Last Updated on April 1, 2024 by Lorna Barrow


cover image for skyrocket confidence before you speak

“Always try to build your confidence before you speak, girlfriend!” I warned quietly.

“Go from around me with your public speaking BS!” Julia replied testily.

“Just because you believe you are a hot public speaker, you always on people’s case!”

Wuhloss! I almost fell off my chair in surprise at the “energetic” response.

But who really is “Julia”?

Of course that’s not her real name.

But if I use her real name she would kill me and that would be the end of all the really useful tips and cool tools I develop just for you…so “Julia” it is.

At that time, Julia was the newly-elected president of a fairly high-level organization.

She’d  organized a mean campaign which had left her opponents coughing in the dust.  And now she was in the big league.

As you can imagine, before the presidential chair could get used to her sitting there, she had four invitations to speak!

And provoked by nothing else but her desire to compete with me, Julia decided she could launch her public speaking “career” without accessing any help from “Public Speaking Coach Lorna Barrow.” 

Her choice.


When you don’t have confidence before you speak…

So Julia prepared her first speech. She practiced it and turned up at the event, ready to rock the audience with her avant-garde ideas.

She took her seat at the head table, graciously accepted her programme and one glance later…her confidence took a nose dive!

You see, there were 7 speakers before her. Nobody told her she was speaking right after the government Minister and just before the coffee break.

She had no idea there were going to be 150 people in the audience.

She claimed she wasn’t told she might have to answer questions!

And OMG! Was that a Top Level Speaker already in the front row?

The next day, she tearfully admitted to me that only pride kept her from bolting from the room at that moment. 

So now I’m asking the following questions:

1.  Was there any way that she could have avoided all this?

2.  Was there a way she could have skyrocketed her confidence before she spoke?

3.  And would you really like to skyrocket your confidence before you speak?

I say “yes” to the first and second questions and if YOU said “yes” to the third question, This post will certainly help you. 


Why you might not be feeling confident before you speak

1.  You just might be a member of that almost 5% of people world-wide who experience this social phobia every year. 

2. But more than that, there is something about public  speaking that makes most of us very nervous. The problem is, this fear of public speaking prevents us from thinking straight, when we need to most.

3. It could also be that you stake your success on your speech (especially its delivery) and your preparation on how good you should look for the event. 

4. Perhaps you’re distracted by a personal issue at the time you’re ready to make your presentation. If that’s the case, you won’t be feeling very confident about speaking. 

5.  But what if none of the above applies to you? Then it must be that you’re completely unaware of the two important aspects of the occasion that you must consider and address, very early in your preparations.


How to skyrocket your confidence before you speak

When you are invited to speak at an event, even before you think of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, there are some things you just need to find out about that event.  

The trouble is…these thing are not directly related to you making your presentation.

So unless you are an experienced speaker, they are not likely to be even on your radar.

Yet they can seriously impact your level of confidence before you speak…and even as you are speaking. 

So what can you do to build your confidence fast before you speak?

You can nail down some key details about the event and the venue…SOON after the invitation. 

You have to take responsibility for this. Why?

Many event organiser are not familiar with how to support their guest speakers so that they feel comfortable speaking at their event. Yours might be among them.

Now to the questions that will get you the information you want…


5 questions to ask about the EVENT before you speak:

1.  In what capacity am I being invited to speak? 

This question seems rather silly on the face of it. But if you perform several roles in your public life, this question is especially valuable.   

What happens is, that many times, when you accept an invitation to speak, you say “yes” without being clear in which capacity you’re being invited to speak. 

Here’s an example:

You are invited to speak at a function sponsored by the local chapter of “The Crime and Violence Association” (CAVA).

The details did not indicate, but you assumed it is in your new role as President of your son’s PTA.

But the CAVA invited you because you’re an ex-police officer. These roles require two different speeches altogether.

When you perform several roles in your business or social life, getting clear on which “role” is being invited to speak, early in the process, is very important.

It represents one less thing for you to be anxious about as you proceed with your preparations.  


2.  How many other speakers are on the programme?

Don’t be afraid to ask this question.

For me, this is the question I often use to determine if I will accept the invitation or not.

When organisers invite too many people to speak at their event, they may end up asking you to cut the length of your speech, after you had agreed to speak for a longer time.  

If you know how many other people are on the programme, before you arrive at the event, you can write two versions of your speech – a long one and a short one.

In this way, if you’re asked to cut your time, you can still deliver a boss of a speech…even when they don’t do a  good job of introducing you!

Until you nail this, you have no idea how it boosts your confidence when you come to deliver your speech! 


3.  Who are the other speakers and what are their topics?

This is an expansion to #2 above.

Take it from me, many event planners like to keep the identity of their speakers as secret as the combination of their home safes.

But it’s in the interest of your confidence to crack that code.

You see, just because they are good at hiding the identity of their speakers, it does not mean that event planners are good at choosing speakers.

For example, they choose speakers by their public “status” or “roles” and not for the freshness or originality. 

When you ask the question, “who are the other speakers and what are their topics?” you can present information  or a perspective which is fresh and least likely to be covered by the other speakers.

In this way, you’re so poised and self-assured when you speak.  


4.  What is the order of appearance of the speakers?

 No…you are not the Master of Ceremonies but you are a speaker on a programme at an event, who is not about to be caught off guard.

