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It may be one of the single-most frightening thoughts for many of us -- to stand in front of a group of people, expose your ideas with little or no defense by speaking out on a particular subject, and then wait for their approval or rejection.

Sometimes acceptance comes grudgingly, other times not at all. If you're lucky, applause or approval will punctuate or interrupt your presentation, and feed you a little momentum to push through to the end. And that's the key to being successful at speaking in public -- finding a way to create, and then seize a little momentum for your speech or presentation.

For some, speaking publicly has never been a problem. It comes as naturally as hand-shaking or saying hello. For others, breaking out in a cold sweat is the norm. It doesn't have to be that way, as long as you are willing to work at it a little. We'll assume here that you're looking for ways to improve, or even create, public speaking skills. Here are a few tips to help you find that "momentum" in your speech or presentation:

**Tell yourself "Yes I Can."

This is very important. If you don't think you can, you won't. The power of positive thinking really does work, and can set your mind at ease once you begin.

**Know your audience

It certainly doesn't make sense to talk about basketweaving to a group of car dealers...and while that's obvious, it should reinforce in your mind that the audience is there for a reason. Stay on subject, don't wander, and remember -- your audience WANTS to hear what you have to say. Or they wouldn't be there.

**Be careful with jokes

It's always a great idea to open with something that will loosen up your audience, and make them feel at ease, unless of course the occasion doesn't call for it. That's up to you. But more often than not, as long as it is in good taste (consider who is in your audience), by making someone laugh, you've got their attention. They want to hear what you'll say next!

**Don't backtrack

Once you make a point, unless it needs an explanation, move on. There should be a beginning, a middle, and an end to your speech or presentation...not a jumbled mass of information. Once you've finished, questions from the audience are often expected, and they should be welcomed. If they don't ask, they generally weren't interested, and you lost them. Keep them clued in.

**Eye Contact!

Yes, look them in the eyes. Make a point of looking directly at as many different members of the audience as you can. It creates credibility, and gives you a sense of authority, whether you've earned it or not! Looking your audience in the "eye" engages them, let's them know you're serious, and that you're interested in THEM.


Above all, Keep-It-Simple-Stupid! Don't get into detailed definitions, or long-winded analogies, or talk too much about yourself. Unless the speech is about yourself. Even then, it's snooze-city for the audience, unless you keep your remarks short, sweet and to the point. And whenever you're in doubt, remember K-I-S-S!

There is no magic recipe for success, but there are ways to enjoy the experience, and make the speech/presentation enjoyable for the audience. You certainly want your audience to leave "wanting more." If you're still unsure about yourself, practice reading your presentation out loud in front of a full-length mirror. Why? Because you'll always have someone staring right back at you! Connect with yourself, to start, which will put you on the way to connecting with your audience. And give you the momentum you need to succeed!