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Public Speaking - Conquering the Stage Fright Monster

Standing in a committee room cramped with delegates staring at you and somehow your peripheral vision keeps getting narrower, your voice shakes, your palms get sweaty, and your thoughts begin to scatter as you try to remember the exact words of the speech that is supposed to mesmerize the UN’s Secretary-General. It is almost as if you were in an out-of-body experience watching down on yourself from the deepest corners of your worst nightmare. Well, that might be a bit extreme (only slightly). But it surely does not mean that we have not all experienced one, or a combination of, the symptoms above at least once in our lifetime.

If you have come here, however, to find reasonable doses of tips to catapult you on your public speaking mission, then look no further.

Below is a list of eleven tips we teach at the United Ambassadors MUN Academy to step up your public speaking game:

1. Make it into an Art Throughout the history of humankind, humans have made a habit of transforming diverse, convoluted things that they do not truly understand into art. Our advice to you is to follow that same intelligent line of thought laid out by our ancestors and stop cringing anxiously at the thought of giving a public speech; instead, approach it as if it were art, as if it were an instrument or painting that you wanted to master regardless of its complexity. Embrace and welcome your nervousness instead of fiercely resisting it. Expect to be surprised at the world of a difference this approach will make.

2. Embrace your on-stage self We all have a persona that shines in a public setting. Once you have identified it through practice, embrace it and familiarize yourself with it. Notice how your tone of voice, facial expressions and body language shift with the change of setting. This change will be your window of opportunity to make some tweaks and fine-tuning, and better deliver your message to your audience, which brings us to the next step:

3. Organize your thoughts into a coherent speech As every textbook guide on public speaking will tell you, the bland, general way to structure a statement is as follows: first, use a hook to capture your audience’s attention. Such hook can be a fact, a statistic, a rhetorical question, or an impactful statement. Next, continue with your main point – the general information of your speech. Finally, end with a call to action, explaining how you want your audience to react according to the purpose of your address. Nevertheless, while this advice aids us in organizing the basic skeleton of our statement, it makes speeches too predictable. Imagine you were sitting in a committee where 50 representatives would like to speak during General Debate – the only occasion to make formal speeches in UN4MUN. Perhaps your audience might pay attention to your hook-point-action statement if you were at the top of the speakers’ list. But picture yourself being the 20th delegate to speak on the list. How would delegates react to yet another speech that follows the same rigid structure as everybody else’s? Chances are, the hook-point-action trick will not work its magic. Thus, the conclusion we arrive at is that hook-point-action does not suffice to captivate your audience. Let us find a way around this:

4. Play around with structure! While it is important to deliver a coherent statement, this does not mean that you cannot have fun with the way in which you organize it. Bear in mind that you will be crafting your speech, not somebody else’s, so make it yours! Be authentic. Do not be afraid to deviate from the original structure. It is okay to include several hooks or calls to action, as long as they do not seem to have been employed just for the sake of it. Manipulate the order in which these are used. Make some parts implicit. It is up to you – so go nuts! (As a word of warning, creativity and risk-taking do not mean informality when making statements.) If we are expected to come up with creative solutions to today’s problems in MUN, why can’t our speeches be creative, too?

5. Start at the end Before writing the first word of your speech, picture how you would like your audience to react to it, and the road you would take to generate this reaction. Then, use the above thoughts as the foundation to build your speech. Be ready to embrace the wonders it produces.

6. Know your audience Also, before delivering your speech, be aware of your audience’s needs, desires, and motivations. Also, scan the committee room to get its general feel. If the committee’s energy is low, then do not be afraid to add vitality to your speech – pause, stress the syllables of critical words, and modify your tone of voice. Alternatively, if representatives are engaging in heated debate, attempt to provide a calmer speech that exudes reason and self-control. The leveraging your audience in your favor is adaptability. Be prepared to modify minor aspects of your address to suit your audience.

7. Sound knowledgeable As we explored in our article on mastering the art of negotiation, in MUN, knowledge is power. When making speeches, the best way to sound knowledgeable is to be knowledgeable. Therefore, come prepared to exploit the power of information in committee. A quick piece of advice, though: do not sound as if you were lecturing the committee on how much you know. Instead, use reliable facts and stats to support your points of view and calls to action.

8. Watch out for Body Language A common pitfall that most of us trip into during public speaking is focusing so hard on delivering our words correctly that we often overlook the quintessential part of this skill – non-verbal communication. Manifested through facial expressions, gestures and body language, non-verbal communication plays a critical role in standing out to your audience (in fact, while a mere 11% of information humans receive daily is auditory, a staggering 83% is visual). So avoid fidgeting, rigidly carrying yourself, and moving your legs too much, as they convey a lack of confidence while distracting your audience. Furthermore, evade glaring at fixed points; instead, look at your audience in the eye – this involves them in what you have to say. Most importantly, ensure that your body language accompanies, and emphasizes, your tone of voice and energy. Why not ask someone to film you speaking and later analyze it?

9. Act upon feedback It is a great confidence-builder to practice on your own. But it is an even more significant asset to actively seek new perspectives to offer constructive criticism. Once you receive this, experiment, act upon it. Make sure you never stop improving.

10. Find POWER Where is it? It is found in humility, in making yourself small as part of something bigger; in utilizing “we,” instead of “I;” in calculated repetition, in sensibly using humor, and in embracing the cynics.

11. Convince No-one could have put it better than 19th Century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who declared that “speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” To be convincing, you must convince yourself of what you are saying. Believe that your argument has merit, and embody it. The energy and authenticity you will radiate will raise goosebumps in your audience. Perhaps this technique will mark the most critical difference in your public speaking skills, in the shortest time-span, so believe.

At the United Ambassadors MUN Academy, we, too, believe that you have the potential to make an outstanding public speaker, and the secret to mastering this skill is perseverance. Why not practice with the best? For even more extensive training – and personalized feedback – on public speaking in MUN, apply to attend the United Ambassadors MUN Academy! Delve even deeper into the world of Model United Nations in California or Dubai in 2018. Applications for Dubai in 2018 are already open. Put your public speaking skills to the test at our cutting-edge, international conferences in Geneva and New York City!

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