Whether you’re talking to your team during a casual meeting or in front of an entire audience at an industry conference, what is one way to improve your confidence as a speaker?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Join a Speaking Club
While practice is obviously the best advice for growing your confidence as a public speaker, I also recommend that you find a community organization or a club that helps people with speaking. I recommend Toastmasters, a group of people who help each other develop public-speaking skills. They have chapters everywhere.
2. Watch Experts and Absorb Their Skills
When you’re battling with anxiety before giving a talk or having the spotlight on you, no matter how much you rehearse it never feels like enough. I like to watch comedians like Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Louis C.K and steal from them in a way. Look at how they’re able to engage the audience and integrate that into your talk. It works!
3. Prepare Ahead of Time
If you’re speaking in front of an audience, no matter the size, it’s important to prepare your overall goals and talking points ahead of time. Have notes you can refer to while speaking so you are always able to come back to a central theme or idea.
4. Video Tape Yourself Speaking to Get the Timing Right
You can practice your material by recording yourself or making a video. This lets you watch or listen to yourself and identify ways that you can improve. This is also helpful for timing. You don’t want to do a 15-minute presentation and realize you only have eight minutes of material prepared. If you create a video, you’ll know exactly how long your presentation takes and you can make adjustments.
5. Know What You’re Talking About
As Daniel Kahneman says, confidence is a feeling — we’ve all met confident fools. People who speak with intelligence and poise make it look effortless, but you don’t see the amount of work and deep thought that goes into becoming effortlessly conversational in a field of knowledge. If you want to speak well, there’s no substitute for knowledge, preparation and thought.
6. Begin Practicing Two Days Before the Presentation
You should start reciting the remarks you’ve written to yourself at least two days before your speaking event (and it goes without saying that it should be written before then). I’ve found that two days is the perfect amount of time to really get a feeling for the speech without getting so practiced that I start to sound robotic or inauthentic.
7. Make a Friend in the Audience Before Speaking
The worst thing you can do as a speaker is to stay silent before your speech. You need to get warmed up. The easiest way to do that is to make a friend in the audience before your speech. Walk up to anyone and warm up by having a casual conversation. Not only will small talk ease your nerves, but having a friend in the audience will help you deliver the message when it’s show time.
8. Slow Down
A big mistake novice public speakers make is saying everything as fast as possible. Speaking too quickly makes it look as though you lack confidence and it obscures your message. Make an effort to speak slowly and carefully. Your audience will understand you better and respect you more. Eventually you will develop the confidence you are trying to emulate.
9. Be Like a Musician
Speakers often fail to engage their audience because they are too focused on their audience. When you rise to speak, you have to have something worthwhile to say or else the task is meaningless. Your confidence should come from your purpose and not from the audience’s opinion of the delivery. Be like a musician. Feel your way through your words.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Don’t stress yourself out over perfection. Sure, the fear of getting judged might get the best of you, but even the greatest public speakers make mistakes. Instead, let loose and embrace that everything might not go according to plan, even if you’ve practiced a million times. After all, straying a bit away from the script is always more entertaining!
11. Imagine You’re Talking to One Person
In order to have a more intimate rapport with a larger audience, try this trick. Instead of speaking to a large room, adjust your presentation so it comes across like you’re speaking to just one person. People will feel like you are speaking directly to them and the presentation will come across as more genuine.
12. Be Your Aspirational Self
Speaking in front of others is your opportunity to portray your aspirational self. The audience naturally places you on a pedestal — sometimes literally — so take advantage. Be confident, thoughtful, deliberate, passionate, profound or whatever characteristics you personally identify with, and don’t be afraid to exaggerate any or all of them. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.
13. Remember Why You Are There
If you need help improving your confidence when speaking to a large audience or to a small group, remember that people are there to listen to you, so you are clearly a person of value and have something important and meaningful to share. Relax, forget about external pressures you may be springing upon yourself and be you.