Do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach at the thought of giving a speech?
You’re not alone. Public speaking is one of the most common fears that people face.
It’s natural to be nervous when it comes to talking in front of others, but fear shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals. If a lack of confidence has been holding you back, keep reading.
In this article, I’ll cover practical steps that will help you gain confidence and set you up for success when speaking in front of an audience.
Why confidence is important when speaking in public
Having confidence helps you stay focused and deliver your message with clarity.
People will be more likely to pay attention and take in what you’re saying if you appear comfortable and sure of yourself.
Moreover, confidence gives you the ability to handle any unexpected curves that may come up during a presentation or speech. If something doesn’t go according to plan, having confidence can help you adjust and adapt on the fly.
But before I jump into sounding confident, first let’s begin with feeling confident.
Wanna be a confident speaker? Develop an unshakeable view of yourself
Having faith in yourself and your abilities will give you the courage to take risks, make mistakes, and put yourself out there. Self-confidence will equip you to stay calm and composed in challenging situations, and bounce back quickly when things don’t go your way.
Here are 9 ways to shed insecurity and embrace your most confident self:
1. Focus on your self-esteem
Low self-esteem can be a major obstacle to feeling confident. To boost your self-image, focus on your strengths and accomplishments—no matter how small they are. Learn to recognize and stop negative self-talk, and practice positive reframing (where you turn your negative thoughts about yourself into positive or neutral ones). Treat yourself with the same kindness and respect you would give to a friend.
2. Think positive thoughts
Our thoughts shape our reality, so be conscious of how you think about yourself and what’s going on around you. Remember all of your skills and abilities and focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. Make it a daily habit to repeat positive affirmations for confidence and self-esteem. These mindfulness practices can train your brain to think more positively.
3. Set achievable goals
Set goals that are realistic and within your reach. Rather than striving for perfection, focus on making progress and taking small steps toward your goals. Every success is an opportunity to boost your confidence. Celebrate your small wins and use them as motivation to tackle bigger tasks.
4. Visualize success
Spend some time each day imagining what success looks and feels like for you, and use those positive visions to fuel your drive. Hang up a photo from a time when you felt confident, so you see it every day and remind yourself of what you’re capable of.
5. Surround yourself with good people
The people you spend your time with can have a big influence on your confidence levels. Surround yourself with people who are supportive, encouraging, and uplifting. They’ll help you stay motivated and remind you that you can do anything when you put your mind to it.
6. Take care of yourself
It’s hard to feel confident when you’re not taking care of yourself. Your physical health and mental well-being are essential to feel your best. Make sure you’re getting enough rest, eating well, and exercising regularly. Also, take time to relax and unplug from the world so you can recharge.
7. Practice relaxation techniques
Try strategies like deep breathing and meditation to help you stay calm. These activities can lower stress levels, reduce anxiety, and help you be more focused.
8. Be true to you
Don’t try to be someone you’re not—embrace your unique personality and get comfortable in your own skin. People are drawn to authenticity, and the more comfortable you are being yourself, the more others will be drawn to you.
9. Keep learning
Never stop learning and growing. Investing in yourself is one of the best things you can do for your self-confidence, so take classes, read books, and watch videos that teach you new skills. The more you learn, the more confidence you’ll have in your ability to tackle new challenges.
Once you’ve established a positive self-image, you can continue to build your self-confidence through public speaking. Here’s how:
10 tips for speaking with confidence (even when you have presentation anxiety)
1. Prepare well in advance
Get ready for your presentation or speech well before the scheduled date. Make sure you’re familiar with the material and perform a few trial runs to ease any jitters. Practice speaking in front of close family and friends and ask for their constructive feedback.
2. Focus on your audience
Know your audience and how you can best engage with them. This will help you craft your message in a way that is tailored to their interests and needs, and your words will resonate more.
3. Use visuals
Visuals are an effective tool for engaging your audience and keeping them focused on what you’re saying. Incorporating slides, videos, and infographics will support your message and break up the text.
4. Speak slowly and clearly
A confident voice carries authority and impact. Speak slowly and clearly, making sure to enunciate properly. Don’t be afraid to pause for a few seconds between sentences or words to allow the audience to absorb your message. Keep an even tone throughout your presentation and avoid using filler words such as “um” or “like.” Avoid speaking with an upward inflection so that your statements don’t sound like questions.
5. Keep it conversational
Talking to a large audience can feel intimidating, so try to make it as conversational as possible. Speak in the same way you would if you were talking to close friends or family. This will help build a connection with your audience and make it easier to convey your message.
6. Pay attention to your body language
Nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. Be mindful of your posture, gestures, and facial expressions when speaking in public—they can make or break your message. Be open and engaging with your body language to appear more confident and smile often.
7. Make eye contact
Eye contact is essential for building trust and connection with your audience. Look around the room and make sure to meet the eyes of people in the audience. This will show them that you’re confident and in control of your message.
8. Use humor to your advantage
Humor is a great way to engage with your audience and break the ice, especially when you’re feeling nervous! Incorporate a few funny stories or jokes into your presentation to lighten the mood. When you hear laughter from the crowd, it will make you feel more confident and at ease.
9. Prepare a Q&A session
Having a Q&A session at the end of your presentation will allow you to address any issues or concerns that were raised. Anticipate what questions the audience might ask and be ready to answer them. This will help you feel more prepared and in control.
10. Take time for feedback
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback! After you’ve finished speaking, get input from your audience and use it to improve for next time. Understanding what worked and what didn’t will help you become a more confident public speaker.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to speak confidently in public and connect with your audience. Your preparation will give you mastery of the material, as well as a contingency plan should you stumble or forget something.
Building self-confidence is a process
It’s something that you can continue to work on throughout your life. Believe in yourself, stay positive, and take small steps toward your goals.
Remember that most people have the exact same doubts and fears as you do—and usually, no one notices. Our thoughts about ourselves, especially negative ones, are often much louder than reality. And the fear of public speaking is often worse than the actual experience.
The next time you find yourself feeling anxious before a speech, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that you’ve got this. You’ve prepared, you’ve practiced, and you have the skills to succeed.
If by chance you stumble, no worries—you’ve gained experience and you can always do better next time. New research shows that when you use positive reframing like this, your memories of past experiences become much more motivating and empowering.
Public speaking is a valuable skill and an opportunity for growth, so use your nerves to drive you instead of holding you back. That’s what confidence is all about—trusting yourself, meeting challenges head-on, and always moving forward.