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Speak Up

  |   By Alison McGill

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Though the bride is not traditionally one to give a speech at the wedding reception, this tradition has done an about face in recent years. It has basically become a given that you will take the floor at your party to say thanks and raise a glass to family and friends. That said, public speaking is probably in the top three phobias of most people on the planet. Believe it or not, getting butterflies in your stomach, a lump in your throat, sweaty palms and a racing heart is common for most people.

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Speak Up

A large part of my job involves public speaking—in meetings, on radio and television shows (this picture is a shot from me on CHCH Morning in Hamilton last month)—and over the years I’ve found a few things that help calm my jitters. Practice really is the key to perfecting the art of public speaking, but there are a few other tips I have learned along the way to put anxious nerves at ease.

  1. Breathe! This sounds so simple, but one of the main reasons you can get extra-flustered when public speaking is that your adrenaline gets pumping so fast, you literally forget to breathe and calm your system down. Take a few deep, belly breaths before taking the stage and try to speak calmly and slowly once you’re there.
  1. Speak from the Heart. I find one of the biggest things that trips me up when speaking in public is if I actually prepare cue cards and try to memorize the things I’ve written down. It’s cool to jot points down and read them over a few times before your speech, but try not to memorize—if you forget things, it will make you more nervous and you can also come off sounding mechanical. You know who you want to thank and give praise to, so let your intuition be your teleprompter.
  1. Make Funny. I find humour always breaks the tension and builds confidence when you’re in a public-speaking situation. This doesn’t mean breaking out a stand-up or soft-shoe routine, but just infuse your words with a hint of fun and lightness. And if you do trip up, don’t be afraid to admit it—you’d be surprised how far a little self-deprecating humour goes.
This article was originally published on Jul 18, 2007
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