Whenever you need to speak in order to get a message across, and possibly to influence others, there are some simple techniques that can help you to do it with both confidence and impact.
When you speak with confidence, you’re far more likely to be heard, to hold the attention of your audience, and to be taken seriously.
These tips will help you to feel confident and present with impact whether you’re in front of one person, a small team, or a large audience. And whether you’re working in-person or online.
In my first tip I ‘m going to combine 3 elements, because, really, they shouldn’t even need to be said:
Plan, Practice, and Prepare
These are the obvious top tips and you’ll find them in all good speakers’ guides!
Plan what you’re going to say, stick to the point and know the outcome that you desire. Don’t try to cram too much in to your talk, it’s better to get less information across well.
Practice your presentation as much as you can. Practice varying the pitch and pace of your speech. Also practice with your slides, props and any movement or gestures that you want to include.
Prepare by checking all your props, handouts and the tech. Have a tech-free plan just in case you can’t use it. And know your sources, especially if you’re referencing scientific or evidence-based research.
I’ve presented without slides, in a power cut, when my co-trainer with all the tech and handouts didn’t turn up, and with a leaky ceiling making its best attempt to blow up my projector.
When you plan, prepare and practice, it helps you have more confidence that you know what you’re going to say when things go smoothly. And to stay calm in the more challenging situations.
But you still may have to overcome the nerves. What are the best ways to do that?
When we speak about what we know and believe in, we will naturally be more relaxed. When we are more relaxed, it is less likely the nerves will kick in. Our language, tone, voice, posture, and body movements will also come across as congruent. We will appear more authentic and trustworthy to those watching and listening to us. When we aren’t being authentic our language, tone, voice, posture, and body movements will betray us and our audience will know. They might not know why, but they’ll feel intuitively that something is off. You will have far less impact and believability.
“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Talk about what you know, and REALLY know about what you present.
Reframe your nerves
The same hormone is responsible for nerves as that for excitement. Instead of trying to calm yourself out of a heightened state in to a relaxed one, which can be difficult, try to flick the switch from nerves to excitement.
Tell yourself, ‘this is exciting! I wonder what will happen because of what I’m doing today?’ Or ‘This is such an exciting opportunity!’
The researcher Alison Wood Brooks tested this theory in a social psychology experiment and found that subjects who were randomly assigned to tell themselves to ‘get excited’ before a big event outperformed those who were told to do nothing, or to tell themselves to ‘calm down. (Brooks, 2014)
When ‘nerves’ are initiated it is down to the hormone adrenaline. The impact on our bodies include causing our heart to race, making our breathing more shallow, and telling our muscles to release sugar in to our bloodstream. While re-framing this as ‘exciting’ can help. So can breathing.
Breathing out for twice as long as you breathe in has shown to help regulate the heart rate and activate the parasympathetic nervous system – this is the part that calms us down after a shock or surprise.
Smiling not only helps you to connect with your audience, but it relaxes the vocal chords and helps your voice to sound more resonant. This helps to counter the change in voice that can come about as a result of adrenaline and shorter breaths.
Many research projects have shown a link with confidence and impact and posture. So before you start to speak try spending some time in big, open poses, taking up as much space as you possibly can. Examples include standing like wonderwoman, superman or a starfish.
Stand before you go into an event or before starting your talk. Walk around if you can. If you can’t stand, imagine it in your mind’s eye. Sit up tall and wrap your arms around behind you to open up your upper torso.
Stand and Ground Yourself
While you’re speaking, maintain excellent posture.
- Stand if you can, keep your back as straight as possible, shoulders back and chest open.
- Breathe slowly and deeply.
- Keep your chin up and level with the floor. Keep your weight even across both feet.
- Imagine that you have roots grounding you deep within the earth.
It’s better to say less, slowly, than rush it. You will come across as more authoritative and confident if you speak more slowly. Don’t be afraid to pause to allow something to sink in, or perhaps repeat something and pause for real impact. The rush of adrenaline can cause us to speed up. Being aware of this, controlling your breathing, and smiling will all help to keep your mind and your body under control. Having a glass of water to hand is a good idea generally, and if you feel yourself speeding up, stopping to take a sip can help you regain some control over it and reset yourself.
In summary, practice, be yourself and talk about what you know. With a few small extras listed here you will soon be speaking more confidently and having greater impact than ever before.
“Speaking with passion born of your own authentic experience and belief is always persuasive.” Charlotte Beers
This blog was written by Helen Leathers.
Helen is a Women’s Transformational Coach specialising in confidence, presence and purpose. She has been a trainer and speaker for over 20 years and is the author of multiple books.
Brooks, A.W. (2014) Get Excited: Reappraising pre-performance anxiety as excitement.