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Speaking Anxiety is for Everyone: Tips to Relax
By Matt Tucker You've got your Torah portion down pat. A little Hebrew never hurt anyone. Of course, your family still heckles you every day about practicing which only makes you more nervous. You hate speaking (and sweating) in public and you're not too happy about having to do a speech.

The comforting news, according to the University of Mary Washington (UMW) Speaking Center (, is that, "You'll appear more confident than you feel."

Tips for making your speech sound awesome and you more comfortable:
  1. Make a list of your concerns: You'll put your fears into prospective and fine ways to fight them.

  2. Practice your speech: You've heard this a million times, but hear this. You can over practice. If you lose interest in the speech and speak too fast when practicing, stop. Make sure you go through the speech slowly. Speaking quickly may help your speech end quicker but it will not eliminate your nervousness and mistakes.

  3. Perform the speech once at the temple: Same goes with your Torah portion. It's really different speaking in the synagogue or place of service. Acclimating yourself to the surroundings will help you feel more ate ease on the big day.

  4. Know the introduction: Your anxiety is highest at the beginning of the presentation, so knowing the introduction well can help you get through the rest of the speech.

  5. Use your nervousness: When you step up to the stage and you feel nervous, you have extra energy floating around that your body has no idea how to use. Use this energy productively by stressing important words and making gestures.

  6. Pick three spots: Instead of looking into the faces of family and friends, try looking just to the left, right, or even better, above. It will appear as if you're looking into their faces. Find a blemish on the wall, a book in plain sight, or anything that you can focus on while you reiterate what you've practiced so well. Using three of these spots/objects allows you to move your head around the room as if you're a master of eye contact.

  7. Don't think too much: While you're speaking, make sure you know what line you're on and what the sentence means so that you can intonate properly. Other than that, don't think. Further thought could make you nervous.

  8. Eat sleep and look good: If you eat properly, sleep enough and give yourself time to get ready in the morning, your body will be ready for public speaking.
Tyler Mondres, a recent Bar Mitzvah, suggests using notes for intonation and pauses. Simple notes-to-self such as quot;look up" and go slow" on paper help him when he speaks. Another helpful tool, according to Tyler, is the relevance of his speech. He related his Torah portion to all aspects of his life. While it may be hard for Tyler to speak extensively on stories in the Torah, he has no qualms about speaking on football, school grades, family, and even addressing the crowd.

If you are still nervous, videotape yourself and go over possible problem areas with your parents, keeping in mind you will look 100 times smaller to people on the big day. Remember, family and friends cannot see everything you see on video. Besides, we all know your family will be nuts about you no matter how you think you perform. No matter what happens, you cannot avoid the 'you're so adorable' and 'my, you sound so grown-up comments'. In the end, after everyone kisses and congratulates you, you'll be too excited to remember why you worried.

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