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Public Speaking 101

For many, public speaking remains a hindrance to comfort and success. Whether it’s a presentation in class or an important speech at work, the idea of talking in front of groups of people can instill terror into millions. On average, 3/4 of all people experience a form of stage fright, and the phobia of public speaking is ranked higher than the fear of death. Naturally, though, public speaking is something that nearly everyone has to deal with in their everyday lives, and many wish to conquer the fear and be free of it.

While I do experience nervousness before giving a speech, through being apart of my school’s speech team I have become so much more confident in my speaking abilities. I have also picked up plenty of tips to soothe myself and others in the face of stressful speaking situations. I am the first to admit I still have plenty to learn, but if my advice can help just one person I’ll be satisfied!

Tip #1: Believe In Your Words

While many would say that an essential piece of public speaking is believing in yourself, I have come to the conclusion that believing in my words is much easier. If you have a decision in the topic of your speech, I would advise picking something you truly care and want to talk about. If you really know your topic and believe in what you’re saying, it will make the task of speaking in public so much more meaningful. Never forgot that you have something important to share; your words are meaningful, and you have the power to put them into the world!!

Tip #2: Remember You’re Talking To Real People

Sometimes while giving speeches, it seems as if my audience is the most cold and uninviting there is. In these moments, I find a boost of confidence in remembering that they aren’t loveless robots, but real people. Every one of them has made mistakes and probably given one or two awkward speeches in their life. Additionally, the audience has a lot of things going on in their own mind. While we all have stresses and conflicts, they do too, and odds are not everyone in the room is completely devoted to your words. While a good speech will definitely grab attention, a mediocre or even bad one won’t be remembered.

Tip #3: Practice

Like dancing or driving, it can be very hard to measure the effectiveness of your public speaking without putting it to the test and actually doing it. This doesn’t have to be in front of anyone— it can be to an audience of stuffed animals, a dog, a mirror, and even a wall. Speak your words, and try out new things. The more you rehearse the easier various phrases will come to you and the more comfortable you’ll be when you finally have to give the speech. Don’t let anyone force you to perform it prematurely; if you need to do it alone, that’s 100% okay. This tip is extremely cliche, but I can’t stress it enough. Know your content!

Tip #4: Find The “Nicest” Person In The Room

Think about how you look while watching your favorite TV show. Is a smile constantly plastered on your face? Odds are it’s not, so don’t be too hurt when the audience to your speech looks less than enthused. Despite this, usually there’s at least one person in the room following the “smile-and-nod-rule” of public speaking. If you can find someone with this kind or friendly expression, it can make you feel so much better than looking at only the stoniest face the entire time . Of course, it’s good to make eye contact with the whole room, but try to turn to that person if you need a little extra reassurance!

Tip #5: Be Comfortable

Most of my speech failures can be highly attributed to being uncomfortable. While it’s rare to be completely at ease while public speaking, it’s important to minimize your discomfort in any way you can. Drink water so your throat isn’t itchy. Go to the bathroom before you present. Pace while waiting outside to shake some nerves. Do whatever you have to do to maximize your comfort. Again, this can also go back to practicing and being comfortable with your material, but overall these examples can help take away various factors that lead to a speech completely failing.

I hope these tips have helped you, and that the next time you give a speech, you can use these to your advantage! Of course, I completely understand that these will NOT work for everyone. I am fortunate enough to not suffer with social anxiety, but I want to recognize that many people do. Social anxiety and other factors can inhibit the ability to speak in public, and simply “practicing” could never overcome these obstacles. If you enoyed this or have anything to add, please let me know via my Instagram page @itsliterallyliterary.

-Kelli xox

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