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The Ultimate Ranking of the 40 Best Indie Movies of All Time

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The Ultimate Ranking of the 40 Best Indie Movies of All Time

There are blockbusters and then there are indie films which work with a limited budget and are produced independently.

But let me tell you a secret: Indie films are often the better movies.

Enjoy my ranking of the 40 world’s best indie movies:

1. American Beauty

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    “I don’t think that there’s anything worse than being ordinary.” —Angela

    American Beauty was one of the many fantastic movies of the 90s. Director Sam Mendes captures the struggles of Lester Burnham, a father caught in a serious midlife crisis, his daughter Jane, who finds love for the first time, and her beautiful yet lonely best friend Angela, played by the stunning Mena Suvari. When everything falls apart, the characters and the watchers start to find beauty in the little things.

    2. The Breakfast Club

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      “When you grow up, your heart dies.” —Allison

      The Breakfast Club is an 80s classic. Five high school students who couldn’t be more different have to spend a Saturday detention session together. During this time they slowly find that apart from all their differences, they can connect on a deeper level. All five actors do a great job by first giving a cliché version of their characters and then turning them into human beings. Everyone—no matter what age—can learn something from these teenagers.

      3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

        “We accept the love we think we deserve.” —Charlie

        Based on a novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows emotional unstable Charlie through his first high school year. He soon becomes friends with a pretty girl named Sam and her gay half-brother Patrick. They teach Charlie that it’s okay to enjoy life and to forget your troubles for a while. This book adaption is starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, and not only will you realize that we all struggle with life once in a while, you will also learn a lot about music and real friendship.

        4. Factory Girl

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          “Divorced as many times as she married, she leaves only good wishes behind.” —Edie

          This indie film shows the life of fashion icon and Andy Warhol’s muse Edie Sedgwick. Edie travels to New York and leads a turbulent life in Warhol’s famous factory where art, love and lust play hand-in-hand. The movie captures Edie’s sparkling spirit and her tragic downfall in a way that will keep you on your toes until the very last minute.

          5. The Blair Witch Project

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            “It’s not the same on film, is it? I mean, you know it’s real but it’s like looking through the lens gives you some sort of protection from what’s on the other side.” —Joshua

            This horror movie terrifies its watchers because of the amateur filming which makes it seem like a real story. Three young movie makers set out into the woods to produce a documentation of the myth of the Blair Witch. Little do they know that the legend is still alive and waiting for its next victims. If you’re a friend of breathtaking and nightmare-producing movies, The Blair Witch Project by directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez is your way to go.

            6. Ramen Girl

              “Somewhere along the way, I just forgot what I wanted to do with my life.” —Abby

              In one of the last movies of the late Brittany Murphy, she portrays Abby who follows her boyfriend to Tokyo just to get dumped. In her crisis, Ally realizes that she has long given up going after her own dreams and decides to set herself a new goal: she wants to become a ramen cook. In this indie film by Robert Allen Ackerman. you can learn a lot about the Japanese culinary and spiritual world and see how it’s sometimes in your hardest times where you find your true strength.

              7. Ellie Parker

                “I remember when the future was a promise, now it’s like a threat.” —Ellie

                This is a widely un-known little independent movie by Scott Coffey staring Naomi Watts. As a young wannabe actress in LA, Ellie has to deal with many job rejections and a disastrous love life. The movie portrays LA and the movie industry as a tough business which will make even the biggest blockbuster fans see their stars in a different way.

                8. Pulp Fiction

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                  “Play with matches, you get burned.” —Vincent

                  This movie is a cult film. In Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman create a funny and exciting gangster comedy. The movie has many long dialogues, but Tarantino makes it work and ties all the different plot lines together for a spectacular finale. Seriously, if you have never watched this movie, do it now.

                  9. The Boat That Rocked

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                    “Nothing important dies tonight, just a few ugly guys on a crappy ship. The only sadness tonight is that, in future years, there’ll be so many fantastic songs that it will not be our privilege to play. But, believe you me, they will still be written, they will still be sung and they will be the wonder of the world.”  —The Count

                    This movie is guaranteed to make you laugh. Young Carl gets sent by his mother to live on a boat which hosts a pirate radio station. In the 60s, Rock’n’Roll was still frowned upon in Great Britain, which is why rock stations had to send from a secret frequency. On the Rock Boat live the funniest and craziest radio speakers who know how a lot about music and about having a good time.

                    10. Secretary

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                      “Who’s to say that love needs to be soft and gentle?!” —Dr. Twardon

                      This is a movie for those of you who like it sexy. When Lee starts her new job as a secretary, little does she know that her boss will soon not only be interested in her but also has some rather exquisite tastes in sexual adventures. Steven Shainberg’s erotic romance combines pleasure and pain in a classy way.

