Public Speaking Confidence – A Mindset
Most times people are their own worst critics. You will inevitably magnify your flaws and imagine the whole world sees them and judges you. The one thing you must work to change is your mindset. You need to convince your own mind that you ARE good at public speaking and that you can do this. That’s the first hurdle. I’ve written a book (not published just yet) about how to overcome the fear of public speaking and in my book, I talk about how you need to get over yourself and into your audience.
SHIFT YOUR FOCUS
When you are self-conscious, who are you thinking about? Yourself right? Turn that focus away from yourself and what others think about you and shift your focus to your audience. If you do this, half the battle is won. Now, if you find those people in the audience intimidating, you will imagine their judgment (their negative evaluations of you) and that will mess with your mind. Also, when you do this, your automatically project this insecurity.
HARNESS YOUR IMAGINATION
What helps me is to imagine my audience as toddlers. I don’t about you, but I don’t find toddlers intimidating at all. If you focus on that you’d be surprised at how easy it is to see an audience this way. Of course, I don’t talk to them like I would to toddlers but imagining that they are kids helps me overcome any anxiety. I feel like each of us carries a child inside and, with practice, I can now see the child in each person. You could try to imagine them as family members, or puppies, anything you wouldn’t find intimidating.
Remember that as a speaker, you automatically have authority. See yourself as an authority figure, as someone with confidence and easy grace. Visualise it in your mind. Your mind is a powerful tool.
FLIP IT AROUND
When you feel anxious, tell yourself you feel excited. The feelings are almost identical. Use the adrenalin rush to your advantage. Keep saying, “I’m so excited to be speaking for this audience!” until you’ve convinced yourself of it.
TOP PUBLIC SPEAKING TIPS
Practice walking with confidence. The way you enter a room says a lot about you and will determine how the audience will perceive you. Walk with large strides (little steps convey nervousness and insecurity), arms swinging gently by your sides (opposite arm to opposite leg swing), head held high and posture erect but relaxed. Watch yourself do it in a mirror or get someone to help you. Nothing says I’m confident more than your posture or your walk and, if you can walk and stand with confidence, you will feel better and will be taken more seriously as a presenter.
Eyes up and connect. When you walk into the room look at the audience and make eye contact with as many as possible and smile. Smiling will make them feel connected to you and will help to ease your nerves.
Take center stage. Take the absolute center of the front of the room or the center of the front of the stage, stand with feet slightly apart (hip distance) and facing forward, arms comfortably by your side (not crossed, no hand-clasping because this shows nerves), neck exposed, chin up but not raised to high to look haughty. Keep quiet and remain composed (no fidgeting or nervous movement) until all eyes are upon you and everyone is quiet.
Project your voice. There’s nothing worse than a person who speaks so softly you need to strain to hear. It also projects lack of confidence. Test your vocal projection in a large room prior to speaking. Get someone to stand at the other end and practice speaking with projection. Don’t yell but talk loudly enough so that every word is clear to even those in the back of the room. Take a deep breath down into your lungs. Imagine filling your tummy with air. Your tummy should expand but your shoulders should not lift. I always ask my audience to breathe and can tell when they’re doing it wrong by watching their shoulders. Shoulders should be relaxed. The rib cage and the tummy should expand on the intake of air and the rib cage and tummy should shrink on the exhale. Practice diaphragmatic breathing by lying on your back with a book on your chest. When you breathe in the book should raise and when you breathe out it should lower. When you practice projection, vocalize on the exhale.
Enunciate. The biggest issue for me is mumbling. Speak slowly and clearly, enunciated the last consonant in each word. Example: “I’m here to help you become a great success.”
Pause often and avoid filler words. Filler words like uh, um, like, you know and so, are distracting and steal from your message/lesson. Record yourself speaking. Do you use them a lot? An app that may help you is “Orai” available for iPhones and Androids, it is very useful to help you weed out the filler words, speak at a natural pace and use vocal variety (changes in pitch, rate, volume)
Be sincere and truthful. I have watched literally thousands of speakers over the last 30 years and it’s got to the point where I can pick out those canned lines as they trip glibly off the speaker’s tongue. I find it really hard to listen to at this stage. It doesn’t seem authentic or sincere. I believe that audiences are savvier and can pick up when a speaker is being disingenuous or insincere. Don’t copy another speaker’s style or steal their words. Be inspired by other speakers but don’t imitate them. Develop your own unique style and if you quote other speakers, give them credit. Don’t overuse quotes and use them only to emphasize something you’ve stated. Find new and original ways of saying things but stick to the truth.
There are many more tips but I think seven are enough for now and these are a good start. Please remember that your audience is as human as you are. Nobody is perfect. Let go of any idea of perfection and just be YOU!