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50 Awesome British Slang Terms You Should Start Using Immediately

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50 Awesome British Slang Terms You Should Start Using Immediately

British slang is a niche of its own, evolving and transforming and adapting from city to city and from year to year, just as the English language itself has done.

While American slang has become nearly universal with the influx of TV shows, films, and other media filling the screens of a significant majority of the media-viewing global population, there is so much more available once you dig beneath the surface of British slang terms and can discover some real gems beneath the surface.

So, if you’re an aspiring Anglophile looking for some new lingo to help fuel your love for all things British, or you just fancy seeing what kind of words the British find themselves using their day-to-day, check out our 50 best British slang terms for you to start using and incorporating into your vocabulary immediately.

1. Ace

‘Ace’ – a British slang term that means something that is brilliant or excellent. Can also mean to pass something with flying colors.

For example, ‘Jenny is ace at the lab experiments’, or, for the latter definition, ‘I think I aced that exam’.

2. All To Pot

Slightly more of an outdated version, this British slang term is still used, and its meaning remains relevant today. ‘All to pot’ refers to a situation going out of your control and failing miserably.

For example, ‘The birthday party went all to pot when the clown turned up drunk and everyone was sick from that cheap barbecue stuff.’

3. Blimey

‘Blimey’ is used as a way of expressing surprise at something, often used when seeing or looking at something surprising or impressive instead of shocking or upsetting.

For example; you might say ‘Blimey! Look at that!’

    4. Blinding

    ‘Blinding’ – a slang term that is far from something that physically causes someone to lose their sight. ‘Blinding’ is a positive term meaning excellent, great, or superb.

    For example, ‘That tackle from the Spanish player was blinding.’

    5. Bloke

    Bloke is an extremely common term denoting a man, usually it is used in reference to an ordinary man, akin to the US ‘average joe’, but it it not uncommon to hear it used to describe a man generally.

    As such, you can use it like this, ‘That bob is a good bloke.’

    6. Bloody

    You probably don’t need me to describe this, out of all British slang, this is by far the most popular and most commonly used. In the past it was regarded as a swearword but now, due to its common usage, it is generally acceptable. It is often used as an expression of anger or is used to emphasize a comment.

    In anger you might say, “oh bloody hell!”

    Or to use it as emphasis, ‘that’s bloody cool!’

    7. Bob’s your uncle/Fanny’s your aunt

    The first form of this is far more common, and is sometimes used internationally. For those unaware, the expression essentially used in the end of a series of basic instructions. The origin of the expression is unknown, and is quite old, but is still in general use.

    In context, ‘Get the food, put in the microwave, heat it up, then bob’s your uncle, ready to eat.’

    8. Bollocks

    Perhaps one of the most internationally famous British slang terms, ‘bollocks’ has a multitude of uses, although its top ones including being a curse word used to indicate dismay, e.g. ‘Oh bollocks’; it can also be used to express derision and mocking disbelief, e.g. ‘You slept with Kate Upton last night? Bollocks…’; and, of course, it also refers to the scrotum and testicles.

    For example, ‘I kicked him right in the bollocks when he wouldn’t let me go past.’

    9. Bollocking

    Very different to the ‘bollocks’ of the previous suggestion, a ‘bollocking’ is a telling-off or a severe or enthusiastic reprimand from a boss, co-worker, partner, or anyone you like, for a misdemeanour.

    For example, ‘My wife gave me a real bollocking for getting to pick up the dry cleaning on my way home from work.’

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    10. Brass Monkeys

    A more obscure British term, ‘brass monkeys’ is used to refer to extremely cold weather. The phrase comes from the expression, ‘it’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’.

    For example, ‘You need to wear a coat today, it’s brass monkeys outside.’

    11. Brilliant

    ‘Brilliant’ is not a word exclusively in the British lexicon, but has a very British usage. Specifically, when something is exciting or wonderful, particularly when something is good news, ‘brilliant’ can mean as such.

    For example, ‘You got the job? Oh, mate, that’s brilliant.’

    Sometimes brilliant can be shortened to just “brill” to give it a more casual feel.

      12. Bugger All

      ‘Bugger all’ – a British slang term used to be a more vulgar synonym for ‘nothing at all’.

