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Public speaking: How to find your voice?

Sweating bullets even with the thought of addressing a crowd? You aren’t alone. A report in psychology shows that 25% of people are scared of public speaking. The fear of public speaking, of standing in front of a gathering rather than standing with them, comes from the evolutionary process. Humans and primates are social animals and find safety in a group. When this equation is reversed and you’re standing facing a group, your primal instincts kick in and send butterflies in your tummy.

There are a few tips to get over this fear:

  • Rationalize: Ask yourself, what might happen if things go wrong? The worst that can happen is you slip up, but you will learn and grow from the experience!
  • Practice: Just like all good things in life, you improve with repetition. Try to speak in front of a mirror, in front of your parents or even into a camera so that you can identify the areas that you might be slipping at and work at it until you perfect it.
  • Read, listen and watch something daily: Getting exposed to the language builds vocabulary and pronunciation, which can boost your confidence!
  • Have a plan if you forget: Make notes, have a handy outline you can use in case you get stuck. These ideas help to bring your speech back on track.
  • Avoid using fillers: Eloquence comes from practice, knowledge and confidence. Be sure of your material and keep an eye out for the ‘umm’s and ‘aah’s that slip out when you try to remember.
  • Talk about something you understand: Having a good understanding of the subject matter is the key to gaining confidence and ensuring that the nerves will not get to you.
  • Keep the energy up: Use gestures, tone and inflections to indicate your passion. This will keep audience riveted to each word you say.
  • Research: Especially in talks involving science or history, there are a lot of facts that are thrown about. Do your research and revalidate the statistics before you quote them.
  • Maintain eye contact: When you’re onstage and want people to listen, maintain eye contact. This small step can make an impersonal speech to a one-on-one conversation.

Public speaking can be frustrating and scare the living daylights out of people, but it is a virtue that can give you immense confidence and make survival in the corporate realm much easier. Grab every opportunity you can, prepare well and keep at it. Happy learning