3 Confidence Hacks For Public Speaking

We all know that public speaking can induce all sorts of anxieties and worries. These can make themselves known very loudly by a physical response in our body. Ever had dry mouth? Suddenly your mouth resembles the Sahara Desert, and you wonder how you’ll ever get through it as your lips seem to permanently stick to your teeth!! OR what about that whirlpool in your stomach? Will this seemingly vigorous vortex cause all ideas and thoughts to be sucked from your head?? Am I going to look a fool in front of the audience?

We’ve all been there, and let’s be honest nerves are ok to a degree. They can get the blood pumping and adrenaline moving to help us give an animated speech.

What we don’t want is those nerves to go from giving us a
push in the right direction to kicking us over the edge into public speaking

So how can we keep those nerves in the right place?  We just need a few tricks up our sleeve to
induce confidence within ourselves. Here are 3 simple yet effective confidence hacks for public speaking to help you be the public speaker you want to be.

1- Smile

Seems simple right? But it’s not always easy when those nerves are in full swing.  Those nerves can show on our face, making us look uncomfortable, like we’d prefer not to be there. Which isn’t going to help our audience to want to be there either.

So even before you utter your first word, take a moment to look up at your audience and smile.  We aren’t talking a grimace here! You know, one of those awkward, slightly creepy smiles. You might be showing all your teeth, but not in a good way people!!  It needs to be warm and genuine, showing your audience you’re relaxed and happy to be there. But I bet you’re wondering, so the audience might believe I’m confident but how is a smile going to help me believe it myself? Ah well, do not fear! Studies have shown that when you force yourself to smile, it stimulates the same part of the brain that’s used when you’re smiling naturally.  So, you’re actively helping yourself to feel more positive, which will relax you, and put those nerves in their rightful place.
2- Eye Contact

It’s so important to look at your audience. Nobody wants to look at the top of your head for your whole talk. When your eyes are glued to your notes, it will lead to the audience feeling disengaged.  You will give the impression you’re unprepared, and perhaps even insincere.  That’s no fun for them, and actually of no benefit for you.

So how can eye contact increase your
confidence? When you interact with the audience by looking at them, you can
feed off their positive responses. When you see them smile in reaction to
something you’ve said, nod in agreement, even give an attentive look you can
bounce off their response. That positive response will lead to your confidence
growing as you continue to speak.

What Do We Mean By Eye Contact?

What do we mean by eye contact? We most certainly do not mean lock on to one person in the audience and solely speak to them! Have you ever had that happen to you when you’ve been a member of an audience? Yeah, its not a great feeling. Infact, it’s a sure-fire way to make that person be ‘squirm in their seat’ uncomfortable. And you can bet your bottom dollar if you do that, they won’t be listening to what you’re saying. The narrative in their head will be one of perplexion and wonder as to when they will stop being stared at.

Neither do you want your eyes fliting across
the audience in a meaningless rhythmic way. That’s of no benefit to your
audience or your own confidence.

To have meaningful eye contact with the
audience, its ideal to look at one person and say a good few words, then move
to another and say a little more to them. If you feel you need notes (and there
ain’t nothing wrong with that!) try to remember to the most important time to
make eye contact is at the end of your sentence or when a main point is being
made. That way you ensure the most important points land on your audience. All
too often, speakers as they finish a sentence are already looking down at their
notes for their next point. By doing that they’ve lost all impact. So, speak,
look, and pause before making references to those note again.

Word of Warning Though!

Not everyone in the audience will have a responsive face, and it probably (or hopefully!!) isn’t down to your speaking ability. Some are just born with that kind of face. You know the ones, they wouldn’t look excited or happy even if they had just won the lottery. They can look bored, unengaged, even on a 400ft rollercoaster.  They can’t help it, so there’s no need to worry. Try your best to look for those faces who are responsive, and return to them. It’ll boost your confidence, and keep you riding high until the end of your talk.

If you do this, you’ll be well on your way to feeling like an accomplished speaker, happy to be in front of an audience large or small.

3- Posture

Having good or poor posture is
yet another physical give away as to whether you have confidence or not.

If you stand in front of an
audience slumped, hunched, often described as a “defensive posture”, what
conclusion will they come to? Very quickly they will assume you are lacking in
confidence.  They will then wonder how
capable you are, whether you know your subject, and maybe even decide there and
then that they won’t enjoy your talk that you have spent many an hour
preparing.  Harsh but true.

Standing tall, shoulders back,
exudes confidence. This can only have a positive effect on your listeners.
Looking self-assured, will lead to the audience feeling reassured, and invested
in what you have to say.

Ah yes, but doesn’t this simply
sound like you have to act a part? How can this have any bearing on your own
personal confidence? Good news! There have been many studies that have shown how
having good posture can improve your brain’s function, your mood, and even
memory levels.

‘Power Poses’

When you assume a confident
posture that they call ‘power poses’, you of course will positively affect your
audience, but you can trick your brain in to believing it too. Standing tall
and confident increases levels of testosterone (associated with
self-confidence) and lowers levels of cortisol (that pesky stress
hormone).  Just the way you stand can
release hormones in the brain that make you feel more assured.

Richard Petty, a Professor of Psychology at Ohio State University explains it this way, “The brain has an area that reflects confidence, but once that area is triggered it doesn’t matter exactly how it is triggered. It can be difficult to distinguish real confidence from confidence that comes from just standing up straight.”  Pretty clever aye!?  So, you have got to fake it to make it people!! Initially, at least.

In Conclusion….

So, three confidence hacks-

1. Smile

2. Eye Contact

3. Good Posture

It doesn’t sound too tricky, right?  In fact, with a little forethought and preparation, you can easily put these tips into action. They will lift you up to the heady heights of new confidence levels. You are guaranteed to feel more capable, and happy in front of an audience.  And with these new skills in your tool box, you may well find instead of enduring public speaking, you will learn to enjoy it and thrive!

If you would like to hone your Public Speaking skills even further, why not take a look at our Principles of Public Speaking Course. Its designed to develop confidence and give personal training on the fundamental sills of speaking.

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