I have a confession to make: I don’t really like speaking in public. I don’t like talking in front of a crowd. I am afraid of the stage. However, as part and parcel of my job, I am always asked to share my opinions on issues related to education, leadership and entrepreneurship. I actually talk in front of a crowd at least once a month. You would think by now I should be a pro. Unluckily, that is not the case. I even actually always find myself having tummy aches at least one hour before every time I go to stage. And after the speech, my colleagues know that I still shake for awhile.

Yes, public speaking is not for everyone. Unfortunately, there may be a times that you may be asked to voice your thoughts in a public forum. You may be asked to give a toast at a dear friend’s wedding, for example, or offer some words of wisdom at a company affair. At times like these, you must do everything possible to conquer the stress or fear that such events bring.

Here are some things that I always try to do whenever I have to go up a stage:

• Master your material. It is not enough that you have memorized your speech. What is more important is that you thoroughly understand the material and the overall theme of your talk. This is especially true when you have to entertain questions after your talk. Mastery of the material gives you confidence.

• Be familiar with the audience. You will feel more comfortable if you are acquainted with the audience. Before going to the podium, take a walk around the room, exchange a few handshakes, and chat with some members of the audience. This will give you a feel of the room.

• Polish your talk. Don’t lose confidence when you stammer from time to time. Use this opportunity to polish the sentences that you are about to say. For example, if you are about to say “um,” simply repeat the sentence as if you are emphasizing it.

• Use body language. Words are not enough. Your body language and hand gestures complete the overall package. More often than not, the way you act while talking can transform you into an effective speaker.

• Add some humor. Though not necessary, a humorous phrase or sentence can grab the audience’s attention. If you find an opportunity to inject some humor into your spiel, do it. Just be sure that your brand of humor is appropriate to your audience.

• Don’t control the audience. Though it may hurt your self-esteem to see members of the audience chatting or sleeping, you have no power over their behavior. Proceed with your talk; don’t mind them. Thinking about them will only ruin your confidence.

I don’t know when I will conquer my fear but I know I that I always look confident. I believe that confidence is the key to public speaking. If you’ve mastered your material, practiced your lines, and showed your personality, your audience will appreciate you!