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Speaking in public—whether in an interview, in class, or at work—can be a terrifying thought for many. In fact, the fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia, affects three quarters of the population. One of the primary worries behind the fear of speaking in front of a group is a concern about appearance and reputation. No one likes to appear unintelligent, incompetant or unprofessional in front of their peers or superiors.

While learning to speak more professionally may not completely eliminate anxieties around public speaking, it can help alleviate them. Public speaking is a skill, and although it comes more naturally to some rather than others, it still has to be learned and practiced.

Here are seven tips for sounding more professional during an interview or public speaking situation.

  1. Eliminate filler words. Verbal pauses like “um,” “like,” and “y’know” can clutter speech and make the speaker sound immature or unintelligent. Practice speaking in front of a mirror so that you can become more aware of your filler words and eliminate them from your vocabulary.
  2. Don’t over-apologize. An apology can be a powerful tool that signals responsibility and maturity. However, over-using apologies or apologetic words can backfire on the speaker, causing them to appear hesitant or unsure. Making excuses or apologizing for things that are not your fault can come across as unprofessional.
  3. Turn your anxiety into excitement. Physiologically, anxiety and excitement look very similar. Both can manifest as a fast pulse, shallow breathing, sweaty hands and elevated levels of adrenaline. By reframing your anxiety as excitement and concentrating on the benefits of your public speaking opportunity or the importance of your content, you can relieve some of the discomfort and you may even find yourself having fun.
  4. Eliminate qualifying words. Qualifying or hedging words and phrases, such as “sort of” or “kind of” or “a little bit,” can make the speaker sound hesitant and unprofessional. Using these words can also reduce the impact of what you are saying and make your speech less persuasive.
  5. Record yourself. One of the best ways to identify the weak spots in the way you speak is by taking an audio or video recording of yourself talking. You may be making verbal mistakes without even realizing it. It’s not always easy to listen to your own voice, but doing so will help you learn to speak more confidently and professionally.
  6. Outline what you’re going to say. Whether you are speaking over the phone or in person, planning your points ahead of time can make you sound organized and professional. Make a brief outline before important meetings and interviews so that you can state your points clearly and confidently.
  7. Visualize your success. If you go into a public speaking situation thinking about everything that could go wrong, you may create a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, visualize yourself succeeding and doing well. You can even imagine feeling confident and relaxed, which may trick your body into following suit and calming down, creating a positive self-fulfilling prophecy.

RecDiv is an online job platform that connects employers with students and recent graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.