The number one problem that my clients have with public speaking is a lack of confidence. Over and over again, I hear the same concerns. Everyone thinks they are too shy to present and that everyone else feels more confident than they do. Sometimes, this is true. Some people are naturally gifted speakers and are always confident. But most people had to learn this skill and you can too!
How can I feel more confident when I present?
The first thing you can do is to imagine what it would be like to speak with confidence. It may sound silly, but it actually works. Our body language lets other people know how we’re feeling but it also affects how we feel about ourselves. The more we act confident, the more confident we actually feel!
Look at the difference between these two images. Who do you think looks like a better speaker? Imagine yourself as the woman on the right – totally confident and in control. Wouldn’t that feel great? Now try to see yourself that way.
In America, we have a saying for this: Fake it until you make it. (Fake it means to pretend and make it means to succeed.) This saying means that even if you still feel really nervous, you’re going to pretend to be confident. By doing this, you will start to feel more confident and look more confident to others, until one day you’ll actually be as confident as you imagine!
How can I look more confident when I present?
So, how can we use body language to look more confident? One way is to take a strong, open posture. This means standing up straight, and not crossing our arms or putting our hands in our pockets. It also means not doing anything that looks nervous, like fidgeting with our cards or microphone or shifting our weight back and forth from one foot to the other. Also, try to avoid nervous laughter. Taking deep breaths can really help you calm down and relax just before you begin your presentation or speech.
Another very effective way to look more confident is to smile! Smile a lot and let your passion for your subject show. Smiling is contagious, so if you smile a lot, your audience will have a more positive feeling about you too! However, be sure your smile is genuine and friendly. A nervous smile is different and will not help you to look confident.
Also, try using gestures while you speak. This will make your presentation more engaging and help you to emphasize the important points. Again, you want to be sure your gestures are confident and not nervous. Some people “wring” their hands when they are nervous, which means squeezing or massaging them over and over. This is not what we want to do. Instead, use your hands to help convey your message. If you want to see what this looks like, check out the speakers at TED.com. They are usually very confident presenters.
How can I sound more confident when I present?
Now let’s talk about actually speaking! When it comes to presenting, speaking clearly is more important than speaking perfectly. Don’t try to speak more quickly than is comfortable for you. It’s better to take your time, speak clearly, and pause when you need to. Also, don’t speak too quietly because this will make you sound nervous too. Trust that your ideas and your passion will be so interesting to your audience that they won’t care if you make a few small mistakes in grammar or pronunciation.
Using good intonation will make it easier for native speakers to understand you as well. Practice putting the stress on important words like nouns and verbs. Native speakers listen for these keywords and will be able to follow you more easily. Also, using good intonation will make your presentation sound more like a story, which is what your audience will want to listen to. Most people love to hear a good story.
The best possible thing you can do to improve your confidence is to practice! I tell this to my clients constantly, but for some reason, they don’t want to believe it. Think about the skills you’ve developed in art and design. They took many hours of practice, right? Speaking confidently is the same way! Practice giving your presentation over and over until you are so familiar with it that you barely need any notes. (But don’t memorize it!) Then practice it once more and record yourself. Watch the recording and use all the tips in this download to see how you can improve.
Or even better, practice your presentation for a friend or in a public place, like a park! This might seem crazy, but it will help you get over your feelings of being nervous. If you want more professional feedback, you can also work with an English coach. A coach can watch you present and give you suggestions about what might help you feel, look, and sound more confident or point out any mistakes you’re making.
I need more help!
Now that I’ve shared a few tips for speaking confidently, I’d like to hear from you! Do you still have questions? Ask me in the comments or send me an email!
If you’d like more tips on how to become a better speaker, you can also download my free guide: How to speak with confidence (10 tips for non-native English speakers).
If you want to get more customized, useful feedback from an English coach on how to improve your presentation skills, you can schedule a free trial lesson so we can talk about what you need and how I can help!