Do you feel like you’re not confident enough when speaking in public? Do you fear that you might say something wrong, or that people will judge you? When you open your mouth do you worry that you’re not speaking with confidence? If so, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many people feel this way, and there are steps you can take to boost your confidence.
In this blog post, I will discuss some tips for speaking with more confidence. We’ll also talk about the importance of practice, and how to deal with nerves. So read on for helpful advice on speaking with confidence!
Speaking with confidence is about much more than public speaking
Imagine you are at a party and meet someone new. You want to make a good impression, so you start speaking, but your voice is shaky and you can’t seem to find the right words. This scenario is all too familiar for many people.
Perhaps you are in a meeting at work and someone unexpectedly asks your opinion. Maybe your boss or someone else senior in your workplace corners you and asks a difficult question. These are not unlikely situations conjured from the depths of a wild imagination, they happen all the time. Just reading about them may have just given you a cold shiver (sorry!).
In reality, nobody is thrust onto a stage and asked to speak publicly against their will, but being put on the spot at work, and in our personal lives, is unavoidable. It may be inevitable, but it need not be uncomfortable.
This article is not intended to be a ‘one size fits all’ guide to speaking with confidence, but rather it is an opportunity to read a little bit about how some people find the strength to speak confidently in challenging situations.
So how do the professional speakers talk with confidence on stage?
Let’s start at the thin end of the wedge – public speaking. Have you ever been to a large event and watched in awe as the speaker calmly claims the stage and proceeds to talk to the audience like she was born ready to do it? Here’s a secret. She wasn’t born to do it, she learned to do it.
Practice and repetition help us build confidence when speaking, and that’s where Toastmasters is so helpful, but there are also a number of tips, tricks and habits that professional speakers use to confidently command their audiences.
Some speakers like to give themselves a private pep talk before starting their speech, especially if they are nervous. You may not be able to see a speaker before they take to the stage, but we know that there are plenty of professional orators who repeat confidence-building phrases to themselves, silently, in their heads, before going anywhere near a stage.
‘I am confident in what I have to say about my presentation’
‘I am confident in where I am going with my speech’
‘I have prepared myself and I know my speech is interesting’
‘I have trained for this moment, and the nerves I am feeling are proof that I am confident and focussed’
Some great public speakers use repetitive internal dialogue to actually take the spotlight off themselves in interesting ways.
‘I am honoured to have been asked to talk to these people, it is my job to entertain them, this is not about me!’
‘This is a privilege that I have humbly accepted, and I will repay this kindness by talking calmly, engagingly and with enthusiasm’.
In some more acute circumstances, the things we tell ourselves can be more extreme. I’m happy to admit that early on in my speaking career I used to tell myself that,
‘There are no tigers here, I am safe!’
‘Nobody has ever rushed the stage and given me a black eye because I tried to speak to them!’.
The goal here is for you to convince yourself so much so that when it is time for you to step up onto the stage your subconscious is utterly prepared. There’s a theory in the world of neuroscience that our subconscious does a terrible job of separating truth from fiction. So by feeding ourselves a little bit of positive fiction we can fool our nerves into putting in the performance of a lifetime.
That’s all fine for people on stage, but what about the workplace or even family gatherings?
For some nervous talkers, myself included, reading tips about how professional speakers ‘ace the stage’ can feel a bit like turning up for your first driving lesson and being lectured on how F1 drivers take corners at 200mph. There’s no context that relates to our own experiences.
But confident speaking is about more than being on stage. We also need to be confident in everyday conversations. While speaking at work may not be public speaking in the traditional sense, it can still be challenging.
What happens when we’re called on to talk in a meeting when there’s only a small number of people present, or maybe even just one person? I need to reiterate that this short blog post is not intended as a guide that will work for everyone, but here are a few tips that might help.
Breathe; nobody is so unreasonable that they will begrudge you a moment to collect your thoughts before replying to their questions.
Try and maintain confident body language, if you feel the person is too close don’t be afraid to take a step back. To a certain extent, you might be able to ‘fake it till you make it’ with your body language.
Take risks. I’m not advocating you launch into a tango routine, but the truth is that nobody really knows how you may respond to an unexpected situation, so you have the power to decide for yourself. Take your time, remember to breathe.
Take a moment and remind yourself that you are not an expert in everything. No one has all the answers, and no reasonable person would expect you to have all the answers either.
Smile, and the world smiles with you! It’s a very unkind audience that doesn’t respond to a smile. Smiling will relax you, and it signals to your audience that you are in charge here – even if your hands are sweaty and the butterflies are careering around your stomach!
Visualisation works well for many people. When you’re in bed the night before the big speech, imagine how good you’re going to look upon that stage. Choreograph your moves in your mind. Practice that ascent to the lectern and the triumphant descent afterwards, speech done and dusted!
Practice! This is where being a member of Toastmasters International can really elevate your confidence. At every Toastmasters meeting, we hold ‘table topics’ sessions. These are light-hearted, low-stress opportunities to practice speaking with very little prior notice. Table Topics sessions, and the many training opportunities offered by Toastmasters, amount to a whole lot of very useful practice time.
Speaking with confidence – getting started
At Ipswich Electrifiers, we’ve seen many members benefit from developing skills that help them speak with confidence. We know it can be hard to practice and learn new skills, but if you put in the work now, you may see success sooner than you expect.
Our goal is to help as many people as possible achieve their goals by providing a safe space to develop public speaking, confidence and leadership skills. If this sounds like something that might interest you or someone you know, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact us today!