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5 Tips to Perfect the Art of Public Speaking

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Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking is a common issue that plagues many people. Nearly three-fourths of Americans suffer from speech anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you consider yourself part of that statistic, you’ve probably wondered how all those great speakers who seem to effortlessly captivate their audience and deliver powerful performances do it. Marsha Friedman, a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry and author of the new book Celebritize Yourself, was one such sufferer who used to be terrified of speaking to large crowds and being in the spotlight. But upon realizing it was a fear she had to work on and get over for the sake of her business, she started researching and practicing ways to improve.

Today she is a successful professional who faces the crowd fearlessly, and what she learned can help you tackle your fears as well. Read on for some of Friedman’s tips to perfect the art of public speaking and become the type of speaker you always wanted to be.

1. Start small

You can’t go from a nervous speaker to a star orator overnight and you shouldn’t expect to. Start small and give yourself time to get used to the spotlight. Speak at smaller forums and get as much feedback as you can to constantly practice and develop your skills.

2. Know your material

You won’t feel comfortable speaking if you don’t thoroughly know your material. Actors and Olympic athletes make their feats look so easy by practicing. That doesn’t mean memorizing a speech, which can lack enthusiasm and leaves little room for spontaneity. Know your key talking points, the anecdotes or other means you’ll use to illustrate them, and how you will smoothly segue from one point to the next.

3. Infuse energy into the crowd

Positive energy is contagious – if you’re upbeat, excited and passionate about your message, chances are, your audience will be, too. And you’ll be surprised about the positive cycle that creates: An enthusiastic audience can pump up your energy even more! Use hand gestures to illustrate points and, when appropriate, smile, smile, smile.

4. Make eye contact

Find friendly, receptive faces in the audience and speak to them. Making eye contact with individuals helps prevent you staring off into the distance or reading from notes. It also helps make you feel like you’re engaging in a conversation rather than speaking to a group. Visually touching base with engaged audience members can give you little shots of confidence to help you propel you through your presentation.

5. Look your best!

When you look great you feel great and that makes you stand taller and exude confidence. Speaking engagements aren’t the best place to break in a new outfit (who knows what wardrobe malfunctions might surprise you?) Instead wear clothing and shoes you feel good in and that are appropriate to the setting – you can’t go wrong with business formal. Simple is fine, but you should look crisp and polished from head to toe.

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