It’s natural to see friends, colleagues and family members and feel jealous of how confident they are. How can they seem so calm and composed all the time, when you’re a bumbling mess with a fast beating heart and flushed cheeks? First of all, it’s perfectly natural to feel nervous when you’re speaking to people. Even the most seasoned public speakers don’t feel completely comfortable. Confidence is something we acquire and constantly improve upon. It’s also worth noting that people who appear confident on the outside may be feeling the opposite on the inside. But here’s the good news. There are plenty of things you can do to build your confidence levels, and maybe even start to enjoy the experience – imagine that! Here are a few simple confidence-building tools to put into practice.
Visualise the moment that you plan to communicate what matters to you. Imagine yourself in the room where the conversation will happen. When you visualise how things should go, you’re setting up a neural network that will re-trigger when you step into that situation physically. If you’re wrestling with nerves, practice managing those nerves from the safety of your imagination. It’s scientifically proven to help you with the real thing. Watch this video to find out more about overcoming public speaking nerves and building confidence.
Practising for a speech or presentation is vital; there’s no getting away from it. You need to repeat it over and over to get the rhythm right. Practise when to pause, and tune the intonation in your voice. Don’t practise it in your head – say it out loud and time yourself if you’re needing to stick to a timeframe.
We can hold a lot of tension in our body. This can get in the way of our coming across physically at ease. Ensure that your shoulders are relaxed and aligned – stroke your shoulders back and down. Relax your jaws – try clenching it and then releasing. Feet should be around hip distance apart and your weight should be evenly balanced across both feet and in the toes and heels. Your hips should be centred. Your spine should feel an easy sense of alignment, like there is a string reaching from the top of your head to the sky. Read this blog on power poses for more where this came from.
Your body language is crucial to how others perceive you, and has a massive impact on how you feel inside. Giving your body permission to ‘get involved’ as you speak frees up your voice and relaxes your imagination. There’s science behind this too. There’s a region of your brain called the Broca’s area, which helps formulate speech, and it lights up when you gesture. So when you start freeing your body, you are encouraging your brain to think of the right words, so you can form your next sentence without freezing.
Next time you go to give a presentation or speak up in a meeting, start with your hands in line with your navel, rather than by your sides. This will allow the gestures to flow more freely and naturally from the outset. Make sure you are grounded and centred on the chair or wherever you are standing, using the floor to support you and give you energy.
Pauses are crucial to good communication. These are little breaks which signify a unit of thought. You can think of it as a musical phrase which is part of a longer melody, that gives rhythm and pace to a piece of music. Pauses do the same for speech. Pauses give you time to process your thoughts and focus on the key words.
You don’t need to rush ahead of yourself. If you are nervous, or need some extra processing time, this is a great ploy. Most importantly, it allows for your listener to process each part of your thought, and stay with you, the speaker. And the more complicated the ideas, the more important it is that they are given sufficient time to be understood. If you don’t feel comfortable pausing, try using your vowels instead – read this blog to find out why vowels can empower your speech and build your confidence.
Sometimes when we’re nervous we rush what we’re saying, trying to get to the point more quickly which often makes our voice go up at the end of our sentences. This can make you sound unsure. Remember, what goes up must come down. If your idea has weight, then it needs to come down at the end. A good way to think about it is building a bridge between you and your listener. It starts at you, goes up a little in the middle, then comes down to your listener. We call this vocal gravity. Otherwise it’s like trying to deliver while reaching up.
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If you’ve got a recording of your speech, interview or whatever form of communication you delivered, watch it. We often have preconceived notions of how we look and sound. Playing back the reality can help you to narrow down what you need to focus on next time – whether it’s removing the umms and ahhs, or using more pauses. Doing this also helps build confidence.
Ask your listener or audience for detailed feedback: which bits did they like, which bits really hit home – were there any bits that were particularly memorable? Or were there any points that weren’t quite clear? Do they have any questions? Ask them what they took to be your main point or key takeaway and check it’s in line with your intention.
We hope that you find these tools and tips helpful as you or embark on your journey to confident communication. At London Speech Workshop we empower our clients to be confident, clear and impactful communicators. If you’d like to find out more about what we do, book a free 15-minute Discovery Call to discuss your goals and challenges with our Client Success team.
Author: Hannah is the Marketing Executive at London Speech Workshop, an industry-leading communication training and coaching institute. The proven Serlin Method™ uses a combination of modern psychology, performance technique and memorable tools, empowering people to be the best communicators they can be.