By KCI Trustee Sana Yooseph 

We’ve all had that nightmare: We’re in front of a crowd and have no idea what to say. Public speaking seems terrifying — but it doesn’t have to be. Use these tips to speak confidently at your next event (or dream) and wow your audience:  

  1. Being knowledgeable about your topic is more important than having a strict script. When prepping for your speech, make sure you understand the topic inside and out. A word-for-word script adds extra stress about sticking to it, and it’s unnecessary once you’re confident in your knowledge. Instead, write an outline with bullet points of basic items and rehearse how you will discuss them.  
  2. Treat your speech like a conversation. Use hand motions, facial expressions and whatever feels natural to convey your thoughts. When you speak to the crowd as if you’re talking to your best friend (though in a slightly more formal way, with fewer OMGs and LOLs), public speaking becomes far less stressful. By pretending the speech is conversational, your tone is more genuine and less robotic. Bottom line: Go with the flow to speak naturally.  
  3. Engage the crowd. Whether it’s through appropriate humor, interactive questions or references to work done by the audience, incorporate awareness of the crowd into your speaking. Engaging honestly helps break the ice and makes you feel like you’re speaking to friends instead of strangers. You’ll have more fun, and so will the audience.    
  4. Practice talking confidently. Stand in front of your mirror and pretend you’re a charismatic game show host or a movie star accepting an Oscar. Whatever it takes, that feeling of capability will be reflected in the way you speak. Personally, I channel my inner Taylor Swift. I admire the confidence she conveys in interviews. As someone with a stutter, I know it can be frustrating to seem effortless while speaking. What helps me is accepting that I will stumble a little, but knowing that no one will notice except me, so it’s OK to just keep going. Slow down, take a deep breath and remember: You’re an expert on the topic and capable of talking about it.   
  5. Have fun! This seems cliched, but it’s incredibly important. Your smile and enthusiasm will show the audience that they should be as passionate about your topic as you are.   

 Employ these tips, and you can conquer every microphone, stage or panicked dream that comes your way. Public speaking takes some getting used to, but I know you have what it takes to succeed.