Public Speaking Tips for Beginners: How to Get Those Pesky Butterflies to Fly in Formation

Successful Launch

If the idea of speaking in public (or even pressing “record” on a video) makes you want to run + hide:

a) you’re totally normal.
b) this one’s for YOU :)

In this post I’ll share some of my best, most practical public speaking tips for beginners, AKA butterfly-taming 101.

A bit of background for you first:

Long before I ever started my business (+ created A Course About Copy), my first communication-related love (besides spelling… #nerdalert) was public speaking.

I was totally THAT girl who volunteered to go first, geeking out over the challenge of rising to the occasion and thinking on my feet. Loved it.

My love for public speaking eventually lead me to study communication for my bachelor’s, which led to a teaching assistantship (TCU actually paid ME to earn my master’s while teaching undergrads!).

I continued teaching public speaking at the college level for years after grad school, even getting the chance to flex my skills as “the digital ranger” who gets the of welcoming honor nearly two million visitors to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center each year.

I eventually started this business to help folks communicate with more clarity + confidence, and yadda yadda….the rest is recent Communication Stylist history ;)

But it wasn’t always that way.

I used to HATE public speaking like whoa.

In this video, I’ll share how + why that changed, including:

  • the tale of how I threw the 4th grade spelling bee
  • …and totally lied about making a presentation later that year (#REBELchild!)
  • the moment/semester the switch flipped
  • my #1 prescription for reducing public speaking anxiety
  • to memorize or NOT to memorize?
  • the most important thing to know about your audience

Click below to watch (or take a listen):

Click here to watch directly on YouTube.



There’s no shortcut or magic bullet here, friend.

If you want to feel more comfortable speaking in public, the most IMPORTANT thing you can do is to practice. Out loud. In front of people.

Recreate the scene as much as possible so you can get cozy with it.

The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll get with your words.

The more comfortable you are with your words, the more you can focus on connecting with your audience.

The more you can focus on connecting with your audience, the more FUN you’ll have delivering your message.

And fun is good. And YES, totally possible.

You’ll see :)

When it comes to memorization, I do recommend memorizing your introduction and conclusion.


Because you’ll make a better first (+ last) impression if you can actually look folks in the eye.

For the body (main content-focused bit) of your talk, it’s okay to use long as you’re not reading directly from them. #snorebore

I can share all kinds of tips on delivery and such (+ probably will in due time!), but these are the two most important things I want you to take away for now:

1. You’ve got something valuable to say.

Your voice matters. Your story matters. Your experience matters.

I don’t know anyone who was born comfy (or particularly skilled at) speaking in front of others.

The only difference between those who step up and out and those who hide behind the scenes is the DECISION those folks made to step up and out.

You’re totally capable of doing this.

It just takes PRACTICE to get comfortable with it.

2. Your audience is rooting for you.

We’re cheering you on. We WANT you to be comfy up there.

If you’re nervous, it’s totally okay to break the ice and acknowledge the butterfly in the room.

If you mess up, meh – most people probably won’t even realize it.

(But again, if it’ll make you feel better, it’s totally okay to acknowledge it. We don’t expect you to reboot without flinching. You’re human.)

Realize that at the heart of it, “public speaking” just means that you’re a person standing in front of some other people, sharing a message with the intention of helping them in some way.

How LOVELY of you :)



Well, first, it’s to give yourself PLENTY of time to prep + practice if you’ve got a talk coming up (or to find a way to practice your skills by volunteering for a speaking gig if this is a prio for you).

In the comments below, tell me:

What do you struggle with most when it comes to public speaking?

What are some of YOUR fave butterfly-taming tips?

Let’s build a bank of ’em!


P.S. If you liked this post, I’d GREATLY appreciate it if you’d use the buttons below to share it with your buddies. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel if you’d like to see new videos before I’ve had time to turn them into blog posts ;)


Convo Copy Cheat Sheet



  1. Greg Radcliffe

    Thanks Nikki! This is definitely something I have struggled with in my life. I have made progress and am trying to practice and put myself out there more and more, but I’m definitely still not totally “there”, but it’s great to just here others talk about the struggle and the strategies they have used to improve. Cheers, Greg

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Glad to help, Greg! It’s okay to not feel “there” yet – we’re all works in progress ;) The most important thing is to be bold and keep stepping outside of your comfort zone so you can keep growing and improving. One day you’ll look back and see that your new comfort zone is on a whole new level :)

  2. Missy

    Nikki, this was great! Such confirmation and encouragement as I am TRYING to get my videos recorded. ???????? Have a question though.

