Talking points

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Dread public speaking? A West Coast Key Clubber has five tips that can help.

Last November, Sargun “Sargi” Handa—a Key Club member at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Washington—stood in front of 250 people and presented a TEDx Talk titled “Be a Voice, Not an Echo.” For nearly 15 minutes, the 16-year-old junior discussed the importance of service and how giving back has helped her deal with a chronic illness and a friend’s death.

Handa received a standing ovation for her talk and has since been invited to speak at other venues and events. So you might be surprised to learn that she considers herself to be a bit shy. Here, she offers some tips for making your next public presentation a little less nerve-racking:

As I received feedback for my TEDx talk, an overwhelming amount of people said that I reflected poise and composure—that I looked so sure in what I was saying. I didn’t actually feel that way! Here are a few tips on how to look like a confident speaker. I say how to look like a confident speaker instead of how to be a confident speaker, because anyone, even introverts, can learn these tips.

In fact, I was a very shy person in middle school and, to be honest, I sometimes am one even in high school. That hasn’t stopped me from making new friends and succeeding in public speaking at schools, conventions and even my mayor’s State of the City Address (swearing-in ceremony). You see, you just have to conquer your mind. It’s all mental. The audience will love you as long as you are a genuine, passionate person.

I will focus mostly on presentation with these tips, since I hope you will use them during the upcoming Key Club and DCON elections.

  1. Power poses. I know it sounds weird, but actually try a few power poses in the bathroom mirror before your speech. My favorite is the Superman one. Doing power poses makes you feel strong and silly, which also lightens your mood. When I do it, it relieves my stress and empowers me.
  2. Practice, practice, practice. People tend to regret things that they didn’t do. If there’s one thing I regret about my TEDx Talk, it’s that I didn’t practice as much as I wanted to. If you practice in front of your friends and family (or even in the bathroom mirror while doing power poses), you will feel a lot more secure and prepared.
  3. People don’t care. One thing I’ve realized as a speaker is that people don’t care if I messed up; if anything, it makes me seem human. And a lot of the time, they don’t even know when I’ve made a mistake. This relieves the pressure of having to seem perfect.
  4. Make it interactive. (I was planning on using “the 5 Ps to being a confident speaker,” but I ran out of P words by No. 4.) As you speak, crack jokes and ask rhetorical questions, showing that you acknowledge the audience’s presence. When you are interactive, people will nod their heads and you’ll feel a lot more at ease—like it’s a conversation instead of a speech.
  5. Fake it till you make it. It may sound cliche, but pretending to be confident until you really are confident actually works. Scientists say that smiling even when you aren’t happy boosts your mood. When you channel your energy into seeming composed, eventually you really will feel composed. I would know; I’m still in the process of faking it!

I’m not an expert on how to be a confident speaker, but as you can tell, I’ve had a lot of time to better myself as one. I gave you tips on changing your perception, not the audience’s perception, because, as I said before, it’s all mental.

Do you ever hear a really inspirational speaker, but when you talk to them, they seem like a normal person? That’s because we are normal people with normal lives and fears. But to conquer public speaking, you have to set your fear aside and conquer your mind first. Being a speaker requires passion and clarity, so I urge you to speak from your heart. We are only inspirational people when we are inspired. I wish you lots of luck in your upcoming elections. Make me proud!

Click on the photo below to watch Sargun Handa’s TEDx talk:

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