Confidence is defined as ‘a feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something’. There are a series of actions and thoughts that will contribute towards you being perceived as confident. Let us take a look at these factors as they relate to speaking in public.
Upside-down ‘U’: As a speaker, you need to imagine yourself being on the top of an upside-down ‘U’. In order to remain composed as a speaker, you require an equal amount of confidence and anxiousness to keep you balanced – confidence, because you have prepared and rehearsed your talk; and anxiousness, because each audience is different and you might need to adapt your speech to tailor to the audience requirements.
Eye contact: Your energy and passion as a speaker need to be so much higher than your audience’s energy and passion. Energy is transferrable. If your passion for your subject is high, this tends to rub off on the audience. Energy is transferred through eye contact. Hold eye contact with one person until the end of a pause in your sentence or until the end of a sentence and then move your eye contact to another person. Avoid looking down at the floor or looking at the ceiling – it will break the state of the energy transfer and will also minimise your perceived confidence as a speaker.
Expert fallacy: People make a decision on whether or not to trust you depending on how you look. An important element that enhances your confidence is your dress and professional image. Avoid under- or overdressing relative to the audience’s dress code. Your choice of clothing should be distinctive and one level higher than that of the audience’s. Regularly assess your image and wardrobe to be in line with your professional brand.
Stillness is power: If you are a newbie speaker, I would encourage you to learn how to deliver your speech standing still. Place more emphasis on the structure of your talk; the words that you use; eye contact and vocal variety to influence your audience. Support your talk with powerful audio-visuals and with simple, yet impactful PowerPoint slides.
Your body is a conduit of a message: Time is a limited commodity. You will only know how precious time is when you have less of it left over. I believe that within you is a set of experiences and knowledge that someone out there needs to learn from. You have overcome a unique set of circumstances and challenges to get to where you are today. Confidence is about seeing yourself as a change-agent. Be more selfless and focus on delivering your message to change someone else’s beliefs, thoughts and actions.
- Fidgeting: Avoid playing with your hair, scratching your face, or any similar movement that is distracting to your message.
- Word usage: Use words that convey assertiveness. Examples: ‘Write this down’, or ‘This is important’, or ‘I would like to highlight this.’
- Persuasive face: Video-record yourself to assess how you look as you speak. Soften your facial muscles to appear more relatable.
- Pace of talking: Speak slowly to deliver words of wisdom; speak fast to call people to action; and evenly modulate your voice to build trust.
- It starts with you: Being excited to deliver and share your knowledge contributes to your confidence on stage.
Author: Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA) is a business owner and public speaker trainer