5 Public Speaking Tips: Change Fear into Confidence!

"No improvement is ever made in the comfort zone." 

The reason why public speaking is such an important topic to me is because of the way I feel after listening to some of the best speakers I know: Valerie Kaur, Sheryl Sandberg, Oprah Winfrey, and so many more. They can make me feel any emotion - sadness, fear, inspiration, motivation - simply with a few words and stories. Listening to inspiring speeches is what keeps me motivated to keep pursuing my passions and dreams. Its what makes me believe that having a voice, having a story, and having the confidence to tell it is one of the most important things in the world. 

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~ My Story ~

My dream when entering college at UC Davis was to speak at my commencement. There was a whole application process with over 40 applicants, and to get chosen among them almost seemed impossible. As the time came closer, to actually apply, I started to feel under confident. I started thinking I would never get it, and I could never be better than all of the smart people on this campus.

However, one of the main reasons I even had the confidence to audition was because of a single class that I took. The professor in that class constantly (and I mean literally at any second during the class) kept us on our toes. Every single class we would have breakout sessions and quick 2 min presentations in which each person would alternate and each person had to present. He then gave us feedback about our speaking skills right then and there, and quickly moved to the next person. This class is when I heard the quote above. As the class went on, and I got more public speaking practice sessions, I realized how much I liked the adrenaline rush that came with speaking and how much I liked to see if my speaking improve with each class. I loved wrapping my thoughts in a little bow and explaining them to the audience in a story that they would actually listen to. Yes, it was so nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day, putting myself outside of my comfort zone is what motivated me to audition for Commencement Speaker for the College of Letters and Sciences. If I had never done that, I would never have ultimately achieved my freshman year dream, and spoken in front of my friends, family, and over 2,000 people at my college commencement. 

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~ Tips ~

Over time and through many experiences I have gathered a few tips about Public Speaking. I am in no way an expert, but if any of these tips help you, or if you have more tips that help you, let me know; I would love to hear! 

1. Prepare, but don't over-prepare.  

Preparation for speeches is so important. With my preparation, what I usually do is I type out my entire speech, word for word, and print it out. Then, I say it out loud multiple times, until I have most of it memorized.  

Then, to get myself to not read word for word from the paper, I often highlight keywords every paragraph so that I can simply look down, look at those keywords and remember the main points of that paragraph when I am speaking. 

That said, it is important to not over prepare. Public Speaking often never goes exactly as planned. Day of, sometimes you talk too fast or too slow, or maybe miss a few words, and that is okay. Speaking should be a little spontaneous and should be personal. People make mistakes and no person says everything exactly as typed out. So, even if you prepare, make sure that you are comfortable with the idea that when you give the speech, you will not say it word for word as what you typed out, and that is okay, it is actually better, it is more personal and more authentic.

2. Tell stories

Think about this like a movie with a message. In a movie, the message is portrayed through a story, and if that story is told well, the message sticks with the audience even more.

For example, if you are trying to convey to the audience that asking questions is a good thing and one should not shy away from it, then tell them a story about when you asked a question and someone was extremely willing to help. This is not only telling them, but showing them that what you are saying is true, has been done, and can be done by them as well.

3. Be Interactive when possible  

Getting people's attention is hard when making speeches. However, one way to overcome this is to ask people to interact or give feedback to you while you are speaking. This may not apply to every speech, but when this is possible, it is a great way to capture and maintain your audience's attention because it makes them feel as if they are involved in the activity.

For example, one way that a Director from Workday did this in one of his speeches was to, every so often, ask people to log in and vote or suggest certain ideas for questions asked. This was done from everyone's individual phones, which works perfectly since most people have their phones at all times. One website or app that does this is Poll Everywhere. Link: https://www.polleverywhere.com/?peref=landing-page 

4. Let your personality shine through

The best speakers are most effective because they show their personality while speaking. By this, I mean do not shy away from not making a traditional speech. If you are passionate about poetry, music, dance, or anything else, don't feel shy about incorporating this into your speech. One amazing example that I remember is one from Valerie Kaur. You can find it at the link below: 

5. Be confident about yourself and what you have to say

This is easier said than done, but this is one of the most important points for me. I have to believe that my story and my speech is important. It is something that I want people to hear and is something that I have prepared well and extensively for. 

Additionally, being nervous is good. If you are not nervous, it means you are in your comfort zone. It means you are not growing or learning anything new. So, don't be afraid to feel nervous, channel that nervousness into confidence. You are up there for a reason, and you deserve to have people listen to you. 

Also, everything is a learning experience. Your first public speech does not have to go perfect, and actually it is better if it doesn't. You can get feedback and make your next one better. Always aim for improvement, never perfection. 

Hopefully some of these tips helped you! If you would like to discuss more such tips, have questions, or suggestions about future blog posts please feel free to reach out via the "Contact" tab above, would love to hear from you! :) 

Also, if you would like to listen to my entire commencement speech, it can be found below: