Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Upperclassman Wants More Confidence in Public Speaking

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am preparing to give a speech in front of the underclassmen at the beginning of the school year. I still have a lot of time to prepare, but I want to make sure that I know exactly what to say. I want to improve my confidence with public speaking. Do you have any tips for me to feel less afraid when I am standing in front of a lot of people? -- Public Speaking

DEAR PUBLIC SPEAKING: Start by writing out your intention. What message do you want to communicate to the assembled group? Build a brief speech around this intention, and double-check that everything you say is in alignment with your criteria.

Paint a picture with your words; make sure every word you say shows the listeners what you are talking about. Be descriptive in your storytelling. This will help your audience feel connected to your words. Practice your speech in the mirror so that you grow comfortable with the words and with your delivery.

For the moment, remember that the people you will be addressing want you to do a good job. They will be there to hear what you have to say and to take it in. When you walk onto the stage, make eye contact with people, and notice the ones who are looking at you and smiling. Their positive vibes should boost your confidence. Walk standing straight and tall. When you reach the place where you will speak, take a moment and plant your feet hip-width apart. Look out at your audience. Give them a warm smile, take a breath and begin your speech. Be sure to look up at your audience frequently and engage them with your eyes and smile.