                      11. Requiem for a Dream

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                        “You’re the most beautiful girl in the world. You’re my dream.” —Harry

                        This famous indie film stars Jared Leto as a handsome but broken drug addict. Not only he but also his girlfriend, his best friend and his mother are caught in the downward spiral that is drug abuse. Requiem for a dream is a tough and often ugly but completely true movie. It will leave you with the need of never doing drugs.

                        12. Thirteen

                          “If everybody married someone from a different race, then in one generation there would be no prejudice.” —Tracy

                          Thirteen shows the life of normal but unhappy teenage girl, Tracy. When she meets the adventurous Evie, everything changes. For the first time in her life she is popular and cool and has fun. But her new lifestyle comes at a cost that will soon be to much for Tracy to pay.

                          13. Donnie Darko

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                            “Some people are just born with tragedy in their blood.” —Gretchen

                            Donnie Darko is a classic which combines romance, growing up and mystery. This indie film will make you want to watch it again and again, which is what you have to do in order to make sense of all the ambiguous events and plot twists of this movie.

                            14. The Virgin Suicides

                              “Obviously, Doctor… you’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl.” —Cecelia

                              Based on a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides director Sophia Coppola made this story into a movie in 1999. The Lisbon daughters were raised as good catholic girls who were never allowed to live their lives like other teenagers do. The situation escalates when 14-year-old Lux stays away a whole night. The sisters are forbidden to leave the house and become more and more depressed until they make a tragic decision.

                              15. The Runaways

                                “No guys, man. I want to start an all-girls rock band.” —Joan

                                This 2010 american movie tells the story of the 80s girl-rock-band the Runaways. From fame, over music to drugs—the movie has everything a rock film should have. Kristen Stewart gives a great performance as rock-legend Joan Jett who became famous with her hit “I love Rock’n’Roll.”

                                16. Poison Ivy

                                  “She might have been even more alone than I was.” —Silvie

                                  One of Drew Barrymore’s many great movies tells the story of nice teenage girl Silvie. As soon as the wild girl Ivy enters her life, nothing is calm anymore but she finds herself caught in one big adventure.

                                  17. 500 Days of Summer

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                                    “People don’t realize this. But loneliness is underrated.” —Tom

                                    In this romantic comedy, Joseph-Gorden Levitt and Zoey Dechanel show a great performance. As Summer and Tom, they fall in love and spend a romantic few months together until things start to fall apart. Through this movie you can learn a lot about relationships as well as about commitment issues.

                                    18. Moonrise Kingdom

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                                      “I love you but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” —Sam

                                      At first sight you might think that Moonrise Kingdom is a children’s movie but I promise if you watch it you can learn a lot no matter how old you are. The movie shows the adventures at a scout summer camp and the beautiful friendship between Sam and Suzy.

                                      19. Run Lola Run

                                        “Man … probably the most mysterious specious on our planet.” —Narrator

                                        This is a fast independent movie which shows different possible versions of how the story might take place which all involve a lot of running. Run Lola Run is a German movie by director Tom Tyker which has become a must-watch for many film lovers.

                                        20. Being John Malkovitch

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                                          “Nobody’s looking for a puppeteer in today’s wintry economic climate.” —Craig

                                          This movie combines fantasy, comedy and drama while telling the crazy story of its unemployed anti-hero Craig. The plot line is well-written and the cast including John Cusack and Cameron Diaz all do a fantastic job.

                                          21. Reservoir Dogs

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                                            “It’s amusing to me, to torture a cop.” —Mr. Blonde

                                            Reservoir Dogs is another great Quentin Tarantino film featuring a crime story and many interesting dialogues. It is very popular and was even named “Greatest independent film of all time” by Empire magazine.

                                            22. Memento

                                            memento

                                              “I have to believe in a world outside my own mind.” —Leonard

                                              This psycho thriller is very popular in the independent film scene. Memento is a little disturbing but fascinating. Half of the movie is black-and-white and shown chronologically, while the other half is colored and shown in reverse order. In the end, both plot lines are combined.

                                              23. The Meaning of Life

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                                                “Hindu, Taoist, Mormon spill theirs just anywhere, But God loves those who treat their semen with more care.” —Mum

                                                In this film, once again Monty Python captures the world in an honest though slightly confusing way. If you’re hoping to find answers to all of life’s big questions in this film, I have to disappoint you. But what you will find are a lot of laughter and sarcasm and a sense of the fact that even if life can be cruel, you should never take it too seriously.

                                                24. Brokeback Mountain

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                                                  “I wish I knew how to quit you.” -—Jack

                                                  This cult film is one of the first gay romances which is neither distasteful nor full of cliches. It tells the love story of Ennis and Jack, played by Heath Ledger and Jack Gyllenhaal, who flee to the lonely Brokeback Mountain because it’s the only place where they can celebrate their love.

