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8 Tips For Becoming A More Confident Public Speaker

8 Tips For Becoming A More Confident Public Speaker

For some people public speaking is worse than watching “Insidious” all alone in the dark, the first and second part back to back. It’s their worst nightmare, and when they think of speaking in front of a crowd they feel nauseous, but if you think about it for a moment, you will realize just how ridiculous this fear is. However, the fact is that the fear is so deeply ingrained that no amount of rationalizing can help you.

I had stage fright before, and whenever I started speaking, my face would turn red and I’d look like I was about to start crying at any moment. Using these eight steps I overcame my fear, and even became a public speaking addict in the end. Moreover, once I conquered the fear I stopped using fillers and became better at conveying my ideas, and so can anyone else.

1. What was I really afraid of?

Many people have stage fright, but in order to learn how to cope with it, you need to find out exactly what you are afraid of. Some are afraid that they will embarrass themselves, whereas some think they will be rejected by the audience. This all leads to sweating, forgetting your lines and being unable to speak fluently.

In order to make the first step to becoming a more confident public speaker, you need to face your fears. Find what you are scared of, and analyze your fear. I was afraid of embarrassing myself and creating an awkward situation. So, I asked myself two questions:

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  • What will you do to embarrass yourself? – The usual answer is “do and say something stupid”, and that was my answer. When you are on the stage, everything you do seems like it should be done that exact way. The audience doesn’t know your speech and what you need to say. Therefore, anything you do won’t be used against you.
  • Why is being on stage so scary? – The common answer is “it’s so quiet and people are looking at me”. Of course people are looking at you, they are waiting to hear what you have to say. Their attention is on you, the floor is yours, and you should allow yourself to feel like a celebrity every once in awhile.

In some cases, people don’t know the cause of their fear, and cannot explain why they start to shiver and mumble the moment they step on the stage.

2. I practice at home

Practice, practice and practice, will make you the best public speaker. There is no better way to become more confident than knowing everything about the subject matter you are covering in your speech. This was my routine before I got used to speaking in public: I’d stand in front of the mirror and pretend a large audience was listening to me.

It’s not the same, but speaking in front of a big audience is a lot like watching yourself in the mirror while speaking. Let’s not stop there. Everyone hates how their voice sounds when it’s recorder and played back to them, and even famous actors don’t like to see themselves on big screens because they sound “weird” to themselves. When you start feeling awkward, pay attention to see if you are speaking clearly, and focus on your intonation.

When you pass these two phases, you need to call some friends over and have them listen to you. All singers, actors and performers say that they become ashamed and nervous when they see their family members and close friends in the audience. It’s better to face the worst immediately, so you won’t be afraid of unfamiliar faces when you go on stage.

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3. I act naturally

The best thing to do in order to become more confident is pretend you are participating in some slightly bigger dinner party – something like a Greek family reunion, with all of the close and extended family seated at a long table – and are discussing something with the other guests. Act naturally, and talk with them, don’t just focus on finishing your speech as fast as you can.

Relax, take a deep breath and be yourself. There is no need to act differently and copy some public speakers, because the only way to have an interesting speech and convey the message is to act naturally. Some even suggest that people who suffer from anxiety during interviews or speeches, should only inform themselves about the matter and just go with a flow. Think about it.

4. I get the audience laughing

If you start your speech with a joke, it will both lighten up the atmosphere and relax you. A joke will instantly boost your confidence, as you will feel more comfortable speaking. Moreover, the audience won’t be bored and will definitely pay attention.

If you are at an event that hosts many different speakers, there is a huge chance people will get bored and lose concentration quickly. When no one listens to you, it can be very hard to stay confident. That’s why I break the ice with a joke, then introduce the topic in an interesting manner.

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5. I focus on the material

During my studies, whenever I had to present some essay or hold a debate, I was afraid of saying something that will make me sound stupid. It was so bad that I even forgot the meaning of some terms related to the topic. All that I could hear was the voice in my head saying: “Pay attention, don’t be stupid.” I wasn’t afraid of the other students, but of professors who were judging my every sentence.

However, once I realized that this irrational fear prevented me from presenting all of my knowledge and capabilities, I focused on the material and just saying what I wanted to say. I didn’t pay attention to what the audience thinks, as I was determined to prove my point and have my voice heard. You need to keep eye contact with the audience in order to engage them better, so learn not to think about their facial expressions and what they might be thinking.

6. I listen to music before the speech

When I had to stand in front of hundreds of people, everyone told me to sit in a quiet room and concentrate. It’s like meditation that will make you relaxed and calm. However, this didn’t help a lot, as I couldn’t calm myself because of all the adrenalin pumping through my veins. My friend, who had more experience than me, sent me a playlist and told me just to listen to it.

The negative energy and the nervousness I had were transformed into a calm positive energy after listening to a few encouraging songs. This put me in a positive mood, which helped me overcome my fear, and I felt like a rock star. The songs I listened to were different things from The Queen and RHCP, and “Waiting all night” from Rudimental, which made me jump around the room. It actually doesn’t matter what you listen to, as long as it is a fast song and you love it. Music plays a huge role in our lives, especially when it comes to motivation.

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7. I dress for success

I feel a lot more confident when I’m dressed well. This means I wear comfortable clothes, which make me look both professional and beautiful. When I am dressed like I’m speaking at the most important event of the year, I feel more confident to stand on stage and be looked at. I usually wear clothes that I am used to, rather than buying new clothes and worrying I might experience a wardrobe malfunction.

If you haven’t tried it, put on your favorite clothes and make a big entrance, flying out to the stage and feeling like you’ve just won an Oscar. If you fall, don’t worry, you can always pull of a cute Jennifer Lawrence look after you get up.

8. I prepare for mistakes

The worst thing that can happen to you is to get confused when you make a mistake. You start blushing, sweating, and then you say something that makes the whole audience uncomfortable. When I was just starting to speak in public on a more regular basis, I used to always prepare some backup lines in case I made a mistake. Once, I accidentally said the conclusion before including the previous steps, and I said “Oops, that escalated quickly.” Everyone laughed and I continued confidently my speech.

Mistakes have a positive effect on people, as you are human and it is normal to make a mistake – you cannot just recite the text you’ve prepared. This way you show that you think about the things you are talking about, and are not just going through a script.

When you get to love public speaking some issues like what to do with your hands, won’t be a problem as it will come naturally. However, if you have some problems with posture, try keeping your back straight as it will boost both your confidence and credibility. Try out different methods, as we are all different, and you cannot expect to overcome your problem by doing only one thing. According to my experience, these eight points will certainly help you become a rock star in front of the crowd.

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Katarina Milovanovic

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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