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Nothing But the Ruth!

The Best Public Speaking Advice

By Ruth Carter

I have had the pleasure of being a public performer for 22 years, as a gymnast, a classically trained singer, a flash mob performer and, more recently, a speaker on legal topics. Despite all of my experience, I still get nervous. Before most performances you will find me pacing backstage asking myself, “Why is this fun for me?”

The Advice That Changed Everything

My nerves used to get to me. Sometimes I would get so nervous that I would shake, and I would be so worried about being nervous that it would hurt my performance. And then I got the advice that changed everything. I was at a student singing recital at Oregon State University when one of my classmates told me, “Remember, everyone wants you to do well.”

That advice changed my life and the way I approached performing. It completely shifted my focus away from how nervous I was to putting on a good show for the audience. It became all about my audience and not about how I felt standing in front of them. That advice made me realize the audience is there for an experience, and it’s my job to provide it.

These days, I still get nervous before taking the stage, no matter if I’m performing for a full house or only a few people. I still sweat like crazy and worry that I’m going to forget what I want to say. But now, being nervous is not an excuse for doing a bad job. I try to focus on speaking slowly and keeping my message concise and entertaining so the audience will remember it.

As a legal public speaker, I speak mostly to laypersons who are artists, bloggers and businesspeople about intellectual property and Internet law issues. My audience expects me to be entertaining and to provide useful knowledge, and that’s what I try to deliver. When I step on stage, I don’t take my fears with me. I focus on making sure my audience gets what they need and everything else seems to fall into place.

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Categories: Daily Dispatch, Nothing But The Ruth!, Public Speaking
Originally published May 15, 2012
Last updated April 30, 2018
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Ruth Carter Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter — lawyer, writer and professional speaker — is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing on intellectual property, business, internet and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” Ruth blogs at and

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