Speaking with confidence means being conscious of the narrative you portray in social or professional settings and online. It also means accepting who you are, while embracing your strengths and weaknesses. Strong skills in public speaking will make you stand out in a competitive marketplace —by leaving a lasting impression. Mastering the art of delivering your message, whether verbal, written or art form, communicates who you are and what you do in the world.
If you are an entrepreneur, it is vital that you communicate what you do effectively and clearly. Yet, public speaking is the most common phobia. Known as “glassophobia,” people fear public speaking more than death, darkness, spiders, and heights. (Newcomer, 2017) It is natural to feel nervous, anxious or experience butterflies in your stomach before delivering a speech, but this should not deter you from sharing your message with the world.
A lack of strong skills in public speaking can cause your message to get lost, lead to missed opportunities and limit your career trajectory. It can also minimize your level of influence in your community and negatively affect your business growth. When you improve your public speaking skills, it prepares you to lead teams, participate in pitch competitions, sell your products or services, and deliver presentations with confidence.
I used to avoid making speeches in formal settings. However, after years of practice, I developed tools and strategies that helped me build my confidence and empowered me to share my message with the world. I now regularly deliver speeches to audiences that range from 20 to 500 people.
Here are 5 ways you can strengthen your message and speak with confidence:
1. Use affirmations
Repeating words of affirmation is a great way to build your confidence. This means to make a personal declaration in the present tense as if it were true. Always use “I AM.” For example, “I am a public speaker who is confident” If you want to be a great public speaker, say affirmations out loud and repeat them daily. It is easy to allow fear of failure and feelings of inadequacy to prevent you from speaking in public. Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones, and write down the type of speaker you want to be. The more you believe in yourself and your abilities, the better you will become at speaking in public. Speaking has to do with your mindset. As Henry Ford once said “if you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” Embrace your fear of public speaking. Affirmations are a great first step towards building your confidence and will propel you towards becoming a fearless public speaker.
2. Stick to your script
Avoid going off message by including unnecessary personal stories. This can cause you to exceed your allotted speaking time and make it difficult for you to maintain the attention of your audience. It also drags out your message. Keep your speech concise and impactful. Be intentional about who you are and where you are going with your message. Be clear about why you are speaking. Are you speaking to inform, inspire, motivate, persuade or entertain? While it is helpful to write out your message in general bullet points to ensure you do not forget to mention key aspects of your message, avoid reading your speech word for word. Think of three to four key lessons or tips you want to share and memorize them. If you want to use a personal story, make sure it is appropriate for your audience demographic and aligns with your topic. Sticking to your script will make your message sound sharp, clear and memorable.
Practice is the best way to hone your skills. The more you practice speaking, the better you will become. Practice off the cuff or impromptu speaking during special occasions like weddings, birthday parties or informal social events. If you have a speaking engagement coming up, start by writing your speech down and reading it aloud repeatedly. Then try condensing your speech into headings for each section. Include three to four bullets points per section. Rehearse your speech out loud again. Ask for feedback from friends or family. Record yourself speaking, and then listen to the audio only. Make note of your tone, the sound quality of your voice, your enunciation and pronunciation, as well as your speed, pitch, and volume. Do you use distracting fillers like um and uh? Practicing your speech will prepare you to speak with authority and confidence.
4. Know your body language
Communication is 70% body language. Your audience will not remember every word you say, but your body language will let them know if you are authentic and believe in what you are saying. Make a video recording of yourself speaking, and observe your hand gestures, posture, eyes, and foot movement. Always remember to look people in the eye. It demonstrates your confidence, competence, and authority. It is also important to observe your facial expressions since it reveals your emotions and should match the content of your message. When you are aware of your body language, you can identify several ways you can strengthen your message and enhance how you communicate.
5. Do your research
Read articles and watch videos on public speaking. Online magazines such as Inc. and Entrepreneur are great sources of reading material, and Richard Branson has published some very helpful videos on public speaking. You can find a number of other experts on public speaking on YouTube. Start to observe motivational speakers, TED Talk speakers, and commencement speeches. It is also a good idea to watch political debates, campaign victory speeches, as well as, commentary on good and bad speeches. Researching experts in public speaking will open your mind to different perspectives and provide you with insights from experts, which will help you improve your skills in public speaking.
As you can see from the suggestions above, there are many ways to improve your public speaking skills. Your voice is a powerful tool. Take the time to invest in it by attending webinars, workshops, or by reading books and articles on public speaking. It doesn’t matter if you are a business owner or employee—public speaking is essential for marketing your skills, services or products. Great public speakers have used their voice to be influential and raise awareness about social concerns.
Have the courage to speak up and develop the confidence to use your voice. The world is waiting to hear your message.
Recommended articles and videos:
● “The Power of Nonverbal Communications" Joe Navarro
Newcomer, L. (2017, Febuary 10). Retrieved from Quill Blog: https://www.quill.com/blog/careers-advice/public-speaking-is-scary-heres-how-to-get-over-your-fear.html