When you have this information, you get an indication of the likely state of mind of your audience when it’s your turn to speak.

This state of mind affects how they will receive and respond to your speech.

For example,  suppose you discover that you will be speaking after someone who is a very engaging and experienced  speaker…And you are neither.

When you have this “insider glimpse” of the programme, you can ask to be shifted or better, ask for some tips to help you with approaching your speaking situation.

Now just imagine if you didn’t ask this question before you were ready to deliver your speech…


5.  Will I be speaking right before the refreshment break? 

This is my backup question if the event planners don’t want to answer #4 above.

I’ve had the privilege of speaking at many events, in several countries and in many different cultures.

At most of these events, even more than the speakers, the big attraction was the food.

Therefore, many a guest speaker, speaking just before the break, will not have the keen attention of the audience.

For example, in my country they will already be mentally digging into the fishcakes.

Now if you discover you’re speaking right before the break, before you show up to speak, you can plan for this.

You can keep your delivery entertaining or take a minute or so off your allotted time.

However, you may not bring your own fishcakes…


The 5 questions to ask about the VENUE before you speak: 

  1.  Exactly where is the event being held in the venue?

This is a question reserved for large venues like university campuses.

It is not uncommon for you to be given the address of the venue but not the exact location of the event within that venue.

Don’t be shy about asking exactly where the event will be held within the venue.

To help you understand, picture this…

You prepared and practiced your speech. You selected your hot outfit and you gave the car a valet-like cleaning.

Naturally, you arrive at the venue feeling good about yourself. And suddenly, panic sets in.

Too late, you realise you have no idea exactly where your event is being held in this large location.

Trust me, NOTHING will make you even more anxious and frustrated and anything but confident before your speak!

I should know…ahmm well…it happened to me…


2.  What is the size and shape of the room?

Ooohh…I learnt about this one the hard way too.

Early in my public speaking journey I was invited to replace a well-known speaker. What an opportunity to show off my hot speaking skills! I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. 

I arrived at the venue, armed with a speech to rock the world. And what did I find?

I was set to speak in a large room, with a high roof and really bad acoustics.

And to make matters worse, the size of the audience was much better suited to a smaller room.

Needless to say my ego and my nerves were shattered.

I tried my best to deliver a class speech. But I ended up spending too much time praying for a small hole to climb into as soon as I was finished.   

So what do I do now?

Not only do I ask the question “What is the size and shape of the room?”, I go and see the room for myself. And if I can’t, I ask for at least a photo.


3.  Will I be speaking from a platform?

This question matters because speaking from a platform usually signals it is a more “formal” speaking occasion.

If up until now all you have been accustomed to is the informal “talk” standing on the same level of the audience, it is good to discover in advance, that this will be changing.


Turning up at an event expecting a particular setting and finding another will increase you anxiety and undermine your confidence. 

Simple as it may seem, just asking if you will be speaking from a platform and preparing for it, will go a long way to make you confident before you speak. 


4.  Will a microphone be provided – if so, what type?

There is something about a speaking into a microphone that really scares a “young” public speaker. 


The first time I spoke into a microphone, I was very sure that that squeaky, frightened voice which came back at me could not be mine.

Not when my usual voice was sultry and sexy.

A cordless mic is another story.

Because of how they have to hook you up with this mic, you had better be wearing the right clothes…for starters. I

‘ve had an experience where I had to almost undress to be hooked up with a cordless mic.

Finding out what type of microphone you will be using, will go a long way towards reducing your nerves and increasing your confidence before you speak.

What’s even better, if you’re asked to choose, make sure you choose the type you’re most comfortable with.


5.  If I need it – what type of multi-media equipment is available?

So you don’t see the value of this question?

Wait until you meet a situation where your laptop is not compatible with the organiser’s projector.

Or the version of the software you use and the one the organisers have are different.

Or you’re not even familiar with the type of equipment which the organiser uses.  

When you turn up to speak and find you’re not familiar with the equipment, this is another off-putting circumstance which undermines your confidence before you speak. 

The smart thing to do is always have a copy of your speech on a flash drive.

In this way, you can copy it onto their system and be ready to roll without having to deal with incompatibilities.

So, do you want to build confidence before you speak?

Make “If I need it…what type of multi-media equipment is available?” one of your “must ask” questions.


Are you willing to skyrocket your confidence before your speak? 

 I know that’s an obvious question but I had to ask anyway…

I also know that you’re thinking back on all the times when you had to speak and you wished you’d ask these questions.

But don’t beat up on yourself.

You see, you had no idea that you could begin dealing with your public speaking fears, even before you begin to prepare a speech.

You had no idea that the more information you can nail down about the speaking occasion, before you speak, the more you will reduce your fears. 

But I changed that for you.

I have given you 5 questions to ask about the event and 5 more about the venue.

These will not only boost your confidence before you speak, they will also signal to the organisers that they have chosen the ultimate professional.

I’ve shared Julia’s story and I have to tell you, she’s promised to at least follow these easy public speaking tips next time she has to speak.

But just like you, she has full access to my training and experience.

So why not max out your confidence with some great public speaking coaching?  


How To Really Skyrocket Your Confidence Before You Speak

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!

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