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The fear of public speaking is really common. And in extreme cases, it’s paralyzing. Some people completely freeze up, unable to remember anything they were supposed to say. But if you’re comfortable doing it, it can be a really valuable skill. Many employers are looking for effective public speakers, especially in leadership positions. Here are some public speaking tips that can help you at work.

6 Tips For Speaking In Public

1. Accept the nerves

Being nervous is totally normal, so don’t be distracted by it. Most of the people sitting in front of you are terrified of it, too, so don’t think that they’re judging you. The better prepared you are and the more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you’ll be when you speak.

2. Know your subject

Nothing will make you more nervous than if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Do your research, double check your facts and figures, and prepare for the questions you might be asked. And practice, practice, practice. Even if you’re an expert in the subject area, rehearse what you plan to say. Otherwise, you might stumble over your words, repeat yourself, or skip over important chunks.

3. Get familiar with your audience

Speaking to a room full of your peers or subordinates is a lot different than speaking to people who are experts or executives in your company. Know ahead of time who you’ll be speaking to so you can tailor your language accordingly. If you’re speaking to novices or new hires, for example, you might have to define some terms and over-explain some of your examples.

4. Have an objective

Why are you there? What message are you hoping to convey? Are you trying to persuade them of something? Or inform them? Know your time limit and make sure you hit those key points within that time frame.

5. Practice with your equipment

I was recently at a wedding where the priest couldn’t figure out his portable microphone, It squeaked and buzzed and made weird noises at really inconvenient times. It was so distracting that it took away from his message, and by the end, he unhooked it and was speaking without it. Which was fine, unless you were one of those unfortunate people in the back who couldn’t hear. Get familiar with the equipment—microphone, projector, and other audio/visual tools—you might have at your disposal. If you don’t know how to use it, your talk might not happen at all.

6. Seek feedback and guidance

As you practice, ask a few people to listen and provide you with some constructive criticism. Were you speaking clearly? Too fast or slow? Was your message useful and understandable? And know that there are plenty of resources that you can use to improve. Check out books, community college classes, online courses, and interactive exercises. Or, simply watch TED talks—they’re all such unique, effective speakers that you can learn from and emulate.

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