Saying I’m afraid to stand in front of a group and speak is an understatement. I can think of 100 other torturous things I’d rather do than speak in public. My hands shake, my face turns red and my heart races. However, I am the maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding and I have to give a speech. It’s six months away and I’m already losing sleep over it. Please help! What can I do to overcome my fear of public speaking?
— Kristine from Littleton, CO
Trust me, I know how you feel! I actually changed my major in college because I was so afraid to talk in front of my class. Obviously, since then I have addressed hundreds of people at one time, but I wasn’t always comfortable being center stage. It took time and practice, but now I actually enjoy talking in front of large groups of people. Through the years, I have made my fair share of mistakes. I have also picked up a few tricks and tips that I can pass your way.
Most people want you to succeed — especially at a wedding! When you’re giving your speech, find a few friendly faces in the audience and focus on them. Seeing a smile here and there will help you feel accepted and connected. Focus on the message, not yourself — that’ll help take the pressure off. A wedding toast is a chance to honor your friend and the couple. It doesn’t have to be a long speech. Keep it short, sweet, and personal. Write it out beforehand just in case your mind goes blank. Even if you want to be be spontaneous, it’s always a good idea to have something to fall back on. The more ready you feel, the better prepared you will be. Take some time to practice your speech in front of the mirror or to a friend and allow yourself to make mistakes. Even the most skilled public speakers mess up from time to time. The key is to recover quickly. Remember, if it comes from your heart, it can never be wrong. Good luck!