    I notice that much of what you share is also written out in your blog. I figure it is because different people like different ways of communication. I have written out what I want to say and thought I would use it in the blog with my video for that reason… But no matter how much I practice it, I tweak it a bit as I am filming.

    So the question is: is it ok that what I have written and what I say on the video is not ‘verbatim’ as long as the main points are covered?

    Thoughts or suggestions?

    Thanks, Missy

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Absolutely, Missy! Some folks (Denise Duffield-Thomas, for example) like to share full transcripts of videos. Some folks don’t share text at all — just video. I like to do a hybrid. The video, then the Cliff’s notes (coconut shell) version for those who just need the quick tips.

      I didn’t always do the summaries below the videos (and I think my views have gone down beCAUSE I do them), but I’m not emotionally invested in HOW people consume my content. I just want to help however I can. If they’d rather read then watch videos, sweet.

      If it’s not verbatim, that’s fine too. I usually write notes, film the video, then write the blog post AS I listen to/edit the video. In the notes I can add or tweak things I wish I would’ve said differently in the video :)

      Does that help?

      1. Missy

        Yes, it helps a great deal! Thanks Nikki!????????

  3. Arlie Peyton

    This was sound advice and just in time. Thank you!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      You’re so welcome, Arlie! Thanks for the thanks :)

  4. Dee

    Thank you so much for this Nikki, I have always HATED public speaking (I would skip class when I had an assignment, not just occasionally, but EVERY class). I am a total introvert and try so hard, and I have found that practice is definitely the key. Even though I don’t have any videos out there I am still practicing and (I think) getting better…. my goal is webinars… OMG!!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      You can totally do this, Dee! Stay on top of the stories you tell yourself about your relationship with speaking and see how you can slowly but surely flip the mindset script. Every time you get better and better – always more to learn. When you realize that (in essence) “all” you have to do is show up as YOU…you can take the pressure off and just imagine you’re talking to a real person when you look at the camera. Eventually you’ll look + sound that way too :)

  5. Janna

    Thank-you SO much Nikki! The first time I watched your videos, I sent them to my buddy whom I had been helping with video and exclaimed, “She does her videos in ONE TAKE!!!”. So, yes… please tell us more! My question is what is your process for script writing, practicing and filming? I know you do batch recording so how does that work with multiple scripts in the same day? Currently I write out a script, practice a few times and then film one thought at a time and edit them together. It looks great in the end but is waaaaaayyyy too much editing. Thanks again!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ha! Thanks, Janna :) I did batch this video on a day with seven others, but the rest of the videos you see here on my blog were done one week at at a time. I really want to batch more in 2016 as it definitely takes the week-by-week pressure (slash resistance) off, and I know I’ll need that mental white space and time freedom as a mama of TWO!

      I can do a video on it, but in short, my process is: come up with a topic, write out main points on a Post-It or three, stick ’em on my screen, run through it a few times, record once, record again – better and more concisely, then edit, upload, make the blog post, write the email, etc.

      That help? :)

  6. Hannah Edia

    Hi Nikki,

    Love this video and the tips: practice, memorize intro, memorize conclusion if you can, and why not. You want to create a good first and lasting impression with your audience.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      You got it, Hannah! There’s a fine line between memorizing WELL for impact and memorizing awkwardly and looking/sounding like a robot. We can allll tell the difference, and it comes down to….drumroll please…..more practice! ;)

  7. Melanie Christner

    This was really timely for me, Nikki, thank you. First live online class next week (a.k.a. webinar) and I plan to run through it at least two more times…practice, practice, practice because I’m warm and empathetic in there somewhere…but stiff and dull on the first run through :)
    I really like the part about memorizing the intro and conclusion…super helpful.

  8. Lauren Scalf

    I really want to work on my public speaking. I actually don’t get too afraid – but I do stumble over my words. A LOT. These tips are so helpful!!! Amazing value as always. Thanks Nikki!!

  9. Louise

    Public speaking is something I really need to improve for myself and my future business. I can never get what’s in my head to come out the way I want it. It comes out like alphabet soup. The thing is I’m currently working in a customer service role and I’m chatting non stop in there and can answer any question. I’ve been doing it for 8 years and I have the same customers so it’s something that has become comfortable for me but it’s not my passion and no where near what I want to do. Fear is also a big thing for. Fear that nobody will listen.

  10. Whitney

    Omg yes, please do more videos on how to be a better public speaker and get rid of the fear. It’s literally my #1 fear! I am that person who freezes up like a dear in the headlights as soon as the camera turns on. Doesn’t matter if I’m by myself… its ridiculous. Turn it off and I’m fine. What is that? WHY!!! (ha!) This video already helped some, if you did more of these I think you’d help so may of us. Love you!

Comments are closed.