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Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

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An average person ranks the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death. The truth is, this fear could be hurting your professional and personal life. Unless you’re a gregarious extrovert, you feel nervous, your palms sweat, and your stomach ties itself into knots before speaking to a group or getting up in front of the audience.

The fear of public speaking is very real. However, there are techniques to help you overcome your fear. There are even ways to help harness your energy in a positive way.

Get Organized

When you organize all of your thoughts and material it helps you to become much more relaxed and calm. When you have clear, organized thoughts it can greatly reduce your speaking anxiety because you can better focus on the one thing at hand, giving a great speech.

Practice, Practice & Practice

Nothing takes the place of practicing and preparing for your speech. Write out a script of your key points, but don’t read from the script word for word. Prepare for your speech so well that you could answer any possible question thrown at you.

Give your Speech to another Person

There are plenty of people you can practice on. Be sure to tell the person to be completely honest with you in their critique.

Examples of people you can practice on:

  • Your friends
  • Your parents
  • Your girlfriend/wife
  • Your boyfriend/husband

PowerPoint- Make or break

Sometimes, having a PowerPoint can be your best friend. It can help you if you lose your train of thought, keep your audience engaged, and give people a good place to grab notes and main points from. However, do not put paragraphs on one slide.

Focus on the material, not the audience

Focus on delivering your material in the best way possible. Don’t worry about audience reactions.

Keep a check on the Rate of Speech

Talking fast during a speech interferes with your breathing patterns. If you talk too fast you will breathe less. Feeling short of breath will make you panicked and more susceptible to fear. Practice slowing down when you speak, and you will be more calm and relaxed.

Practice in Front of a Mirror

If time and money are issues, there’s always the free mirror in your bathroom. Start with simply smiling at yourself. You’d be surprised by how hard that is for some people. Make eye contact with yourself. See? You’re doing great.

Watch for Feedback and Adapt to It

Keep the focus on the audience. Gauge their reactions, adjust your message, and stay flexible. Delivering a canned speech will guarantee that you lose the attention of or confuse even the most devoted listeners.

 

EnglishMate is a chain of English Speaking Institutes by Hindustan Times that offers a range of courses to help you speak better English and get smarter. 

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Effective Presentation Skills

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The opportunity to pitch your services to a potential client, spell out your business plan to a potential business partner, or promote your business at an event may require that you give a presentation. Whether or not your presentation achieves its desired outcome can be affected by your skills as a speaker, so it’s important to step in front of your audience with your best foot forward. The following points explain how to prepare, deliver, and answer questions about a killer presentation.

How to Improve Your Presentation Skills: Preparation

Stay focused & on your toes: No one is impressed by a presentation that rambles. Rambling happens when the speaker is both self-indulgent and unorganized. Your purpose and prose must be specifically directed to interests of your listeners or they will mentally shut you down. Even if you hit upon a topic of interest, you will lose them quickly if they can’t follow the logic of your ideas. Outline the structure of your presentation in a way that people can follow easily. Research your audience to make sure the topic is truly of their interest.

Mind your rate of speech: You’ve got a lot of material to cover, so you talk fast to get through all of it. If you need to talk fast, your presentation is too long. Plus, fast talk makes you sound either nervous or like a stereotypical “fast talking'” salesperson. Rather, cut your presentation down. If you’re talking fast because you’re nervous, write “SLOW DOWN!” on each page of your notes.

Don’t tell cock & bull stories: There must be a reason you are presenting to these people. Most likely you want them to take action of some kind.  Maybe you want them to get involved in an activity, or to make something happen in their own lives. They are not likely to ­take action just because you tell them to do so. You need to connect with them emotionally and inspire them to change their behavior. Stories do more for emotional connection than any other speech technique. Audience is very smart. Tell them compelling stories. The more personal and authentic the stories, the better the response.

Making personal excuses: You downgrade the audience’s expectations by offering an excuse in advance for your poor performance. (E.g., “I’m so tired”; “I got in late last night.”) You’re giving yourself an excuse so you won’t feel so bad if you fail. Plus, nobody wants to hear you to crib & cry about your problems to begin with.  Regardless of how you’re feeling, show enthusiasm for being there and put your best foot forward.

Reading from slides will bore them to death : Your slides reflect your thinking on a subject, so you read your slides aloud to the audience in order to replicate your thought process. Presumably everyone in your audience can read, so it becomes boring if it is re-read. Rather, use slides as visual signposts for the points you’re making rather than a written version or summary of those points.

Use Media Only to Enhance: PowerPoint, visuals and video are powerful presentation tools when used correctly. But they can be disastrous distractions when misused.

Do not ask for extra time: You feel you don’t have sufficient time to communicate your important information, so you request extra time to communicate it. If there’s less time because you’re late, you’re adding injury to insult. If it’s because your presentation is too long, well, your presentation is too long. Rather, adapt your presentation so as to fit the allotted time. If you’re late, end your presentation when it’s scheduled to end.

Videotape yourself – You can’t know how you come off to people until you see it. Recording yourself is the best way to target the areas where you can improve.

EnglishMate is a chain of English Speaking Institutes by Hindustan Times that offers a range of courses to help you speak better English and get smarter.

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Debate: you win some, you lose some

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History has it, no leader in the world politics has reigned ever without defeating his rival in a war of words. Former president of the United States of America Barack Obama once said, “When students participate in debates, they learn to study issues in depth and form perspectives, a skill I use everyday.”

 

Let’s talk about some tips which will help you to not only speak your mind but also win the game :

 

  • Know your audience

Well, isn’t it true in all spheres? You play a hip hop song for a set of old men and women, no one is going to dance to the tune, let alone enjoy it. Same holds true for any argument. Until you know your listeners well, your debate won’t see a rising shine. Young Fellows, share examples from daily life; adults, show research; and by any means your audience is all about academicians, you go ahead and prove your mettle by displaying your analytical skills.

