How to Speak Confidently and Eliminate Nervousness in Public Speaking
August 5, 2019
Image from https://www.ted.com/playlists/226/before_public_speaking
It’s now common knowledge that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. And yet speaking confidently in a business setting is an essential skill for a successful career.
In a survey released last year, executives and hiring managers said good oral communication is the skill they desire the most in prospective hires. It even outranked others that get far more public emphasis like critical thinking and team working skills.
Fortunately, confident oral communication is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and perfected. Many a great public speaker started off stuttering and fumbling before learning strategies to cope.
If you want to overcome nervousness and begin sounding more confident, heed these tips.
How to do it
Practice, practice, practice
If you’re well-acquainted with the content of your talk, it will show and audience will perceive you as more confident. The lesson here is to practice your talk repeatedly before you go live. Stand up and walk around as you rehearse it out loud, first to yourself but also in front of others to get feedback. You can also use TalkMeUp to achieve better results. The more you know your talk, the more confident you’ll appear.
Take practical preparations
Right before your talk, get yourself hydrated to prime your vocal chords; do mindfulness exercises to control your nerves and breathing; and visualize positive imagery of yourself to get yourself in the right mindset.
During the talk, if you’re nervous, you might rush through the presentation. But, according to Carmine Gallo, author of Talk like TED, you want to slow down to 130 – 140 words per minute, not exceeding 190 words per minute— not so fast that you sound jumpy, but also not so slow that your audience gets sidetracked.
Use confident body language
When speaking, mind what your body is telling the audience. Maintain consistent eye contact with the audience; turn your body towards them; use affirming hand gestures to emphasize certain points (link to article 4); move around the stage; and avoid mannerisms that signal nervousness, such as biting your lips or touching your hair.
Eschew filler words, or replace them with better ones
If you’re nervous, avoid using filler words such as “um”, “like”, “well”, or “I guess”. If you absolutely must, replace it with filler language that is smarter and more intentional—phrases such as “it’s interesting” or “in retrospect”. “In retrospect, it changed me…” sounds better than “Um, er, it changed me…”. Another filler? Pausing. Just be silent and let the audience process what you’re saying.
Pauses aren’t just substitutes to slack filler words—they’re actually powerful tools to exhibit poise. Embrace pauses throughout your talk. It not only projects confidence but injects an element of drama so your follow-up statement is more poignant and powerful.
Smile and find friendly faces
Make the audience your allies and smile when appropriate. As you make light eye contact with individuals in the crowd, if you begin to get nervous, come back to audience members that are engaged and smiling back. You can learn more about eye contact when you practice on TalkMeUp.