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6 Ways to Excel in Public Speaking

6 Ways to Excel in Public Speaking

Imagine what it would be like if you knew that the moment you entered a room, people would immediately take notice, want to hear what you have to say, and be eager to earn your approval.

For effective public speakers, this is a way of life. Everyone is impacted by their presence. People are magnetically drawn to them and feel strangely compelled by their every word.

An effective speaker is seen as a leader. People like you, trust you and want to be led by you. However, contrary to popular belief, people are not born public speakers. If public speaking were an inherent attribute, all public speakers would be captivating, and that’s just not the case.

1. Practice Public Mindfulness 

If you are not fully present in your public performance, there is a good chance your eyes will wander or that your facial reactions will be a split-second delayed. Since the human mind can read facial expressions in as little as seventeen milliseconds, your audience will likely notice even the tiniest delays in your reactions.

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Presence is a learnable skill. You can increase it with practice and patience. And being mindful of your audience means simply having a moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening. Mindfulness also sets a pace at which the words flow from you. This prevents you from speaking too fast and getting lost in your message.

2. Express Power And Warmth To Your Audience 

To be considered a powerful speaker, you must be able to affect the people to whom you are speaking. We look for clues of power in someone’s appearance, in others reactions to this person, and most of all, in the persons body language.

Our reaction to power and warmth is deeply wired. We react to these qualities more than we do to intelligence and kindness, as our ancestors survived by having a strong reaction to those who displayed power and warmth in critical moments.Through the combination of warmth and power, you will be able to play powerfully on other peoples instincts

Warmth tells us whether or not people care, and are willing to impact the world in a positive way. Warmth is assed through body language and behaviour. Power can be expressed through clothing, and having a confident posture. Posture leads to assume the person has something to be confident about. In essence, people will accept whatever you project.

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3. Accept Feelings Of Negativity And Discomfort 

Feeling internal discomfort and negativity is a natural part of life. Everyone experiences it. When it comes to public speaking, these feelings often arise without warning and can hinder our performance if we dwell on them.

We all feel the whole spectrum of emotions, no matter how good we think we are at public speaking. But somehow, we’ve gotten into the habit of viewing our physical or mental discomfort as a sign of something gone wrong.

When you experience unwanted feelings of negativity and discomfort, it is good to remind yourself that you are not alone, and that your favourite public speakers feel the same as you before making their speech. Rather than seeing negativity as one big emotion felt by one person, instead, see it as community of people struggling with it – a burden shared by many.

4. Stop Imitating Your Favorite Speakers 

Because we have deep admiration for great public speakers, we sometimes wish we could be more like them. We can quite happily spend time viewing their public performances, learning to imitate their movements, tonality and words.

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Excellent speakers have an authenticity about them that cannot be imitated. Their words, movements and tonality represent who they are at the core. If we try to imitate someone else, we lose ourselves in the process. We spend more time trying to be like them at the risk of our own personal development.

Instead, seek to learn from your favourite speakers, and not model their performances. Expect to learn and fail at the process of becoming the best you can. Read this article for more on Talent And Self-Mastery : Unleash The Power Of Greatness – Talent Revealed 

5. Make Your Speech A Conversation

If you can easily talk about your subject to a friend for many hours, and discuss confidently about it, then your message has a natural flow. If, however, you feel the need to deliver your message by a formulated structure, you risk making errors live.

Instead, you should treat your speech more like a conversation, as if you were talking to a friend or family member. This will also lower the intensity of your performance, giving you a more natural flow. Your audience will feel more relaxed, if you feel more relaxed.

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6. Remember Points. Not The Whole Speech.

We access information swiftly by association. Simple words have the power to help you access information that you would normally keep locked away. Instead of trying to remember your speech word-for-word, create a list of points you wish to discuss related to your talk.

Using this simple approach of making points will allow you access the information easily, and will prevent you from making mistakes during your performance. You can quite simply keep a small card in your hand, and take a quick glance when needed.

Final Note

Like all skills in life. If you wish to be truly great speaker,  it will require your time and patience. Public speaking is considered an art, and should be treated as such, especially if you choose to make a career out of it. The best way to become a great speaker is to practice. Join the local toastmasters and take every opportunity you can to speak in public, whether for a local club, library programs or other venues.

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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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