      For example, ‘I’ve had bugger all to do all day.’

      13. Butchers hook

      This is the cockney rhyming slang version of having a gander, to look at something. Though it may seem strange at first, it’s pretty simple, it is constructed out of the expression’s second word, in this case the way ‘hook’ rhymes directly with ‘look’ however, perhaps contrary to expectations, the word ‘hook’ is often removed, so you may hear someone say ‘have a butchers at this.’

      But like most things cockney, it’s becoming less popular.

      14. Car Park

      One of the more boring and technical terms on this list, a ‘car park’ is in effect, the place outside or attached to a building where people park their cars. The British equivalent to the American ‘parking lot’ or ‘parking garage’.

      For example, ‘I left my car in the car park this morning.’

      15. Cheers

      ‘Cheers’ doesn’t quite have the same meaning that it does in other counties – of course, it still means ‘celebrations’ when toasting a drink with some friends, but in British slang, it also means ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you’.

      For example, ‘Cheers for getting me that drink, Steve’.

      16. Chuffed

      Chuffed is used more or less all over the UK, it seems to be decreasing in popularity, but is still in relatively common usage. Essentially, it is an expression of pride at your own actions or achievements.

      For example you could say ‘I’m feeling proper chuffed I won that.’

      If you’re talking to someone else you can use it as such, ‘I bet you’re pretty chuffed you won!’

        17. Chunder

        Not a wonderfully melodic word, ‘chunder’ is part and parcel of British slang terms. Meaning ‘to vomit’ or ‘to be sick’, ‘chunder’ is almost always used in correlation with drunken nights, or being hugely ill and sick.

        For example, ‘I ate a bad pizza last night after too many drinks and chundered in the street.’

        18. Cock Up

        ‘Cock up’ – a British slang term that is far from the lewdness its name suggests. A ‘cock up’ is a mistake, a failure of large or epic proportions.

        For example, ‘The papers sent out to the students were all in the wrong language – it’s a real cock up.’ Also, ‘I cocked up the orders for table number four.’

        19. Damp Squib

        More of an usual term, a ‘damp squib’ in British slang terms refers to something which fails on all accounts, coming from the ‘squib’ (an explosive), and the propensity for them to fail when wet.

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        For example, ‘The party was a bit of a damp squib because only Richard turned up.’

        20. Do

        A “do” is essentially a party, to my knowledge it doesn’t refer to a particular form of party, so feel free to use it as you like.

        For example, you might say ‘I’m going to Steve’s birthday do tonight.’

        21. Dodgy

        In British slang terms, ‘dodgy’ refers to something wrong, illegal, or just plain ‘off’, in one way or another.

        For example, it can be used to mean illegal – ‘He got my dad a dodgy watch for Christmas’; it can be used to mean something food-related that is nauseous or nauseating – ‘I had a dodgy kebab last night and I don’t feel right.; and it can also be used as a pejorative – ‘He just seems dodgy to me.’

        22. Fortnight

        ‘Fortnight’ – a British slang term more commonly used by virtually everyone in the UK to mean ‘a group of two weeks’.

        For example, ‘I’m going away for a fortnight to Egypt for my summer holiday.’

        23. Gobsmacked

        ‘Gobsmacked’ – a truly British expression meaning to be shocked and surprised beyond belief. The expression is believed by some to come literally from ‘gob’ (a British expression for mouth), and the look of shock that comes from someone hitting it.

        For example. ‘I was gobsmacked when she told me she was pregnant with triplets.’

          24. Grockel

          This is cheating, it is almost exclusively used in the English county Devonshire, but I’m including it as its fun to say. It is used as a derogatory word for tourists.

          For example, ‘I don’t go over there anymore it’s full of grockels these days.’

          25. Gutted

          ‘Gutted’ – a British slang term that is one of the saddest on the lists in terms of pure contextual emotion. To be ‘gutted’ about a situation means to be devastated and saddened.

          For example, ‘His girlfriend broke up with him. He’s absolutely gutted.’

          26. Have a gander

          I believe this expression originates in the English county of Cheshire. The word relates to the way a goose (a male goose is called a gander) cranes its neck to look at something. As such a form of this expression ‘Have a goosey’ also exists, but is much more uncommon.

