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.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A couple of close friends and I are planning a weekend getaway to a very natural area. Some of these friends plan to play video games and stay inside the entire time, and I don’t want this getaway to be an event like that. How can I convince some of my more introverted friends to go outside and experience something new? -- Weekend Getaway
DEAR WEEKEND GETAWAY: You cannot control your friends. What you should do is figure out which friends want to spend time in nature, and connect with them. Plan to do activities with them to ensure that you enjoy your time this weekend.
You can also attempt to coax the friends who have decided they will stay inside to come out for particular activities. You might point out that some of the games that they play on those devices they can actually do outside. You can also ask them, quite seriously, why they decided to come on the trip if they had no intention of going outside. Perhaps you can spark an honest conversation about choice and get everybody to open up about how they spend their time.
Gaming is popular and can be addictive for some people. While you aren’t trying to get your friends to stop their gaming habit, you can point out to them that gaming doesn’t have to consume every waking moment.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)