Gain Confidence When Speaking
Contrary to what poets will have you believe, our “speech” often reflects our most vulnerable expressions. If you’re anxious or lacking confidence, you can still learn to mask its expression in your eyes with practice. But it is bound to come out sooner or later in your speech. A stutter here, a few empty filler words there, and you’re exposed!
And yet, speaking is what we do the most, to express, to communicate, to celebrate! It’s also the most effective way to inspire another. How then can speak with utter confidence, even when we’re not experts on our talk? How can we consistently enthrall our audience with our speech? How we can we communicate the way we want to, without letting self-doubt get in the way?
This post intends to show you the way!
Through the 12 fool-proof tips outlined below, you will learn not only to become a confident verbal communicator, but also rise as a dynamic orator. We don’t mean to overwhelm you with grand advice here, but give you deceptively simple tricks that you can apply in any speaking opportunity: in a public forum, with colleagues at work, at church, everywhere. Read on if you’re ready to know more…
Make a good first impression
Do you know that we form an opinion within 30 seconds of meeting a person? Yes, that’s as long (or in this case as short) as it takes to grab your audience’s attention: 30 measly seconds. (Heck, even instant noodles take longer than that to cook!)
But this is great news for the prepared speaker. If you can “nail it” for that first 30 make-or-break seconds, you are more likely to have your audience in your pocket and enjoy a rewarding session. Now this doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Here are some clever tips to wing that first impression:
- Dress comfortably. Like it or not, looks do matter, not (only) to others, but to our your own self. If you’re undressed for the occasion, you’re likely to feel less confident and miss that grand first-impression. So dress up to suit yourself (and not just the occasion).
- Wear your most disarming smile. We all have them, the one that genuinely crinkles our eyes. This is the best suit you can wear no matter what the occasion.
- Make appropriate eye contact. Eye contact invites trust. Enough said!
- Bring out that deep voice: Okay, we’re kidding here, coz not all of us are blessed to sound like a commanding George Clooney! But you’re still likely to have “that voice,” that pitch-perfect tone and pace that scream “confidence,” even as you appear friendly. Practice before a mirror until you get it right.
Laugh your blues away
Now that you’ve got that crucial first impression out of the way, it’s time to address those butterflies – no, bandicoots in your stomach. Well, laughter is indeed the best medicine my dear!
Break the ice with your audience with a joke or two. A self-deprecating joke delivered with a twinkle in the eye can immediately endear you to the audience, as it shows that you have the nerve to laugh at yourself. You can even throw in a potent one-liner that immediately grabs your audience’s attention (and interest).
But off course, this has to be appropriate to the occasion. For instance, you can’t go about cracking Dilbert jokes when you’re meant to share a moving epitaph on a recently deceased friend. But perhaps you can still share something (appropriately) funny about your friend that breaks the tension and also showcases his great sense of humor?
- You send some much needed oxygen to your belly so those butterflies ease up on you.
- You make friends in the audience, coz everyone loves a funny guy.
- You give yourself time to study the audience before you start the “real” talk.
So armor yourself with the best chuckle-worthy jokes from the internet and prepare to blow your audience away with humor!
Show them that you’re the boss of your material
This one is tricky as it needs you to be an expert at what you speak. Not an expert on the topic you speak, or amongst the audience you speak to, just an expert at what you speak.
This means that you’ve:
- Researched your content well, so it is factually
- Practiced plenty in front of a mirror until you’re convinced about what you speak.
- Prepared to learn more, possibly from the audience. (It can always happen).
You see, most of us shy away from speaking in front of an audience due to our fear of judgment. But if you’ve been asked to speak, then it means that at least somebody thinks you’re good enough. Work with that while you keep your mind open to learning from another.
Follow a clear structure
You’re more likely to step off course when you have no clear course of path. So design your speaking tryst into a clear structure. At the least, you should have:
- A short but captivating introduction.
- The significance of the topic: Why is it important to the audience and to you?
- Details about your topic.
- A joke or two, to help you gather yourself when you lose track.
- Formal distractions like questions, quizzes, etc.
- Conclusion with next steps – an email for future contact, suggestions for further research, a call to action, etc.
Speak to your friend(s) in the audience
Again, they always exist: the ones who nod, or the ones who look interested in what you say, or the ones who participate with the topic. These are your friends in the audience (even if you’ve never met them before).
These folks are:
- Not out there to judge you. In fact, their presence can reassure you that you’re indeed on the right track.
- Re-iterate your confidence. This works wonders as the more confident you become, the better you will speak. This in turn will invite more people to connect with you.
You can and should actively call them out to participate even more – perhaps with a friendly question, or a shared joke. Do it in an unobtrusive manner so they don’t feel like you’re putting them on the spot.
