knowing What to Say
I’d say of all the points we’ve mentioned so far, this one is not really that much of a problem unless you’re asked to give a speech on the spot. But if you were given ample time to prepare, well, you should have actually prepared.
That means you should have written your script, memorized the flow, and practiced delivering the speech in front of a mirror or of other people before your speaking engagement. That way, when you get on stage, you’ll know what to say. If you forget what you say, though, that’s another thing. Refer to point number 2 in this article so you’ll know exactly how to act in those kinds of situations.
Does Public Speaking Get Easier?
All that said, the million-dollar question is this: Does public speaking actually get easier? Answer? Yes, it does. It just needs a little bit of getting used to. The more speaking engagements you attend, the more of an expert you become.
That presupposes of course that you’re always finding ways to improve in every presentation. So, if in your third presentation, for instance, you didn’t know how to answer some audience questions because you didn’t prepare potential questions (and answers) in the first place, in your fourth speaking engagement you know better and you prepare those potential questions and answers.
If in your fifth presentation you forgot what you needed to say, in your next presentation you use a Powerpoint presentation to help you during your speech delivery.
In other words, always aim to improve. If you have that mindset, there will come a time those things you said were the hardest parts about public speaking won’t become as hard for you anymore.
The Hardest Part Of Public Speaking: Bottom Line
Public speaking is hard, but that shouldn’t be anyone’s excuse to not try doing it in the first place. The parts in public speaking I mentioned here, after all, while hard, are not impossible to do. There are ways to get around them. You just need to implement good strategies to generate good results.
As a final tip, I’d say it also helps if you view the things I mentioned here as hurdles. They don’t mean the end of the line for you. They can be overcome. Couple that mindset with your determination and you’ll be a great public speaker in no time. Good luck!
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check the articles Online Resources for Public Speaking and Where Can I Learn Public Speaking. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.