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Public speaking taught me that if you speak effectively, people will listen. That’s intoxicating

Rory Bremner

Comedian and winner of the Public Speaking Competition 1979

Hear my tips

Rory Bremner’s public speaking tips

It’s widely acknowledged that, for many of us, public speaking is right at the top of the list of things we fear most. But it doesn’t need to be like this. Above, you can watch impressionist, comedian and former ESU Public Speaking Competition winner Rory Bremner share his top tips; while we add a few of our own, below. If you’re looking for advice on specific roles within the ESU Public Speaking Competition (speaker, chair and questioner), do check out our resources on these too.

Anita Stern clapping at an event
A secondary school student debater is standing and left hand stretch out while speaking at a public speaking event.
  1. Be prepared
    Researching your subject will give your speech a real boost. Be sure though, that your research supports and helps your ideas and arguments, rather than replacing your thoughts with ‘what the internet says’.
  2. Use notes
    A few notes are hugely helpful, but nothing is more boring than someone reading a script. Just jot down key words, quotes, statistics and reminders for your planned style of delivery. Remember to write large enough to see easily.
  3. Move about – but not too much
    Less is often more when it comes to movement. Gestures can be every effective in reinforcing your points, but avoid walking about or moving too much as this can be distracting.
  4. Make eye contact
    Eye contact is crucial, as it makes your audience feel that you are talking directly to them and helps hold their attention. Try to look at every person individually at some point, particularly if there is tiered seating
  5. Practice makes perfect
    Once you’re happy with your material, practice delivering it in different ways to see which works best. Don’t overdo it though, if you rehearse too much, you may lose some spontaneity or it may sound over-polished
  6. Be yourself
    Let your own interests, expertise and personality shine through. Whatever your subject, this is your chance to express yourself, and an authentic performance is always the most compelling.
  7. Nerves are natural
    Don’t worry if you feel a bit nervous in the lead-up to or during your speech. Everybody feels nerves and you can’t eliminate them completely, instead, you can learn to use the emotion to your advantage. Take lots of deep breaths, trust your preparation and use the extra energy to deliver your words – you’ll be great!
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