12/01/2015 06:09:00 pm

Dear people who are anxious about public speaking,

Dear people who are anxious about public speaking,

Did you find it hard to speak?
Did your palms feel clammy, legs wobbly, throat constricted?
Did you find it hard to breathe?
Did you hear your heartbeat pounding your ears, so loud that you were sure everyone else could hear it?
Did your tongue get twisted and got your words jumbled up?
Did you feel embarrassed with many pairs of eyes fixed on you, on your words, your actions?
Did you just want to disappear off the face of the Earth then and there?

You are not alone. Cause someone's out there, sending out flares.
(Yes I just quoted Flares by The Script).

Talking around friends is one thing, but when standing in front of many many people, trying to convey an idea or a message, is completely a different thing.

Even with friends, I don't talk that much. I'm told I keep to myself too much. But I still talk, I still do.
Yet you find me putting in time and effort into this thing called Model United Nations. I even publish multiple posts about them. Simply put, Model United Nations Conference is a simulation of the real UN, where students represent countries assigned to them to debate and speak about a specific topic. 2, 3, or more days.

Getting up to speak about something. People staring at you. Time limit. They might (most probably) be also judging you. They can see clearly that pimple on your forehead. Oh no, you didn't prepare well enough for the speech. What makes it worse for MUN is the chair's gavel to remind you of the time. You blank out.

Isn't that a nightmare? Sometimes I ask myself why I still go for these kind of stuff, giving myself extra stress and pressure, even when I know I'm not a good public speaker.

After council sessions come to an end, I ask the chairs (couple of people who moderate the sessions) for feedback. And it's always the same thing. Speak up more. Be more active. And if I was active only at the last few sessions, be an active speaker from the start. Add yourself to the General Speakers List (GSL) and moderated caucus more. 

I just got feedback from another chair. She said that even though I don't speak regularly or as much as I should, when I do speak, however, she can tell that my speeches have substance, and it's not a speech just for the sake of speaking. She says it's that I know what I'm talking about. Which is good. But I know myself I have to be an active speaker.

I know. I know. I know. I'm trying. I'm trying. I'm trying. Maybe you think I'm not trying hard enough, but that's only for me to judge, okay?

Though I may not be the best person to tell you guys what you should improve on, I've thought long and hard about this issue, and have a couple of tips:

1.  Know your material. 
Have your points written down in point form and not in sentences, however tempting it might be.  Go through your material once or twice beforehand to ensure you know what you'll be talking about. If you're not extremely confident about your content, you may want to discuss it with someone who can help you go through it, give you the 'okay' stamp.

2.  Keep practicing.
The first time is always the scariest. The jitters might not disappear altogether, but the prospect of speaking in front of everyone will be less scary after you talk more. The hardest step is not between level 99-100, but from level 0-1, where you have to break the psychological barrier.

3.  Don't stress yourself.
Don't keep telling yourself, 'I'm so stressed, it's x number of people before I speak', or 'I have 20 minutes before my speech, what do I do?' It will make the situation worse.

4. If your heartbeat feels deafening, take deep breaths. 
Use this trick I learned from one of the TedTalks: tell yourself, 'my heart is pumping faster, to pump more blood and transfer oxygen to my brain, so I can think and speak better later', instead of saying 'my heart is beating so quickly, I'm nervous'.

When you go up and the floor is yours,

4. Smile. 
There will be some people who'll give you warm smiles back to encourage you.

5. Make eye contact.
Of course there might be some who have blank faces and stare at you- just ignore these. Instead, focus on those who smile at you. It'll be better for you too. Even when you are speaking, look up now and then, glance at them while speaking, or in-between sentences.

6. Pace.
Don't speak too fast, but not too slow either. Enunciate your words so that others can understand what you're saying. I tend to ramble myself, especially when I get nervous, as I'd want to get the points through and the speech over and done with, but sometimes I'd go faster and faster. So, for your own sake, and to ensure others can get your point, try to keep the pace steady.

All the best,

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