Skills

To some, it’s terrifying. Talking in front of a crowd may trigger anxiety in all shapes and forms. Sweaty and shaky hands, uncontrollable muttering, blank facial expressions, and a mundane tone are all symptoms of the fear of public speaking.  However, there are ways that can help condition you to become more resistant to the “everyone please stop looking at me” and “wait, what am I even saying?” moments in life. It takes practice and it takes time, but it is so worth having your (steady) voice heard. Whether you are presenting in class or at work, keep these tips in mind:

Ground your nerves

A lot of people get extremely nervous while talking out loud. Sometimes this boils down to a fear of judgment. BREAKING NEWS: people in the room are most likely thinking of themselves or what they have to do that day. It’s a human thing. When they do tune in to what you’re saying, make sure that conveying your message is more important than their thoughts about you. Take big, deep breaths before your presentation and prepare yourself to work out your mental muscles. Focus on your nervous energy and picture yourself bottling it up and transferring it out of your system.  A big chunk of the magic behind good presenting is being able to psych yourself up (not psych yourself out). Think about yourself in control. Bring all your nervousness out of your mind, out of your arms and hands, down to your toes and into the ground. Then leave it there. Guiding yourself through this imagery is a powerful tool.

Know your voice well

Practicing a speech or presentation in your head is not enough. For optimal results, practice the exact presentation out loud to familiarize yourself with the sound of your voice. We hear ourselves talk every day, but the tone changes as we cater to the informative or persuasive styles of speech. Understand and recognize how your own voice fluctuates between styles so that you are not afraid of your own voice. You’ll be better able to gauge what volume is appropriate during the real thing and whether or not you begin to drift into a quiet, timid voice versus a loud and clear one. Recording yourself may be a bit awkward and cringe-worthy at first, but it is extremely helpful in identifying your pitch, sound, and pauses.

Be an expert (or at least act like one)

Know your information so well, that if you stumble, you can talk your way through accurately. That is the biggest goal. Sounding confident and credible is crucial to create audience engagement. Understanding the topic can lend way to less “um’s”, “you knows”, and “things like that.” These filler words are not our friends, leave them out. When researching your topic, learn more about it than you need to talk about. Filter out the extra information when writing your speech so that your audience is getting a concentrated and relevant presentation. Having that reservoir of information will be a lifesaver if anyone has follow-up questions or if you lose your place while talking.

Memorize a performance

Understand the mechanisms of your body while you speak. Try not to just memorize the words you will be saying. Rather, memorize the entirety of your presentation, from steady pacing back and forth, to hand movements, eye contact, and even your tone and changes in tone. Now this doesn’t mean that you should analyze every movement, rinse and repeat. You should, instead, have a working script. Similar to any play or musical, actors in these productions are able to make each show seem like it’s the first time for their audience yet they are still saying the same lines and presenting within the creative bounds of the story.

Everyone can work towards a positive relationship with public speaking. Think and stay calm, research thoroughly, and channel your inner performer. Good luck and speak out!

Image: Carla de Souza Campos

CultureSkills

Young people are always underestimating their worth, and I don’t mean worth as in a monetary value. What we have to offer the world is priceless in every sense of the word. It can’t be bought or sold and it can’t be taken away from us. I recognize the plight of young people who live in countries where their voices are silenced by oppression, but I also recognize that even in countries where freedom of speech is not a luxury the people who live there can afford, people our age have found ways to stand up for what they believe in despite the consequences they might face for speaking out against unfair regimes.

Throughout history, we can find instances of high school and college students alike using their voices to make a difference in their communities, their countries, and across the world. Maybe we won’t see an 18-year-old president any time soon, but young people don’t need to hold a political office to change policy. The only weapon in our arsenal that we need is our voice.

I say that our voices are weapons because they are just as powerful as any firearm, and words truly do have power. They have the power to bring people together; inspire them to move into action, and to make a difference wherever they are. You are never too young to stand up for something you believe in. Even if you’re not old enough to vote, you can still use your voice to speak up about whatever it is you are passionate about. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too young to understand something or that an issue doesn’t concern someone your age. Statements that use your age to undermine your intelligence, as well as the importance of your voice, are the tools that people will use in their attempt to disarm you, and they are completely false.

No one else has the ideas that you have or can think the way that you think. And this why your voice matters. Your words are unique and while they cannot be duplicated, they can be shared. All you have to do is speak up. There are people who might not listen to you because of your age but don’t let that discourage you because for every person who won’t listen, there will be someone who will. Once you realize that your voice truly matters and that it is powerful enough to make a difference, I have no doubt that you will make a difference in the world around you.

While worth is usually used in reference to monetary value, what we as young people have to offer the world is priceless in every sense of the word.

Image: Evan Forester

Skills

Escaping negativity is hard.

I’ll be perfectly honest; when I first came up with the concept for this article (and it was probably about a month ago) I had big aspirations for how amazing and relatable it would be. People would laugh and cry reading it, it would be an article for the ages, lauded by all.

Needless to say, this is not that article. That article, which had potential (although probably not as much as I dreamed it would) was killed by my complete and utter lack of motivation, as well as persistent nagging from myself that whatever I did, the article wouldn’t be up to par anyway. The sad thing is, I really wanted to write a good article that people would appreciate. I want to live up to everybody’s expectations, and even go beyond that. I want my work to be acknowledged and appreciated. I’m only human, after all. Being human, however, entails other less positive things.

The negativity that keeps me from writing the inspired article isn’t unique to me. Most people go through phases where nothing seems to be good enough, no matter how much you give. The question then becomes, why bother trying? Once you’ve reached that particular question, with all the life-altering connotations it brings with, that’s when you really need to think about what you want and what makes you happy. In my experience, that’s what makes that negative cloud go away; by finding a little moment of happiness and stretching it, taking your safe zone and pushing its boundaries until you find purpose in even the things you don’t want to do.

This is the point in the year where a slump kicks in (at least for me). The jitters of the beginning of school have faded, and the mundanity of daily life has yet to be replaced by heart-stopping final jitters. Halloween has passed in all its sugar-spiked glory, and it’s really too early to be gearing up for Christmas. The important idea that will kick that negative voice to the curb for November is this – November is a time for thanks and family.

Wherever and whoever you are, there’s someone out there that cares, and that’s an amazing thing, a simple fact that can alleviate any foul mood. Dark clouds do come, and there’s really no way around it than to face it every day with a steely determination, a smirk worthy of Han Solo, and preferably a loved one. With the power of that trifecta, the negative voice in your head won’t dare to speak up.

How do you deal with your negative voice?

Image: Volkan Olmez