5 tips to combat the fear of public speaking

If you are like me (or for that matter roughly half the people in the world), one of the most terrifying things you have had to do is get up on stage and give a speech (the fear is even worse than riding the craziest roller coaster at an amusement park). So I wanted to dedicate a post to public speaking, a topic that is dear to my heart. Though 90% of my work is in engineering which involves working on a computer all day, occasionally I need to present at conferences or teach training classes.

Even though I am well-versed and more knowledgeable on the subject matter than most people in the field, being the shy and quiet person that I am, I have experienced first hand the paralyzing fear and extreme nervousness before, no, make that almost a week before I was scheduled to give my half hour speech. Half an hour is not a lot of time, right? That’s the length of one TV sitcom episode. But just the mere thought of getting up there in front of people and talking used to make me break out in cold sweat, until slowly, each time got a bit easier than the last.

So yesterday I gave my 630th presentation, to a crowd of about 100 and I rocked it!

Here are a few tips that help me tremendously to prepare and deliver my talk without being tongue-tied or fainting on stage. I hope they will help you too.

1. Think of making a presentation as having a conversation – We have conversations everyday. With our friends, our family, our co-workers. Think of making a presentation as having a conversation with your audience, except that it is not a one on one conversation, but with everyone at the same time.

2. Prepare well but speak intuitively – If you know really well the topic you’re presenting, don’t try to follow the script or the slides too rigidly. Let the words flow and don’t worry too much about grammar or structure.

3. Don’t worry about making a compelling speech – There are very few people in the world that can captivate an audience and make them hold on to their every word. If you start to worry in the middle of a talk that you are not connecting with your audience, it’s only going to make you more nervous. Once you get comfortable speaking in front of people, making a compelling speech will slowly follow. Your task is to get through the presentation and if you speak loudly and clearly, your audience will surely pay attention to what you are saying.

4. Try to make it interactive – This is actually harder than it sounds. Your audience is equally nervous about participating, so 9 times out of 10 when you pose a question, you are greeted by nervous silence. Pause 3 seconds for someone to blurt out a comment, then answer your own question. As you get comfortable with asking questions, getting your audience to participate will come naturally.

5. Always reward yourself after a talk – I always reward myself after my presentation, just to have gotten through it. Be it those cute sandals I must own, or a giant size snickers ice-cream bar, it is important to reward yourself on your accomplishment. You have gotten one step closer to desensitizing yourself to the fear of public speaking.

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A glimpse into the lives of today’s troubled teens

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“Reconstructing Amelia”, a remarkable debut by new author Kimberly McCreight, offers a glimpse, a sneak peek if you will, into the lives of today’s troubled teens.

With ever demanding work and home schedules and kids after school activities, our lives have become so insanely busy that there isn’t time to even stop and think why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Getting back from a tiring day at work, it is so tempting to crash on the couch and watch mindless TV but I feel guilty sometimes even thinking this, ’cause what I want to do more than anything else is spend time with my kids and find out how their day went.

The small things eat up so much of our time and energy that we tend to lose focus on the bigger, more important ones such as spending quality time with our kids and being there for them when they need us the most.

“Reconstructing Amelia” opens with a devastated Kate, an overworked single mother and a talented lawyer, trying to piece together the circumstances that led to the tragic loss of her only daughter Amelia.

When Amelia a 15 – year old vivacious girl, who always did well at school and never got in trouble, is accused of cheating, it stuns not only Kate but her teachers and friends as well. As Kate digs deeper and deeper into Amelia’s troubled life, she is shocked to realize how little she knew her daughter or understood her.

The novel works itself backward with Kate trying to reconstruct the events in Amelia’s life and is a story about how hard a mother can fight to redeem a child she so deeply loved.

Brilliantly handled is how Ms. McCreight narrates the story from Kate, a middle age single mother’s and Amelia, a 15-year old typical teenager’s perspective.

Teenagers nowadays deal with a lot of complex issues in a world that is much changed since the days we were growing up. With the advent of social media, email, talking and texting, their lives are out there for their peers to see and judge. Adolescence is a time of rapid change both emotionally and physically and I can only imagine the toll it takes on their impressionable minds.

While we cannot fight their battles for them, we can surely create an atmosphere at home that is conducive to communication.

If our kids feel comfortable discussing with us the issues they deal with or what troubles them, be it a bully at school or a girl they fancy, we can not only help them but it makes the bond between us that much stronger.

There is a Kate and an Amelia is every family and this is a story most of us parents can relate to.

I remind my boys everyday that mom and dad are here for them no matter what. I hope that if and when the time comes that they really need our help, they remember that we got their back.

(image via amazon.com)

“Brain Games”

Have you watched “Brain Games” on National Geographic yet? It’s a totally awesome show and totally messes with your mind. Our brain processes so much information at any given time. Think about your average day. With work and home and traffic and cellphone and facebook and twitter and kids and bills, how does your brain know which one to concentrate on first. The answer – only what you focus on at that particular time. We retain only a fraction of the information we think we do.

