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I used to be the absolute worst public speaker.
I would start hyperventilating at just the thought of me speaking in public, let alone doing it.
I would get sweaty, red in the face, and a stutter would take over my typically fluent speech.
It was not a good experience, and I avoided any opportunities to speak in public, no matter how big or small the group was.
I remember when I signed up for a college-level public speaking class in high school for extra credit. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I decided to be brave. Everything was good and dandy until our final project, where we had to give a speech on someone we admired. Needless to say, I totally and completely tanked it.
Now, I could have run with it and decided that I was done public speaking until the rest of my life. It would have been easy to do, to stay hidden and in my comfort zone, with my thoughts bottled up in my head. But that lifestyle didn’t fit who I was.
So after a few years of avoiding the subject, I became a resident assistant in college, and the rest was history. Without realizing it, I slowly but surely took on roles where public speaking was a must. I mean, I became a speech-language pathologist; speaking is in the title.
My latest project is hosting my podcast, “the Accented World,” which has boosted my confidence in this area. After a few awkward first episodes, I now feel like I can talk to any guest, any person, regardless of their status and in what setting.
You too can become a confident speaker.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a public speaker, you’re posting videos on Instagram Live, or working with people one-on-one, you can learn to share your message in confidence.
Here are the five tips to speak with confidence:
Breathing seems arbitrary. It’s something we do every day. It’s the life force that keeps us healthy and alive.
Breathing is necessary for us to speak and to use our voice. Unfortunately, often enough, when we find ourselves in a situation when we need to talk in front of someone, teach people or give a speech, we forget to breathe correctly. Our breathing becomes shallow, which in turn, impacts our speech and voice.
We can quickly fix that by remembering diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a large muscle that sits under the lungs and helps move air in and out of the lungs. To use it properly, place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach and take a deep breath. The stomach should push up against the hand, while the chest remains still. If your shoulders are moving up and down, that means you’re not using the diaphragm correctly.
Practice this type of breathing before your speaking gig. It will not only help you with stress and anxiety, but it will also help you deliver your message clearly.
2. Slow Down
This one seems simple enough, but it’s often forgotten. If you speak too fast, you can be misunderstood or come off as nervous. You may not deliver your message with the clarity you intended, because your speech may get jumbled and be less intelligible.
According to Carmine Gallo, author of Talk Like TED, 190 words per minute is the ideal rate of speech for public speaking. It will make you sound more like you’re having a conversation with a friend over lunch.
Practicing your speech, lecture, talk, or conversation may seem daunting, but it will help you sound confident. Mirror practice is fantastic. Simply stand in front of a mirror and pretend like you’re giving your talk. It will help you see if you look tense, and give you great feedback on your body language. You don’t want to seem too nervous, or stand there like a Greek statue because that won’t inspire your listeners and can make you come off as boring.
You can also record yourself giving the talk. I know, I know, listening back to our recording can be painful. But it will provide you with so much insight into how you sound and will help you improve. If mirror work or recording yourself doesn’t sound like the right fit for you, just practice your speech however you’re comfortable. Just make sure you don’t forget to breathe and slow down!
Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk titled “Your Body Language Can Shape Who You Are” has been viewed nearly 60 million times worldwide. Amy, a social psychologist, argues that “power posing” or standing with confidence can boost confidence in a person, even if we don’t feel confident.
It can impact your chances of success. The next time you’re giving a talk, hopping on a Facebook Live, or speaking to your boss, stand or sit in confidence. It will completely change your message delivery.
5. Stay Hydrated
Last but certainly not least is staying hydrated. As a speech-language pathologist, I learned about the impact of dehydration on our body and throat. Let me tell you, it’s not a pretty picture.
For your voice to stay clear and confident, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water during your talks. And I don’t mean other beverages. Caffeine and sugar can negatively impact our voice and body, so stick to the good old water. It will be your best friend during your talk, so make sure it makes a frequent appearance.
Now you’re ready to rock your next speaking gig. It doesn’t matter what kind of speaking scenario you find yourself in. Adapting these five tips will help you stand and speak with confidence.
Let’s quickly review our five tips: make sure you use your diaphragm for breathing efficiently, slow down your speech, practice your talk before you give it, stand with confidence, and drink plenty of water.
These tips are simple but powerful.
Let me know how your talk goes! I’d love to hear your feedback.