Here is the big secret you’ve been waiting for: the key to being a successful speaker is confidence.
Shocking, right? Well, maybe not so shocking. After all, isn’t confidence what most of us are struggling with, resulting in our nervousness and anxiety?
A recent VICE article suggested that you don’t really need to be confident. You can just fake it. Listen, we are all about “fake it ‘til you make it” and making your audience believe you are confident even when you might have some butterflies in your tummy. However, it is also critically important that you seem authentic. So, trying to put on an act and not being your authentic self can actually work against you.
If you are battling confidence, there are a couple of key strategies to help you build up a small reservoir to draw from, especially in those clutch moments when you are really feeling the most nervous.
1. Talk to one person at a time
What wrecks so many people’s confidence is the fear that everyone is watching them and waiting for them to fail. Speaking in front of large (or even medium-sized) groups can be very intimidating and wreak havoc on your nerves. The best way to manage a large group is to remember that strong eye contact means you are giving one thought to one person at a time. Each time you pause and start a new thought, find someone else to talk to. That way, it is really like having a series of 1:1 conversations vs. trying to engage a large group all at once.
2. Remember your body language speaks loudly
Strong posture and open body language leaves your audience with the impression that you are confident and relaxed. And maintaining a confident stance and gesturing freely and openly can actually make you feel confident! You don’t have to fake that confidence because using the correct body language will give you a cortisol rush that will increase your ease and comfort and, shortly, you will feel exactly what the audience is experiencing.
3. Slow it down
Often times, in an effort to reduce our nerves, we race through a presentation just to get it over fast. But remember that your audience actually wants to hear what you have to say. So, slow down and be present. Let them hear you and be able to follow along with what you are saying. This will also give you a chance to breathe. Talking too fast reduces your ability to take in breaths of air and causes you to run out of steam really fast. This will only exacerbate your anxiety and serve to reduce your confidence.
Let’s face it—you can’t really fake being confident. But you can practice and get yourself comfortable with your talk so you can begin to feel more confident about your skills and abilities and maybe, just maybe, enjoy speaking in public.