In short, give the audience what they are looking for.

 

  • Respect your rival

Respect and attention are two things you need to shower on your opponent. Please understand, he is just a player like you. None of your arguments should smell sarcasm or insult. It’s a gentleman’s game, so, attack their arguments, not them.

While doing so, don’t lose a word he says. An ideal speaker contests each point the rival raises in the field.

 

  • It’s a debate, not a war

Remember you are not there to win over your opponent. Your target is to win over the audience and once you do that with your humor and presence of mind, no one can steal the win away from you.

 

  • Polish your style

Run through your arguments before an audience hears them. Crisp, punchy, jargon-free sentences work better than lengthy technical passages. Aim for a relaxed, conversational speaking voice and a moderate pace in your delivery. Otherwise, you risk garbling or swallowing important words or phrases, and this can hurt your score. Maintain a firm posture and good eye contact, too, at all times.

 

  • Stay calm at all times

Be prepared that there will be times when the opponent might not follow the righteous behavior. He may try to hit you below the belt. Don’t get annoyed. Do not take the ridicule to heart and never call them names. Stay calm and composed, bring a smile on your face. Your job is to refute their arguments, do that! Stick to your argument with firmness, the audience will be compelled to listen to you.

 

  • Appreciating the right

Well, let’s not undermine the talent of the rival. He is up there for a reason and he must have prepared hard enough to beat you in the game. Whenever he is right, don’t forget to appreciate him. It won’t make you weak. It takes courage to call your arch rival, “You made a good point here.” And never forget, it’s chivalrous! It will help you garner bonus points among the audience.

 

  • Things you don’t know

You are human after all! Let’s leave “knowing everything” to god. If you don’t know something, avoid lying and simply say “I don’t Know”. It’s way better than entering into an unprepared war ground. It’s human and forgivable, therefore, stress on the subjects you are well-equipped with. It makes much more sense.

 

  • Bring Change

An hour of an argument won’t change anyone’s belief in the subject, but your words will have the power to influence the listeners to think about it deeply. Your words should plant some seeds of doubt and there my friend, your job is done.

 

EnglishMate is a chain of English Speaking Institutes by Hindustan Times that offers a range of courses to help you speak better English and get smarter.

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Six Golden Rules To Ace A Group Discussion

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As each sport and game has its own rules and tips to help you navigate it successfully, the same goes for group discussions too. The general tip is that you follow the rules, gauge your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, work around their strengths, tap into their weaknesses and you can sail through with the perfect image in group discussions.

Rule 1: Prepare

Work begins long before you sit for the group discussion. Your performance is as good as your preparation. Half the preparation is about knowledge. If you think you can wing it with aggression, you are mistaken. Find out the kind of topics that are given at the institution or company you are applying for.

Prepare well in time on as many topics as you can, not just the ones given in the past, but related ones too. You never know when the subject would be changed. Get into the habit of active reading. It’s different from passive reading. Passive reading is where you read merely to understand the subject. Active reading is where you not only understand the subject, but also begin to raise questions and voice your opinion – positive, negative or neutral about the subject. This is critical in the group discussion to counter or support others’ points of view.

The next part of rule 1 is to have mock GDs, preferably with differing groups of friends. The point is to train your mind to think of any given topic’s pros and cons in a dynamic situation where you can’t predict the person’s response. More importantly, it is about looking at all the possible angles to the topic. This shows your logical mind, creativity and also your ability to think on your feet which comes with preparation.

Rule 2: Know the Participants

Carry a notepad and pen to note down your discussion points as soon as the topic is given. Most people who attend GDs are as focused on their performance as they tend to be. Take a deep breath and when the team introduces itself, note down the participants’ names. In the heat of the discussion, calling out the person’s name is a good way to get his attention. All of us respond instinctively when our name is called out, so use this technique. Not only does it get you their attention, it also shows your people skills and presence of mind.

Rule 3: Take Care of your Posture

Your body posture reveals your state of mind. At the same time, it conditions you to a particular way of thinking. Don’t lean back or lean forward. Find the balance.

Let your body posture be of polite intensity so that you come across as a balanced individual with plenty of energy. This also shows empathy and respect to others when they speak and is an asset that brings you additional points.

Rule 4: Take Charge

Take charge of the discussion right in the beginning. It shows your leadership capability. Introduce the topic by setting the framework for the ensuing discussion and state your opening point before leaving it to the group. Further, when it comes to conclusions, many GDs fall through and participants don’t make good use of it although it brings points. Conclude the discussion by summing up if you can. To do this, listen actively throughout the discussion and note down the key highlights – say, in columns of negative and positive points on your notepad or any other format that suits the discussion.

Rule 5: Retain Your Balance

During the discussion itself, give your logical counterpoint without aggression when there is a disagreement. You are not there to prove that your stand is right, but to show your maturity and logical thinking. When the discussion drags over a point, it is time for you to interject and turn the discussion in a new direction, either with a related point or with an opposite view.

Be to the point and intervene when another candidate is taking all the airtime. When he pauses for breath, it is the right time to take your chance, state your point and then, pass the chance to someone who hasn’t had his say.

Rule 6: Follow your Domain

Keep the domain in mind while projecting your image. Let’s suppose you are facing a group discussion for a sales function, you may have to take a more aggressive approach whereas a marketing function could veer towards the creative and the practical approach in assessment.

Group discussions are as much about your knowledge and point-of-view as about how you handle yourself and others. Do these right and you will have projected the right image.

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