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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 April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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