If the thought of speaking in front of a group of people terrifies you, you are far from being the only one. Because it’s such a common fear, public speaking is also a skill that many people lack, but you don’t have to let your dread of public speaking get in the way of mastering it. Follow these 5 tips for getting past your fear:

1. Know your material.

When you thoroughly understand the topic you are going to be speaking about, you’ll have more confidence when it comes to presenting on it. This will take preparation and planning, but the work you put into it will show. It’s much easier to present on something you’ve studied than to just wing a presentation.

2. Keep practicing.

If you keep avoiding speaking in public because of your fear, you won’t develop your skill. The only way to become more comfortable with it is to keep doing it. It might be hard to put yourself out there, especially if you don’t have the best first experience, but practice makes perfect!

3. Start with a thank you.

The first few seconds of a presentation can be the most nerve-wracking. Start by thanking the speaker who introduced you or the audience for attending. It’ll take the guesswork out of what to start off with, taking some of the immediate pressure off.

4. Utilize props.

Part of the awkwardness of public speaking is not knowing what to do with your hands. If it makes sense to use props, go ahead and use them. They will keep you from worrying about your gestures and will help calm your nerves.

5. Include the audience.

You don’t have to do all the talking when speaking in front of an audience. Ask the audience questions - it will allow you to take a break from speaking and will allow them to feel more engaged during your presentation.