Mastering the art of public speaking

Most audience members will be receptive to what you have to say – so be confident that what you are saying matters

The very idea of public speaking gives a lot of people nightmares, yet it's one of the most important skills you can master. Being able to talk with confidence and inspire people through words is a powerful tool, and once you've become an expert at it you'll reap the benefits in your social life as well as in your career.

Tell your audience a story

People have told stories throughout the centuries. Stories are able to excite, inspire and engage audiences more so than dry statistics and facts. So remember that when it's your turn to public speak, tell a story. Even if you're talking about a maths conundrum, turn it into a story because that's how you hook an audience. That's what Obama did in his big election speech – he focused on the story of a 106-year-old woman, and it worked. His path to the White House is in no small part due to his public speaking prowess.

But even if you have no plans to enter politics, being able to present yourself well will work wonders for any career path that you choose.

Always entertain, always be passionate

If you're giving a speech, avoid using intellectual jargon – be concise, be brief and always make a point. Throw in a bit of humour and, most importantly, never start a speech by apologising for what you're about to say – the audience will switch off immediately.

Remember that this is your moment to shine. If you're up there talking about something you're passionate about, let that come through in your tone and your words, and remember to smile. A smile can win as many people to your cause as words.

Practice, practice, practice

Practice and research beforehand. Preparing for public speaking is a great way of consolidating your own thoughts and knowledge on a topic. Record yourself so you know how long your speech is going to be and don't rely too heavily on things like slides with copious amounts of text on them – too much information in the background can be confusing and distract the audience from what you're saying.

Finally, remember that public speaking isn't designed to humiliate. Most audience members will be receptive to what you have to say – so be confident that what you are saying matters.

For those who are studying at uni or TAFE, completing a public speaking assignment at some point is almost a certainty. That's why research and practice are so important to building confidence and mastering the art.