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                                                  25. No Country for Old Men

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                                                    “A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say: ‘O.K., I’ll be part of this world.'” —Sherrif Ed

                                                    This indie film is a western crime drama. The antagonist Anton is a serial murderer with mental issues. The conflicts between him and protagonist Sherrif Ed Tom Bell make the movie interesting. One thing you’ll learn from this movie is that nothing ever comes as you expect.

                                                    26. Before Sunrise

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                                                      “If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed, but…who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt.” —Celine

                                                      Jesse and Celine meet each other on a train ride and decide to spend the night together in Vienna. They have a fun, crazy and romantic night but then have to go back to their own lives.

                                                      27. Before Sunset

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                                                        “Now I’m older and my problems are deeper, but I’m more equipped to handle them.” —Jesse

                                                        Also the second part of the heartbreaking love story is an ode to following your guts. Celine and Jesse meet each other for the first time in nine years and this time spend a day in Paris.

                                                        28. Juno

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                                                          “Can’t we just like kick this old school? You know, like I stick the baby in a basket, send it your way, like Moses and the reeds?” —Juno

                                                          This movie transforms the hard topic of teenage pregnancy into a funny and sweet experience. Regardless of the tough topic of the film, it leaves you with a warm feeling.

                                                          29. Happiness

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                                                            “I know who you are and you are nothing.” —Allen

                                                            Despite the title, this movie shows the lives of several pretty miserable people who sooner or later find some happiness even if it’s small and unconventional. I have to warn you. This movie is only suited for people with a dark humor.

                                                            30. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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                                                              “But had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected, nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day.” —Narrator

                                                              Also an independent movie, this film is nothing for people with weak nerves. Director Tobe Hooper’s classic slasher film is a raw and pure horror movie and ideal for a scary night with your friends.

                                                              31. Submarine

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                                                                “Sometimes I wish there was a film crew following my every move.” —Oliver

                                                                After Texas Chainsaw Massacre I recommend watching Submarine in order to calm your nerves before you go to sleep.

                                                                32. The Science of Sleep

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                                                                  “Things will turn out the way you want, if you could just stop doubting that I love you.” —Stephanie

                                                                  In this movie you can learn a lot about dreams. The main character Stephane’s dreams are so vivid that they interfere with his real life. This french fantasy story is a definite feel-good movie.

                                                                  33. Lost in Translation

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                                                                    “My Japanese is getting better. We started speaking English.” —Bob

                                                                    This film, starring Bill Murray and Scarlet Johanson, is directed by Sofia Coppola. Charlotte has travelled with her husband to Tokyo but is soon left alone by him. A romance between Charlotte and Bob starts and the watcher gets an impression of Tokyo’s exciting and sometimes hilarious atmosphere.

                                                                    34. The Usual Suspects

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                                                                      “I’m the guy that’s gonna get you. I just wanted you to know that.” —Michael

                                                                      The usual suspects is a crime thriller which shows how a bunch of elderly gangsters get along. This film is widely popular but started out as a little independent film.

                                                                      35. Life of Brian

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                                                                        “Always look on the bright side of life.” —Jesus

                                                                        This is another Monty Python cult film which features in a humorous way the life of Jesus Christ. Though this movie will make most people laugh out loud, extremly religious people would do better if they stayed far away from it.

                                                                        36. The Terminator

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                                                                          “You seemed just a little sad. I used to always wonder what you were thinking at that moment. I memorized every line, every curve… I came across time for you, Sarah. I love you. I always have.” —Kyle

                                                                          You may not believe it but the series that made Arnold Schwatzenegger famous started as an indie film. So if you’re into machines and wars and strong guys, you should definitely try out Terminator.

                                                                          37. Little Miss Sunshine

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                                                                            “Luck is the name losers give to their own failings.” —Richard

                                                                            Here is another feel-good movie. The movie of a funny road trip is the debut film of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006. It quickly became popular.

                                                                            38. Night of the Living Dead

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                                                                              “Don’t you know what’s goin’ on out there? This is no Sunday School picnic!” —Ben

                                                                              Night of the Living Dead is a plain and good zombie movie from the 60s. While the technology wasn’t that advanced back then, it still offers many good scares.

                                                                              39. Stranger than Paradise

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                                                                                “I’m choking the alligator.” —Eva

                                                                                Stranger than Paradise is a comedy from the 80s which revolves around Willie, Evy and Eddie and their crazy adventures in New York.

                                                                                40. Sex, Lies, and Videotape

                                                                                  “I remember reading somewhere that men learn to love the person that they’re attracted to, and that women become more and more attracted to the person that they love.” —Graham

                                                                                  In this classic independent fill, all three aspects of the title are combined in a beautiful but also dramatic way. The movie was directed by Steven Sonderbergh and has won the Golden Palm at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.

                                                                                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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                                                                                  Sunita Sukhana

                                                                                  editor, writer, student

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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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