          In context it works like this, ‘Come here and have a gander at what he’s doing.’

          27. Hunky-Dory

          ‘Hunky-dory’ – a neat little piece of British slang that means that a situation is okay, cool, or normal.

          For example, ‘Yeah, everything’s hunky-dory at the office.’

          28. Jammy

          Jammy is in semi-common use in the north west and south west of England. It is a descriptive word, used to describe someone who is extremely lucky for something, without putting in much effort for it.

          For example, ‘I can’t believe you won that, proper jammy.’

            29. Kerfuffle

            Another rather delightful and slightly archaic words in this list of British slang terms is ‘kerfuffle’. ‘Kerfuffle’ describes a skirmish or a fight or an argument caused by differing views.

            For example, ‘I had a right kerfuffle with my girlfriend this morning over politics.’

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            30. Knackered

            ‘Knackered’ – a great word and phrase used by Britons to describe their tiredness and exhaustion, in any given situation. Often substituted in friendly circles for ‘exhausted’.

            For example, ‘I am absolutely knackered after working all day.’

            31. Lost The Plot

            ‘Lost the plot’ is one that can actually be discerned by examining the words themselves. To ‘lose the plot’ can mean either to become angry and/or exasperated to a fault, or in a derogatory – if slightly outdated sense – to mean someone who has become irrational and/or acting ridiculously.

            For example, ‘When my girlfriend saw the mess I’d made, she lost the plot.’

            32. Mate

            ‘Mate’ – one of the commonly used terms of endearment and affection in British slang terms. Used when you are talking to a close friend, and is often easily substituted for the American ‘buddy’, ‘pal’, or ‘dude’.

            For example, ‘Alright, mate?’

            33. Minging

            Minging (pronounced: ming-ing) is a lovely alternative to the word “disgusting” or “gross”. I feel there is something appropriate about it.

            For example, ‘Don’t it that mate it looks minging.’

            34. Muck

            Muck is a substitute for “dirt” however, in many ways I find it a superior word. There is something oddly onomatopoeic about it and seems to have a dirty quality of itself.

            In context, ‘I can’t come in, my shoes are all mucky.’

            35. Nice One

            ‘Nice one’ – used almost always sarcastically in common British lexicon, although it can be used sincerely depending on the context.

            For example, ‘You messed up the Rutherford order? Nice one, really.’

            36. Our Kid

            I’m cheating a bit with this one, as this is used almost exclusively used around Manchester and the North of England. But there is something wonderfully tender and endearing about it.
            It is a term denoting your younger brother/ sister, or close family member such as a cousin.

            For example, ‘Did you hear about our kid Kevin? He got a new job.’

            37. Pork pies

            This term comes from cockney rhyming slang,[1] a form of communication originated in old east London by merchants to communicate with each other in a way that is disguised and incomprehensible to outsiders. Unlike most rhyming slang expressions, it is still in semi-popular use both in London and outside.

            The expression is a synonym for ‘lies’. Note how the second word ‘pies’ rhymes directly with ‘lies’.  As such when you hear it in use, even if you aren’t familiar with expression you can often tell what is being said by the rhyme and the context it is being used in.

            For example, ‘Don’t listen to him he’s telling pork pies.’

              38. Posh

              Generally, ‘posh’ denotes the English upper classes. However it can be used to describe anything flashy or needlessly classy or expensive. It is similar to the American word ‘fancy’, however it has a much more entrenched class basis.

              In this way “posh” can be used in the following two ways:

              • I’m going to a posh restaurant tonight.
              • Have you met Bob’s girlfriend? She’s pretty posh.

              39. Proper

              This has two different meanings depending on location or social classes. From a higher social class, ‘Proper’ denotes actions appropriate to certain circumstances. For example, ‘Don’t do that, it’s not proper!’ However such a usage is becoming less common.

              More common, and common in the north and southwest England. “Proper” is used as an alternative to “very” or “extremely”, something that can give a term extra weight. For example, ‘that meal was proper tasty’ or sometimes ‘that was proper.’

              40. Rubbish

              One of the most commonly-used British phrases, ‘rubbish’ is used to mean both general waste and trash, and to also express disbelief in something to the point of ridicule (in this sense it is a much-more PG-friendly version of ‘bollocks’.)