Go check it out, this show will totally blow your mind!

(via http://braingames.nationalgeographic.com/ – Mondays 9 PM)

The power of quiet

Quiet

After reading a book that’s all about stepping up and taking charge (“Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg), it was a nice change of pace to read one about the shy and the quiet (“Quiet” by Susan Cain). I was surprised though, by how much these two books complement each other.

As the title aptly illustrates, “Quiet” is a book about the power of introverts in a world of talkative extroverts.

So how can shy be courageous or quiet be formidable you might ask, but there lies the strength of the introvert – it’s their ability to listen and focus, their calm collected manner and the way they assert themselves in a gentle but firm way.

Did you know that studies show 1 out of 3 people in the world are introverts by nature? Which means even if you are an extrovert, you are probably married to or have a child that’s an introvert. They may eventually get adept at pretending to be social and talkative, but true introverts would rather curl up at home with a book than be partying late into the night at a club.

In today’s fiercely competitive world though, where split second decisions are made based on first impressions, being shy or quiet would not even get one noticed leave alone make an impression. Does it mean then that introverts have to create / cultivate a personality that “tells or sells a story”? asks Ms. Cain.

Take politics or the business world for example, a trait that’s a must have to be a leader is charisma i.e. personality. Bill Clinton is a classic example of this. You can hear him talk for 15 min and be fascinated, enraptured even but I would be hard pressed to come up with what specifically it was that he talked about. Or Tony Robbins for example, who’s made his whole career as a life coach, motivating people to “unleash the power within”. These people are compelling orators and natural extroverts.

Key to make an impression is having a magnetic quality to one’s personality. Unfortunately, this is something that does not come naturally to introverts. In fact even the most mundane social situations like a party at a friend’s house can stress out most of them, until they find that one person to chat with in the corner about a subject of mutual interest. Introverts thrive on solitude, getting their best work done cranking their brains to maximum efficiency. As much as they enjoy time to themselves they equally relish time spent with a close circle of friends and loved ones. A tell-tale trait is a dislike for small talk and most are terrified of speaking in public. This kind of inhibition leads to introverts almost never being recognized for their full potential.

Is it any wonder then that we spend millions of dollars on self-help books, personality development seminars and public speaking lessons.

But “Quiet” surely makes a compelling case for why we shouldn’t try too hard to be who we are not. Specifically for introverts, trying too hard to fit in can not only wear us out but make us very unhappy. There is immense benefit in introverts being comfortable with being who they are, but also try to desensitize themselves to the fear of speaking up. Ms. Cain calls this being true to your person but managing a persona when in a business or social situation.

Even though cultivating an easy-going manner and getting comfortable with “winging it” is always a work in progress for most introverts, we can nurture and draw strength from our natural skills such as deep thinking, complex problem solving, good listening and laser sharp focus

What would benefit us immensely individually and as a society though, is picking a career or a lifestyle that suits our core personality, this is the secret to a fulfilling life and if anything helps us appreciate each other for who we are, be it introverts or extroverts.

The world needs its Steve Wozniaks as much as it needs its Steve Jobs.

(image via Google Books)

Dove’s real beauty sketches

Dove’s real beauty sketches video leads to controversy | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

Dove’s real beauty sketches have always opened up a debate on how women perceive beauty and more importantly how much it affects our personality and self-esteem. Personally I believe there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who is comfortable with just who she is. But arguably our society places a lot of importance on beauty and appearance. What do you think? Do we perceive ourselves to be less beautiful than how others see us?

“Women in the world” – Newsweek

Hillary Clinton once famously said “Let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
The stories of Malala and Nirbhaya tug a chord in the hearts of men and women all around the world, as it brings to the forefront again the issue of gender inequality that has plagued us for centuries and still continues to do so. These courageous women not only stood up to injustice, with tragic consequences, but took a stand on what they believed in. Let it be known then, that their efforts have not gone in vain. Spread the word, take a stand.

(via Newsweek)

Allure of the sari!

It has been said that the Indian sari is one of the most gorgeous and chic outfits out there…I couldn’t agree more.
Taking yards of fabric and wrapping it around to create an extremely stylish yet sophisticated look is a stroke of genius. And the best part there is absolutely no cutting, stitching or fitting involved.
So what’s so fascinating about the sari that makes it such a versatile outfit? It comes in many different colors and enchanting patterns or embroidery to suit any body type or complexion – my favorite is the pink chiffon. You can drape or wrap a saree in any way that you feel comfortable (there are actually 50 plus ways to wrap a sari!). A chic halter top or backless blouse adds some extra pizzazz and compliments perfectly the demure of the sari.
Pair it with heels and a simple clutch to pull off a stylish yet extremely elegant look!

11 new ways to wear the sari.