My Public Speaking Nightmare is About to Become True


Someone in our company got the bright idea that an “average worker” should keynote each quarterly meeting by talking about their job and what they most value about the company and their coworkers.

I was nominated for this “honor.” When my manager told me I’d been selected, I said I’d rather not. He said it had already been decided and since I’d worked here for 10 years, I was a logical choice. He said if I didn’t speak, it would embarrass our department.

I’m terrified of public speaking. I can already hear how my coworkers are going to make fun of me after this is all over. Help!


Here’s what the best speakers share in common: They’re genuine. They’re brief. They finish.

Start with the truth: “I’m not a public speaker. I’m like you; I work here and have for 10 years. I like my coworkers. I like my manager — despite the fact that he didn’t get me out of this.”

Then add what you like about the company. If there’s nothing special, at least you can say that you feel grateful that you and others have a good job in this economy. My guess, however, is that you wouldn’t have worked for this company for 10 years without there being something good — perhaps you find your work interesting or respect the people you work with. After you’ve said that, you can sit down, knowing you’ve gotten through it, because those listening to speeches rejoice when speakers can be brief.

But — is that all you want? Or do you want to surprise yourself and everyone else and give a great speech? If you do, here’s what you need to know. If you make your speech about everyone else and not about you, you give a speech that inspires.

What if, in the section “what I like about this company,” you include photos of some of your coworkers, caught in the act of working? For example, what if you say, “I really like payroll, because they get us paid,” and include a photo of the payroll staff hard at work. You can acknowledge the staff who keep your facility clean by saying, “We don’t give our facility folks enough credit, but one of the things I like is that they keep this place shipshape.” You’ve got the idea, though I suggest you also include a photo of your manager and say, “Despite the fact that he set me up here, he’s a pretty good guy.”

In other words, shift the attention, which you don’t want anyhow, to everyone else, and make your presentation what your company actually hopes for, a “feel good” moment.

Next, most individuals who hate public speaking fear they’ll forget what they had planned to say or will stumble over words or otherwise look like an idiot. The best way around that is to have a slide presentation, such as PowerPoint (using simple photos for slides in this example), loaded up, so that the slides trigger your memory. For example, your first slide can have the headline “My job” and have a photo of your work area and your coworkers. The slide itself will remind you to say, “Here’s where I work and here are several people who are part of what I like about being here.” With that as your opening, you’ll lessen the chances that your coworkers will make fun of you later.

Finally, conduct a dry run by practicing your speech multiple times to someone in your home, the mirror, your dog, or even just the wall. The more times you run through your presentation, the more comfortable you’ll feel when you stand up and deliver it for real.

© 2021, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, and “Solutions”, (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Send your questions to her at or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

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7 thoughts on “My Public Speaking Nightmare is About to Become True

  1. As you know, I’m a Lynne Curry junkie anyway, but this column is especially “timely” for me. For one thing, I’m giving a presentation tomorrow that I didn’t expect to give . And today my guests for my radio/Facebook video show are two leaders of Toastmasters talking about public speaking!

    What I love about your suggestions is they are so specific and practical and GOOD!
    Thanks again for a wonderful blog.

  2. Thanks, Wendy, and good luck on your presentation! You are already a great marketer and a great interviewer–you’re authentic–and that makes for a great podcast. If you’d like more articles on presentations, you might enjoy Solutions–if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a link to it on the front page of the blog’s home page:)

  3. I like that you included a joke in there. I am terrified of public speaking also, and at my last job I would occasionally have to speak in front of other managers. I found if I cracked a joke- and could laugh with them- that it would defuse my panic and allow me to get through the rest of the presentation much more calmly.

  4. Lynne’s suggestions for levity are terrific. And it’s so important to remember that if you feel uncomfortable about public speaking, you are in the majority.

    Research study after research study, survey after survey shows that most Americans placed the fear of public speaking above the fear of death or flying.

    Rather than have to deliver a eulogy, most folks would rather be the one being eulogized!

    Having taught public speaking at the college level, for 35 years and having made hundreds of presentations to as many as 1000 people at a time, my best advice (in addition to all the good tips Lynne provided) is to remember:

    People are listening only one at a time!

    You’ve got this!

    1. Paulette, Susan, Dee, Wendy, so many GREAT comments! Thank you so very much for adding value to the blog:)

  5. You gave alternatives! First, you gave some great ideas about how to keep it short and still fulfill the basic requirements, then you had some fun ideas with ways to get attention off you and onto some fun and interesting stuff, like photos of coworkers and parts of the job.

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