Observe people in a restaurant. Most of them will be talking; some animatedly with flamboyant gestures; some seriously with conviction and some will be reliving a past event and laughing lustily. It can be assumed that those sitting in silence have had an argument or are plain bored in each other’s company. Speaking is one of the earliest known forms of communication; and fluency and clarity of speech is considered to be a sign of intelligence. Prehistoric man must have grunted on entering the cave to announce his return from the jungle. Not much has changed. Non-communicative men still grunt when they return from the office and plonk themselves in front of the TV! Read extensively to improve your vocabulary. When you come across a new word write it down, look up the meaning and pronunciation in the dictionary/thesaurus and try to use it in everyday conversation. Interact with those who speak well. Unconsciously the language will seep in and you will rise to their level. Don’t hesitate to express your views and opinions. If you start fumbling for words, slow down or ask someone else for their point of view. This will give you time to reframe your thoughts and ideas. On a one to one basis most of us communicate reasonably well. But our moods and emotions tend to colour the way we speak. Most often the dominant personality trait dictates the way we speak. For e.g. an excitable and hot-headed person tends to speak fast and in a high-pitched tone; a calm person speaks gently. Situations also influence how a person speaks. When enraged some shout, some stomp out of the room and others get upset. A person’s nature is judged on his degree of interaction/relationship with others and on how much he talks! A talkative person who usually articulates all his thoughts is considered an extrovert; a reticent person, an introvert. But most of us fall somewhere inbetween – i.e. we are ambiverts. Whichever category you fall into, I am positive that public speaking is something that you would rather avoid. Although almost everyone has the ability to speak, being able to express oneself clearly and effectively in front of a group is a talent that definitely needs to be cultivated. Most of us can identify with this sage statement - The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public. Why do we get so self-conscious when asked to give a speech? Does it seem like “you vs them” when you are at the dais facing an audience presumed to be critical? To get rid of any fear you have to face it; and public speaking is no exception to this rule. There is no need to cringe when asked to address an audience. They are not sharks with their jaws wide open. In surveys people have ranked the fear of public speaking ahead of such things as financial ruin and even death. With a bit of preparation, a dash of humour and the thought that “I am not important, but what I’m saying is,” will help most speakers. Noting down the points and planning the content beforehand will help you build up your speech. If you need more points consult friends and relatives. Surf the internet to collect statistics; this will give you the much needed confidence. Next put the points in order and make a sketchy outline. Your vocabulary might be reasonably good, but the words may elude you at the right moment. So write down a few key words which are pertinent to the topic. Arm yourself with a few quotations. Flowery language is an accepted garnish but use it only to accentuate the points. Training and Exercise is the next simple step in developing confidence in public speaking. If you want to become physically fit then you need to engage in training and exercise. It is the same with public speaking. Be prepared to feel foolish, awkward and nervous while you are learning and trying out new skills. Just do it anyway. The more you practice in public the quicker you will learn. So take every opportunity to speak in public. Remember, while you are learning you don’t have to be perfect, just use those occasions as learning opportunities. One way to get practice is to join a speaking club, as many do. That way you are working together with others who are also learning. You will receive lots of constructive feedback, which is what you need while you are learning. You must be determined to master the art and skills of public speaking and decide never to give up. No matter how badly you think your last speech went or how badly you feel about it, give it one more try, then another and another. Improvement is guaranteed only if you keep on trying. You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart. Have a clear cut plan in your mind, so that you don’t confuse the audience! This basic structure will help you navigate expertly. Introduction: Tell them what you are going to talk about. Body: Tell them two or three clear ideas Conclusion: Summarize what you have told them! Practice your speech in front of a mirror or honest friend and correct your flaws. Say not always what you know, but always know what you say. Check out your body language too – you might be clenching your fist, raising your eyebrows or pulling your collar unknowingly. When you go on stage think that you are expressing your views to a group of friends. Smile, take a deep breath and begin your speech. Go ahead and conquer the world!