Confidence is one of those traits that we admire in others and long for in ourselves. Although some people are seemingly born “confident,” others need to work hard to acquire this skill. One thing everyone will agree on though is that confidence is just as much about a look as it is about a feeling. In other words, people should hear it in your voice while in your own head you should know that you can handle anything that comes your way. After all, one of the most important tools you have is the ability to give others a favorable impression of yourself. There are a few secrets you’ll want to know so you’re prepared for success in professional situations.

Use the Rest of Your Body to Your Advantage

Your voice is only one important part of your body, there are other important parts here too. These include:

·         Using good body language alongside your message is just as important as the words you say. When you include a variety of gestures you’ll come across as more positive, warm, and energetic. Of course, you want to avoid those gestures that will distract your audience or convey that you’re not really feeling confident (e.g. fiddling with clothing, touching hair). Try to use your hands to convey your excitement and knowledge instead.

·         Smile throughout your speech as this will make your voice more pleasant to listen to and conveys that you’re confident in what you’re saying. You’ll also appear friendlier, more approachable, and composed.

·         Maintaining good posture with your head held high and your shoulder s rolled back makes you look and sound confident. This is because you can breathe better. As important as this is, it’s equally as important to take three slow, deep breaths through your nose before you start speaking – this lets you tell yourself to relax too.

·         Start by visualizing success and telling yourself to relax before your speech – even before the day of your speech.

Use Your Voice to Your Advantage

One thing you have going for you is your voice. This is something you should make sure to use to your advantage. Talking to strangers without looking at them helps you to bring out your thoughts easily, making many people feel much more comfortable and confident. Some tips you’ll want to keep in mind here include:

·         Never articulate a statement as a question. Asking questions should be left only to those times when you need information or approval for an idea or a decision. Situations like these have a way of making you feel vulnerable.  This isn’t what you want to do. You want to project your ideas with confidence, making sure that your voice doesn’t creep upward at the end of a sentence. Instead, make sure you maintain an even tone of voice and finish your statements with periods instead.

·         Take it slow. According to Carmine Gallo, author of “Talk Like TED,” 190 words per minute is the ideal rate of speech, especially when you’re engaging in public speaking. This speed makes your audience feel like you’re having a conversation with them over lunch instead of talking at them. You also won’t sound too amateurish or nervous -like you’re trying to get your speech over and done with as fast as possible. Of course, you also don’t want to speak too slowly because then you run the risk of putting your audience to sleep.

·         Portray confidence so nobody notices just how nervous you really are. Look confident even if your palms are sweating, your knees are knocking, or your heart is pounding.

·         Try to connect with your audience. Turn them into your ally. If possible, Witt Com says you should talk to some of the members of your audience before you give your presentation, so you can get to know them. Then as you give your presentation try to look some of them in the eye. When your audience agrees with what you’re saying, your job as a speaker becomes easier.            

·         Focus on your audience because when you become preoccupied with yourself is when stage fright occurs.

Don’t use caveats and filler phrases (e.g. “This is just my opinion,” “Sorry,” “I’m still working on this,” “Well,” “I mean”). These are negative and useless prefaces that typically come out when you’re nervous – sometimes they’re also habitual. Regardless of why you say these things, they can damage your confident tone. Focus on saying only what you mean. For instance, you should replace, “Well, I think we should do this in a different way” with “ with “We should do this differently.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice really does make perfect – regardless of what you’re doing. This is why when you feel nervous about something you should practice beforehand. According to public-speaking expert Dale Carnegie, there are a few things you should do while you’re practicing, including:

·         Use a real or stand-in microphone if you’ll be using one when you’re actually giving the speech

·         Recordyourself so you can figure out if you’re using the best pacing and pauses throughout your speech

·         Review the recording so you can evaluate your voice for clarity and volume

·         Speak to supportive audiences in small forums (e.g. a staff meeting, a PTA meeting, Toastmasters)

·         Work with a coach

·         Know what you’ll say and why you’ll say it

·         Don’t try to pack too much into your speech because then you’ll spend the entire time worrying about forgetting something or losing your train of thought. Keep it short and simple – focused on one basic idea.

·         Rehearse your speech but don’t memorize it word for word

·         Walk around as you rehearse your speech

·         Expect to be nervous – even experienced speakers still get nervous

·         Use silence to your advantage by making it seem like a strategic pause

·         Learn to engage your audience with questions when you lose an important idea or train of thought

 

Regardless of what your biggest public speaking fear is, you can overcome it. It may take some time and practice but just knowing that this is something you can accomplish should help you feel better about any future speeches you may need to give.

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