Use your face and body to support your voice speaking
The success of your public speaking stint depends on the final cohesive message you send. This comes as much from your body language, tone and facial expressions as it does from the words you speak. So again practice in front of a mirror until so your body language appears natural and comfortable, and your facial expressions resonate with your voice (signaling confidence, conviction and clarity).
Be comfortable with your mistakes
Hey there eager beaver, we know that you’re working mighty hard to step up your speaking skills. But don’t panic when you trip. (And you will trip, sometime.)
Even the most renowned orators are known to have a misstep or two in their long public speaking career. It’s not so much that you made a mistake that puts off the audience, it’s how quickly you get back on your feet that matters. If you can brush away your mistake with a joke or two, or even gracefully accept it before moving on, your audience will be more than willing to forgive you. Forgive yourself first, and the audience will continue to love you.
Use creative visualization
Here’s a positive thinking tip for you: visualize your success with public speaking, to create your success with public speaking.
As new-age Gurus have been repeatedly telling us, “As you think, so you do”. If you enter a presentation thinking that you’re going to enjoy it while you ace it, you’re more likely to have a successful session. But if you believe that ghost called fear and think you’re going to mess up, well, you’re actively preparing to mess it all up!
Before your session, take 20 minutes to visualize what you want to create for yourself:
- A smiling, confident you, effortlessly connecting with the audience.
- A good delivery on the topic of your choice.
- An audience captivated by great charisma, yours!
Fake that confidence
Don’t get us wrong here but there’s profound sense in the words, “Fake it till you make it”.
If you’re a complete rookie too nervous to stand in front of a crowd, we suggest that you practice 10 minutes of active visualization before you “fake confidence” in front of a mirror. Do this consistently for 21 straight days and you’re sure to enjoy a notable difference.
This does 2 things:
- Convinces your biggest critic – you!
- When done with adequate preparation on your topic, this takes care of rehearsal too!
Keep it simple
This is the best way to a hassle-free presentation: keep your material simple and hassle-free.
Don’t let excessive ambition ruin your public speaking tryst. This is when you try to fit in “too much” into your message. Some well-tested tips are outlined below:
- Let your speaking center around one core message. We all have limited attention spans, and an even shorter memory. So ensure that your entire speech supports just one significant message. Don’t distract your audience with unnecessarily sub-plots.
- Say it straight. Sarcasm has its uses, but communicating clearly is not it. Neither is beating around the bush. If you want the audience to do something, like vote for your church, give them 10 good reasons to do so in your speech, all ending with that one message: vote for us!
- Ditch the notes when you go live: This is a scary thing to do, especially for those speaking for the first time. Yet, this is the only way you can truly connect to your audience. You’ll also ensure that your content is clear and precise (AKA “simple”) so there’s not too much complex stuff for you to memorize.
Breathe deep and easy, again
Look, in the long course of your public speaking stint, it’s likely you’ll have that one moment when nothing seems to work. You’re speaking to a passive audience, many people don’t connect to you or the topic, or worse, seem bored, and you’ve forgotten your slide notes mid-way. It’s simply Murphy’s Law, acting in your life: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong!”
The good news: a deep breath can beat even Murphy at his best game!
So when you find yourself like a deer facing headlights, unsure of what else to do, simply breathe deep and easy and command yourself to relax. If a breath can bring life into you, it sure as heck can get you out of a tight spot. So take a moment and breathe deep and easy, again.
Enjoy your public speaking opportunity
For years, public speaking has consistently been ranked THE top-most fear, right there with the fear of truth. We understand that it is a big deal when you first get started. But like all fears, this one too is a devious ghost. Its power lies in making you believe in its lies: “You will be judged, you will fail, you will be mocked at, you will make a fool of yourself, etc. etc.” Lies!
Instead, choose to ignore it as you make a conscious decision to enjoy every public speaking opportunity. It’s your prerogative to do so! Relish it, revel in the opportunity and take thrill in your experience. Don’t make it a “must-do” item on your list; instead, make it a “want-to-do” item you simply cannot ignore. This may sound cheesy, but we ask you to find your passion with public speaking!
Here, if you train your mind to find at least 3 good reasons why you want to become a public speaking champion, you’re more likely to find opportunities to do it more, and become even better. The more you try, the more confident you will grow, it’s a guaranteed truth!
We’ll leave you with simple note from the dynamic and charming Hilary Clinton, an amazing public speaker herself.
“If you’re not comfortable with public speaking – and nobody starts out comfortable; you have to learn how to be comfortable – PRACTICE. I cannot overstate the importance of practicing. Get some close friends or family members to help evaluate you, or somebody at work that you trust.”