Standing up and speaking before an audience is a scary thing. Many people ask me how can I control my nerves. How can I be more confident when I am public speaking, and how to appear more confident when feeling nervous? Other people want to improve their public speaking style by presenting without notes, or by standing away from the lectern or by not using PowerPoint. These “stretch goals” also make people more nervous and uncomfortable. So how then do we become more confident as we begin public speaking or take on these bigger tasks.
The secret really is to fake it until you make it. Or as Amy Cuddy described it, “fake it until you become it”. Now in my view it is OK to fake your confidence, but please do not extend this to faking your content or making up answers to questions. But do appear to be confident. That said, what can we do to fake our confidence and appear more in control.
1. Breathe low and steady.
Low deep breathing is a relaxation technique, a calming technique, a yoga technique and is a great way to appear calm. Low deep breathing also allows for better oxygen exchange, when compared to high shallow breathing, so it helps your brain keep sharp. As you walk on stage breathe deep and steady and that will make you appear confident
I have written about the smile many times in the past. The smile releases endorphins, “happy chemicals”, which increases your energy and makes you appear confident, happy and pleased to be there. The smile is also infectious and may spread to your audience.
3. Your stance
Have a steady stance, with feet firmly planted on the floor, feet slightly apart around hip width. Choose a stance that you feel comfortable with. Think of your legs as tree trunks with roots anchoring you steady to the ground. Avoid dancing, waltzing, up and down on tows, swaying from side to side, pacing from left to right. A steady stance makes you look calm and confident.
4. Avoid filler words.
By using pause and silence, you look comfortable, calm and confident. Lots of uhm’s, ah’s, you knows, and so, will make you look very nervous and uncomfortable. Simply avoid any unnecessary filler words and use pause, or silence to help you look confident.
5. Eye contact
Confident people make real one on one eye contact. They speak to you as if they are having a one on one conversation. Nervous people avoid eye contact, gazing above your head, or maybe looking down at the floor.
6. Have your signature story or signature opening down pat.
This is your fall-back position, the story or comments that you know well, and you can deliver in your sleep. Use this content before new content or untested content. It helps you get comfortable, get grounded, connect with the audience and then you can move on to new content and new ideas. Musicians who suffer stage fright, often start with their old tried and tested hit songs, those they know will go down well.
So whenever you are public speaking to a large group, or undertaking some stretch goals and are felling nervous or uncomfortable, know that you can fake it and look good. Use any of these techniques and to your audience, you will appear confident, composed and free of nerves.
If public speaking skills are something you wish to work on, we are running the following workshops on November:
- Winning Presentation Skills – 7 November in Bendigo
- Thinking and Speaking Off the Cuff – 8 November in Bendigo
- Thinking and Speaking Off the Cuff – 12 November in Perth
- Assertive Communication Skills – 13 November in Perth
- Winning Presentation Skills – 22 November in Perth
- Difficult Conversations – 23 November in Perth
- Difficult Conversations – 26 November in Brisbane
- Presentation Skills for Leaders – 27 November in Brisbane