M’lords, ladies and gentlemen.

We all know the importance of public speaking. Even shy accountants may find themselves standing before a large audience, knees knocking and palms sweating. Increasingly, companies expect their finance directors to stand before shareholders to explain the performance of their company.

Some relish this, but the majority don’t. If you are in this category, help is at hand.

There are over 150 websites dedicated to public speaking, and countless others that advertise courses and agencies that teach presentational skills.

We have selected those that offer advice on public speaking.

Most of the sites we looked at offered good advice, but some – ironically – lack in the presentation department, like the University of Michigan’s School of Information site (www.si.umich.edu/~pne/acadtalk.htm). On a black and white page with just text on it, it tells readers that effective talks should be ‘interesting and entertaining.’

The most helpful site is the Allyn & Bacon public speaking site (www.abacon.com/pubspeak) which offers succinct and useful information. Not only does it tell you what you need to make a good presentation, but it also has links to other sites where you can find information for your speech – from places where you can research your topic to PowerPoint tutorials online. It also has an interactive test giving you tips on problems you may encounter while giving a speech.

Although this is actually a product advertisement, the Learn Public Speaking in Public (www.cybernetik.com.au) site is fun and useful. It has cute cartoon graphics and useful tips on how to overcome nerves and how to write a speech.

In service to humanity, a kind gentleman has created the Art of Speaking in Public website (www.artofspeaking.com/”main.

htm). A non-profit website, it contains tips based on Mahavir Mohnot’s 21 years’ managerial experience. The site is littered with cartoons and includes famous speeches.

The Advanced Public Speaking Institute website (www.public-speaking.org) has a lot of information and tips but is not as comprehensive. It is geared towards speakers who would like to do this for a living. Besides basic tips it has features such as a travel checklist and a glossary of terms related to speaking. Be warned, it also has an annoying window asking you to subscribe to its free electronic newsletter that pops up every time you go to the home page.

A rather duller site is PublicSpeaking-Skills.com (www.publicspeakingskills.com).

Don’t be fooled by the homepage, this site is an advert for an agency.

It offers no tips and only sells products online.

Last but not least, raise your glasses to the to the Toastmasters’ site (www.toastmasters.

org). If you want to learn to speak and have a laugh at the same time, Toastmasters claims this is the place to be. This organisation, established in 1924, now has 8,500 clubs in 70 countries. The site only has one page of speaking tips, but tells you how to join a club.

Related reading