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              For example, it can be used respectively, in, ‘Can you take the rubbish out please?’, and ‘What? Don’t talk rubbish.’

              41. Scrummy

              One of the more delightful British slang terms in this list, ‘scrummy’ is used as a wonderfully effusive term for when something is truly delicious and mouth-wateringly good.

              For example, ‘Mrs Walker’s pie was absolutely scrummy. I had three pieces.’

              42. Sick

              This is a relatively newer entry to the lexicon of British Slang, most often used by youth. In this case something being “sick” is actually a good thing. It’s like a stronger form of “cool”

              For example, .Yeah I’d love to do that, it sounds sick.’

              43. Skive

              ‘Skive’ – (Pronounced sky-ve)a British slang term used to indicate when someone has failed to turn up for work or an obligation due to pretending to fake illness. Most commonly used with schoolchildren trying to get out of school, or dissatisfied office workers trying to pull a sick day.

              For example, ‘He tried to skive off work but got caught by his manager.’

              44. Taking The Piss

              Given the British tendency to mock and satirise anything and everything possible, ‘taking the piss’ is in fact one of the most popular and widely-used British slang terms. To ‘take the piss’ means to mock something, parody something, or generally be sarcastic and derisive towards something.

              For example, ‘The guys on TV last night were taking the piss out of the government again.’

              45. The Bee’s Knees

              The bee’s knees – a rather lovely term used to describe someone or something you think the world of.

              For example, ‘She thinks Barry’s the bee’s knees’. Can also be used sarcastically in this same sense.

                46. Throwing a wobbly

                This phrase means the same thing as having a tantrum. However there is one notable difference is that throwing a wobbly tends to be used when describing tantrums thrown by adults, or people who should otherwise know better.

                For example, ‘I left when Darren threw a wobbly.’

                47. To nick/nicked

                Depending on how it is used, “Nick” can mean one of two things (three including the name). The most commonly used form is as an alternative to “steal”. As in  “I accidentally nicked this pen from work.” Another way it can be used is as a term for being arrested.

                For example, ‘I got nicked a year ago.’

                What I like about this term and its two/three usages is that the following sentence, “Nick got nicked for nicking something” makes grammatical sense.

                48. Tosh

                A nifty little British term that means ‘rubbish’ or ‘crap’.

                For example, ‘That’s a load of tosh about what happened last night’, or ‘Don’t talk tosh.’

                49. Trainers

                Trainers are the British equivalent of the American sneakers denoting athletic shoes. In some ways, “trainers” is the more appropriate term, after all, athletes tend to wear them while training, not sneaking.

                In use, ‘I just brought some new trainers.’

                50. Wanker

                Oh, ‘wanker’. Possibly the best British insult on the list, it fits a certain niche for a single-worded insult to lobbied out in a moment of frustration, anger, provocation, or, of course, as a jest amongst friends. ‘Wanker’ fits the closest fit by ‘jerk’ or ‘asshole’, but to a slightly higher value.

                For example, ‘That guy just cut me up in traffic – what a wanker.’

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                If you’re interested in languages and slangs, you shouldn’t miss these articles:

                Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

                Reference

                [1] Cockney Rhyming Slangs: What Is it?

                More by this author

                Anna Chui

                Anna is the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

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                Last Updated on July 20, 2021

                How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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                How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

                You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

                Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

                Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

                Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

                1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

                According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

                “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

                Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

                Warming up

                If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

                If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

                Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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                1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
                2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
                3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

                Stay hydrated

                Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

                To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

                Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

                Meditate

                Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

                Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

                Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

                Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

                2. Focus on your goal

                One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

                Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

                Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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                Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

                If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

                3. Convert negativity to positivity

                There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

                ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

                It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

                Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

                Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

                Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

                4. Understand your content

                Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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                However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

                “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

                Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

                Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

                One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

                5. Practice makes perfect

                Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

                In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

                Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

                6. Be authentic

                There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

                Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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                Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

                To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

                With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

                Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

                7. Post speech evaluation

                Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

                Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

                We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

                You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

                Improve your next speech

                As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

                Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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                • How did I do?
                • Are there any areas for improvement?
                • Did I sound or look stressed?
                • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
                • Was I saying “um” too often?
                • How was the flow of the speech?

                Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

                If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

                Reference

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