Public Speaking Tips from Behavior Analysts

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D & Angela Cathey, MA

bSci21Media, LLC

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi & Associates

Public speaking is one of the top fears of adults. Many people struggle to provide their best performance when being watched.  In a recent video by Brett DiNovi & Associates, LLC, Pierre Louis, BCBA provides a few tips to help you prepare for your next speaking engagement.

One of Pierre’s suggestions is that you should reach out to your audience and ask what they would want to know regarding the subject of your talk. In the moments of planning before a talk many speakers forget to reach out to their audiences. For most people, speaking about a speaking engagement will itself raise anxiety. We would suggest following the advice provided by Pierre and reach out to better gage the audience you are speaking to and their needs. The more that you feel aware and prepared to deliver the content most wanted by your audience the more comfortable and successful you will be at delivery.

Given what we know of the functions of verbal behavior and how people typically struggle in speaking situations, we also provide a few suggestions to help set the stage for yourself before going into a speaking engagement.


First, plan to keep the time right before your talk for centering yourself. Remind yourself of your purpose. Sometimes your ‘purpose’ in giving the talk may be something as simple as giving yourself the opportunity to learn to be a better speaker. Reminding yourself of your purpose also verbally connects you to your values and can buffer you from the initial anxiety of walking in to speak. In a way, connecting with your values in that moment relates importance and excitement to physical sensations that you might otherwise label ‘anxiety’ and attempt to reduce. Embrace the sensations that come with walking towards valued action and you may find what was aversive transformed to appetitive.

Further, seek to connect with others during your talk. Take the time to slow down, take breaths, and ask your audience questions during the talk. People often over focus on the content of their speech and raise the technicality of their language in an effort to buffer themselves psychologically from the fear they associate with speaking. This tends to reduce our impact as speakers. Recall the last talk you really enjoyed, almost without a doubt it was because the person engaged you and told stories to bridge their knowledge to yours.

Be sure to check out the full video, and to subscribe to Brett DiNovi’s YouTube channel and let him know what you would like to see in future videos.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

bSci21Media, LLC is a leading media outlet for behavior analysis that serves to disseminate the science to the world and support behavior analytic companies around the globe. The company’s larger vision is B.F. Skinner’s vision of bringing a technology of behavior change to the world in order to address it’s biggest problems.

Brett DinoviBrett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at

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